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Jaric, Richardson Due Back

Times Staff Writer

Guards Marko Jaric and Quentin Richardson are expected to play Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, which means the Clippers’ days of being short-handed are almost history.

All they need now to be at full strength for the first time in about a year is a healthy Eric Piatkowski.

Jaric and Richardson are fit enough to play after suffering sprained left ankles Dec. 27 and Jan. 3, respectively.

Piatkowski has been sidelined since straining a lower abdominal muscle Dec. 10.

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Lamar Odom, who sat out for 11 months because of wrist and ankle injuries, did not practice Monday after suffering a bruised lower back after a fall during Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Odom, who plans to play Wednesday, is the team’s leading scorer at 18.8 points a game. He also is averaging 8.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists in his eight games back.

“Everything is cool,” he said when asked about his back. “A couple of wins would make everything even better. Our flow is cool. Everything is in order. I feel comfortable. I think the guys feel comfortable with me. I think we just need to start winning some games.”

The Clippers have lost seven of nine, including a 96-90 defeat Sunday against the league-leading Mavericks.

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But there were signs that the Clippers might be poised to turn around their season. Having a fit roster is only part of the cure to what has ailed the team this season.

“We have to be realistic about our situation,” Coach Alvin Gentry said. “Right now [Dallas] is the best team in the NBA. [Playing the Mavericks close] proved to our guys that if we play the right way and play together, we could play with any team in the NBA. We’re pretty good when we play the right way.”

Asked what he meant by playing the right way, Gentry said, “Passing up shots to get better shots. Playing good team defense, rotating over to help out. Running out, trying to get easy baskets.”

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Questions about upcoming free agency refuse to die. Odom, one of those eligible to become a restricted free agent July 1, told ESPN on Friday: “Right now, it’s hard being a Clipper,” because of the team’s 14-23 record and last-place standing in the Pacific Division, but “the Clipper organization has stuck by me and I’m going to be loyal. I would like to help the team get into the playoffs and someday win a championship.”

When asked if he believed he or his teammates would ever receive large new contracts from owner Donald T. Sterling, Odom said, “The situation is so fragile. We have to show management we can win. So far, we haven’t done that.”


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