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Jaric Is Looking to Be Signed and Traded

Times Staff Writer

Marko Jaric remained in limbo Tuesday, a man without a team on the first day of the NBA’s free-agent signing period.

His agent, Bill Duffy, hinted that other teams had shied away from Jaric, a 6-foot-7 Serb who is determined to make a name for himself as an NBA point guard, because the Clippers could match any offer made to the restricted free agent.

Duffy also reiterated that Jaric, penciled in to play a backup role with the Clippers after two seasons as a starter, would like to move on.

“I honestly think it’s his preference to be elsewhere,” Duffy said of Jaric, who last week visited the Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets, “because he thinks he has a better opportunity to play point guard, which is important to him.”

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The agent said he would meet today with Clipper Coach Mike Dunleavy. A sign-and-trade deal “would be best for all parties,” Duffy said, “but we have to see what unfolds here.”

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The Clippers will welcome Cuttino Mobley today, introducing their new shooting guard at a Beverly Hills news conference.

But a more daring approach to free agency might have landed a bigger prize. Joe Johnson, 24, is six years younger than Mobley and, at 6-7 and 230 pounds, three inches taller and 40 pounds heavier.

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And while averaging 17.1 points and making 47.8% of his three-point shots for the Phoenix Suns last season, Johnson got the Clippers to fantasizing about adding him to their lineup alongside 6-7 point guard Shaun Livingston.

Johnson, though, was a restricted free agent and the Suns said that they’d match any offer made to him.

They were bluffing.

Team owner Robert Sarver decided not to shell out $70 million over five years to keep Johnson, who will be sent to the Atlanta Hawks in a sign-and-trade deal.

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The Clippers, it turned out, might have had a chance.

“We talked to him a lot,” Dunleavy said of Johnson on Tuesday, hours before Mobley was expected to sign a five-year, $42-million contract to join the Clippers. “We were very close to giving him an offer, but it’s one of those things where you’re at a lot of risk if you do it and it doesn’t work out.

“If we did that, we wouldn’t have gotten Mobley.”

The Clippers pursued Ray Allen and Mobley, both unrestricted free agents, and were happy to land Mobley after losing free agent Bobby Simmons to the Milwaukee Bucks.

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“We’re very pleased,” Dunleavy said. “He’s an excellent three-point shooter -- 44% from the three -- but he also has the ability to play one on one.”

Mobley, who will turn 30 on Sept. 1, averaged 17.2 points last season with the Orlando Magic and Sacramento Kings.

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Journeyman point guard Rick Brunson, who produced career-high numbers across the board and played a major role in keeping the Clippers competitive last season, will sign a one-year guaranteed contract with the Seattle SuperSonics.

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“It kind of came down to where he had to make a decision before we were ready to do something,” Dunleavy said, “and so he went with Seattle.”

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Duffy, who also represents unrestricted free agent Zeljko Rebraca, said the backup center would sign a three-year deal with the Clippers today.


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