The Clippers’ Michael Olowokandi looks different than he did a month ago. Instead of sporting a clean-shaven look, Olowokandi has decided to let his beard grow.
“I just got sick and tired of shaving and cutting my hair all of the time,” Olowokandi said.
That’s not the only difference. Lately he has avoided early foul problems and is coming off arguably the best back-to-back games of his three-year career.
In helping the Clippers to victories over Philadelphia and Houston, Olowokandi has turned heads with his play. He had 12 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots against the 76ers on Tuesday, and followed that effort two nights later with 20 points, eight rebounds and four blocks against the Rockets.
“The most comforting thing for me is to see the progress Michael is making,” Coach Alvin Gentry said after the Clippers’ victory over Houston. “He’s making unbelievable progress. When he’s able to keep himself out of foul trouble and stay in the game for 30 minutes, he’s been very, very productive.”
Olowokandi, who played 38 minutes against Philadelphia and 31 against Houston, said he’s gaining a better understanding of what he can do on the court.
“I know that I will get two or three legitimate fouls, but I had to cut out the stupid ones,” he said. “I also know I may get two fouls that are questionable. So cutting out the silly fouls has helped me stay in games.”
With 12 games remaining, Olowokandi is averaging 8.5 points and 6.3 rebounds for the season. But in the 15 games that he has played more than 30 minutes, he is averaging 14.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots.
“If we threw him the ball into the post 18 to 20 times like some of the other players in the league, he would average 18 to 20 points,” Gentry said. “But the way our team is structured and set up, we’re much more effective when we are moving the basketball around. We get into trouble when we run too many isolation plays.”
Darius Miles has been making a late push to be rookie of the year by improving his perimeter game and free-throw shooting. He leads all rookies in field-goal percentage and is shooting 57% from the line since Feb. 14, after ranking last in the league for the first two months of the season.
“I’ve just been working out and trying to work on my game,” Miles said. “The most important thing now is my jump shot. My free-throw shooting has improved, and that’s the key to my jump shot.”
The Clippers, whose next game is Monday at Portland, will participate in a charity BasketBowl Challenge at Keystone Lanes in Norwalk starting at 1 p.m. The event will feature an afternoon of bowling with Clipper players, along with prizes and giveaways. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Los Angeles Clippers Foundation and Childrens Hospital in Los Angeles.