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Cassell Signs On to Stay

Times Staff Writer

Sam Cassell flashed his toothy grin Wednesday as he scribbled his signature on a multiyear contract with the Clippers, keeping intact the nucleus of last year’s playoff team.

Cassell, a 36-year-old point guard and vocal on-court leader, agreed to a two-year, $13-million contract. The deal was announced June 1, but Wednesday marked the first day NBA teams could officially begin signing and trading players.

He labeled the negotiations as fun, as Cassell changed his mind on an initial agreement to stay with the team and entertained offers from Atlanta and Denver.

But after talking to Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy, and getting a bigger offer from the team, Cassell decided to stay put.

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“I’m glad to be back in L.A.,” Cassell said. “People thought the negotiations were stressful, but it was fun. A lot of people didn’t think the deal was going to get done, but we got it done.”

Cassell, acquired in an off-season trade last year with the Timberwolves, averaged 17.2 points and 6.3 assists. In the playoffs, he was the Clippers’ second leading scorer, behind Elton Brand, with 18 points per game.

A multiyear deal for a player his age is relatively rare, but Cassell proved he could make open jumpers and his veteran presence quickly won over teammates.

“Until he can’t make that jump shot, he can play,” Dunleavy said. “Basically that’s what it comes down to.”

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However, the signing could create a jam at point guard, where Shaun Livingston, a third-year player, will look for more minutes next season.

“Right now, it’s my job to lose,” Cassell said. “That’s all I can ask for.”

Dunleavy said having two quality guards wouldn’t be a hindrance.

“It’s not an issue,” he said. “Shaun has the ability to play bigger guards and Sam has the ability to play the one or two.”

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The Clippers are expected to sign free-agent forward Tim Thomas today.


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