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Coach Willing to Weather Injuries

Times Staff Writer

Coach Mike Dunleavy isn’t one to panic, and he’s trying to persuade the Clippers to play it cool.

There’s growing concern in the organization about the team’s recent performance while playing without starting small forward Corey Maggette and backup center Zeljko Rebraca, who are not expected to return until the end of January.

After a 14-5 start, the Clippers (16-11), who face the Boston Celtics tonight at Staples Center, have dropped six of eight. The Clippers are in a stretch of playing nine of 11 games on their home court, and momentum could increase to make a major trade if the team continues to struggle.

“I guess the bottom line, or the question for everybody, is do you go into panic mode because of what we’re facing with our injuries? That’s really what it comes down to,” Dunleavy said after practice Friday at the Spectrum health club in El Segundo. “You have to have the confidence that our team is what we think it is, that it’s good.

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“You need to look at it like it’s just a little bit of bad luck, depending on what the injuries are and how they happen, and not panic. If you make deals at a time like this, the only deals you make are deals that you think are potentially good long-term deals. Anything other than that really isn’t a smart move.”

Trading for Indiana Pacer forward Ron Artest would either be a smart move or huge mistake for the Clippers.

Artest is considered among the top 15 players in the NBA, some scouts say, and is without peer defensively.

Of course, Artest has baggage, and the Pacers would want Maggette, whom the Clippers have declined to include in trade proposals.

Dunleavy and General Manager Elgin Baylor are fond of hard-working Maggette, whose scoring average increased his first six seasons in the NBA. Dunleavy and Baylor declined to comment on trade talks, but they have rejected offers for Maggette and second-year point guard Shaun Livingston, Clipper sources said.

“With nine out of 11 at home, we’re at the stretch of the schedule we were pointing to all year long,” Dunleavy said. “You never want to have injuries, and we hoped we would be totally healthy now, but everybody has injuries.

“If you make a move now, that you make because of injuries, you’re making it out of desperation or panic. In my opinion, the only move we make has to be a move that we’d make without the injuries, because we have a lot of guys with a lot of upside.”

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Backup small forward Quinton Ross (sore back) said he hoped to play tonight against Boston.

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TONIGHT

vs. Boston, 6:30, FSNW 2

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Site -- Staples Center.

Radio -- 1150.

Records -- Clippers 16-11, Celtics 11-17.

2004-05 record vs. Celtics -- 0-2.

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Update -- Forward Elton Brand averages 25.5 points and 10.9 rebounds. Boston forward Paul Pierce, averaging 26.7 points, is fifth in the NBA in scoring.


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