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Depth Leads to Optimism

Times Staff Writer

In the Clippers’ world, it’s hard to get excited about success because, too often, it seems at best a short-term proposition.

Consider the franchise hasn’t been over .500 after the first 13 games of a season -- the position it currently holds -- since 1992-93.

For the record:
12:00 AM, Dec. 01, 2004 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday December 01, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 22 words Type of Material: Correction
Clippers’ record -- The Clipper report in Sunday’s Sports section said the team last made the playoffs in 1992-93. It was 1996-97.

That was also the last season the team appeared in the playoffs.

But there is reason for cautious optimism. Although the Clippers have been tagged by key injuries, there appears to be a level of depth and talent that Coach Mike Dunleavy hasn’t had before.

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Just as important, the team has brought a consistent effort and commitment to the first 13 games that suggests to Dunleavy the Clippers believe they can compete in the Pacific Division, where they are tied for fourth with the Lakers.

“So far I’ve been pleased with our guys and how hard they’ve worked,” Dunleavy said after a light practice Saturday. “If we continue to do what we’ve been doing -- defending well, trying to execute to the best of our ability, nobody trying to be the Lone Ranger -- we have a shot.

“When you’re trying to grow, and do things the way they need to be done to win on a consistent level, it’s really not so much about wins and losses. It’s about how you are playing. And if you are playing the right way, then the wins take care of themselves.”

Dunleavy cited the team’s improvements on offense and defense. The Clippers lead the NBA in field-goal percentage (.480) and rank eighth in opponents’ field-goal percentage (.429).

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“I think we’re a much better team defensively this year despite being short-handed,” Dunleavy said. “A lot of positive things are showing up statistically for us.”

One area that still needs improving, however, is rebounding.

“I wasn’t happy with our rebounding last night,” said Dunleavy, referring to the Clippers’ Friday win over Golden State despite getting outrebounded, 43-41.

“We’re not focusing in on boxing out. We’re letting guys come in and get offensive rebounds who shouldn’t be getting them. There are a couple of ways to take care of it. One of them, you hate to do it, but going back and doing drills. I’m sure they don’t want that.”

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TODAY

vs. Golden State, 12:30 p.m.

Site -- Staples Center.

Radio -- XTRA (690, 1150).

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Records -- Clippers 7-6, Warriors 3-9.

Record vs. Warriors -- 1-0.

Update -- Corey Maggette, who sprained his left ankle in Friday’s victory over Golden State, remains questionable for today’s game. So does Kerry Kittles, who is still getting past the soreness in his bruised right knee. Neither practiced Saturday, but both had therapy and treatment. Today’s game is the start of seven at home for the Clippers, who have won two in a row. Elton Brand got the 4,000th rebound of his career Friday. He has 4,007.

Tickets -- (800) 462-2849.

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