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Mobley still showing team spirit

Times Staff Writer

In an effort to show a united team front last season, sharpshooting swingman Cuttino Mobley volunteered for a reserve role.

Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy was grateful for the offer, as three players were fighting for two positions, but Mobley still found himself in a leading role in 2006-07, starting 73 games and playing in 78.

On Friday, Mobley said he would once again be willing to come off the bench if it best suited the team, and this season, Dunleavy might be more inclined to take him up on it.

“I want to do what makes us a better team,” Mobley said. “We are flirting with different lineups. It’s not set in stone, but we’ll do whatever is best for us.”

If Mobley comes off the bench, Dunleavy probably would use a starting backcourt of veteran point guard Sam Cassell and Quinton Ross.

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Forward Corey Maggette, who along with Mobley and Ross was vying for the starting spot last season, is also a certain starter this season.

Cassell is still an effective offensive player but has trouble defensively matching up against quick point guards. Ross is a defensive specialist who would be asked to defend Steve Nash and Tony Parker in the conference.

“It shows he has a high IQ for the game and a lack of ego,” Dunleavy said of Mobley’s team-first attitude. Dunleavy said Mobley’s scoring chances could increase if he came off the bench and looked to be the main offensive threat on the second unit. “I think he recognizes if he plays with the second unit, he’ll be more of a focal point and carry the load for that second team,” Dunleavy said.

Last season, Mobley’s scoring average dipped to 13.8 points a game, a point less than 2005-06 and the lowest since his rookie year. But he also shot at a 44% clip, matching a career high. “Whether it’s best for me to come off or best for me to start, we’ll see,” he said.

Mobley, hampered by a strained left calf, has yet play in the exhibitions but said he is making progress. He did light running Friday.

“I’m taking it day to day,” he said, “but I’m not trying to rush it. It’s the preseason.”

Dunleavy said he isn’t worried that some of his key players sat out the start of the exhibition season.

“You use this time to find out about other guys anyway,” he said, “so it’s not unusual.”

Center Chris Kaman (tweaked lower back) participated in a full practice Friday and is expected to play Sunday against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, and Maggette (bruised left thigh) did some shooting.

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jonathan.abrams@latimes.com


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