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Gentry Comments Surprise Olowokandi

Times Staff Writer

Clipper center Michael Olowokandi said Thursday that he had spoken at length last week to Coach Alvin Gentry, giving him an update on his surgically altered left knee, and had had several conversations with General Manager Elgin Baylor since undergoing the arthroscopic procedure Feb. 3.

Making his first public statements in a month, Olowokandi said he was surprised to read Gentry’s comments in Thursday’s editions of The Times. Gentry said he was uncertain why Olowokandi had not been attending games or practices and added that he had only “talked to him by cell phone, so I have no idea where he is.”

“I truly do not understand what’s going on,” Olowokandi said Thursday. “I would like to say it’s just a misunderstanding. Maybe the loss to Golden State had a part to play. We’ve been losing and it’s a difficult situation for everybody. Nobody enjoys losing. I made a point of calling Alvin when I didn’t hear from him.... I called him at home and he said he didn’t realize the surgery was that serious. He thought I would be out for only two or three weeks.”

Olowokandi said he did not know when he would be fit to play again, but the original estimate had him sitting out up to eight weeks. He said he’s been attending physical therapy sessions in Culver City for up to five hours a day five times a week. He also said he had not attended games or practices because his knee swells when he sits for extended periods.

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Olowokandi disputed the idea that he had quit on the Clippers and said he was looking forward to playing with power forward Elton Brand, even if it’s only for the season’s final few games.

Asked if he were resigned to playing elsewhere next season, Olowokandi said he had not ruled out re-signing with the Clippers after he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1. The San Antonio Spurs, among others, are believed to be among those most interested in signing Olowokandi.

“In all honesty, it would be foolish to close down all my options,” said Olowokandi, who has suggested several times that he would be playing elsewhere next season. “When I said the things I’ve said, I went on what happened last summer and what’s happened since I’ve been a Clipper. If they are serious, there’s absolutely no reason not to try it with the Clippers.”

TONIGHT

at Portland, 7:30, ESPN

Site -- Rose Garden.

Radio -- XTRA (690/1150).

Records -- Clippers 19-37, Trail Blazers 37-20.

Record vs. Trail Blazers -- 0-2.

Update -- Brand will not play tonight because of a bruised lower left leg. His status for Saturday’s game against the Seattle SuperSonics is uncertain. The Clippers put backup guard Keyon Dooling on the injured list because of a strained left foot and activated backup center Wang Zhizhi.


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