A looming deadline, a drifting season and a pack of reporters all convened in front of Sam Cassell’s locker.
The locker’s owner spoke, hesitantly and carefully.
“I can’t make it happen,” Cassell said. “That’s up to management. It ain’t in my control. If it was my control, it would be something else, but it’s not in my control. It’s in the Clippers’ control.”
The “it” is a trade of the veteran point guard. The trading deadline is this afternoon, and Cassell was still with the Clippers on Wednesday night at Staples Center when they beat the Memphis Grizzlies, 100-86, in their first game since the All-Star break.
Corey Maggette picked up where he left off before the break, collecting 30 points and 10 rebounds, in besting the punch-less and Pau Gasol-less Grizzlies.
“He’s had a great stretch,” Coach Mike Dunleavy said of Maggette. “It’s been pretty efficient numbers he’s putting up.”
The Clippers’ backups outscored the Grizzlies’ reserves, 34-13.
Tim Thomas added 17 points and Al Thornton had 13 points for the Clippers.
A light chant of “We want Kwame” surfaced among the crowd of 16,177 in the waning moments, a nod to former Lakers center Kwame Brown, who did not play for the third time in five games.
But deadline talk dominated the day with Dunleavy saying the organization has been proactive in making calls and offers.
The Clippers, however, have received little to work with in return.
“We’ve made some fair offers on certain things and they just haven’t come through,” Dunleavy said, adding that he would not address the status of specific players and does not anticipate making a move.
The team is willing to offer this year’s draft pick if it means yielding a quality player in return, Dunleavy said.
Cassell’s name has popped up in discussions among a slew of teams, including the Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets, Seattle SuperSonics, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets.
At 38, Cassell carries plenty of playoff experience, a valuable commodity in a league where a number of guards have shuffled teams lately.
The Clippers are hesitant to deal Cassell, in the last year of a two-year contract, for below market value because of a mandate from owner Donald T. Sterling.
Sterling wants to field a competitive team now and Cassell fits into that short-term plan.
“It’s my 15th year and it hasn’t gone the way I’ve wanted it to as a team,” said Cassell, who scored six points in 14 minutes against the Grizzlies. “When you look around, we’ve been injury-depleted the whole year.
“I don’t want to say too much, but it is what it is.”
If he remains a Clipper past today, he could push for a buyout of his contract. In order to be eligible for the playoffs, that would have to occur by March 1.
“That would be something I would have to talk to [agent] David Falk about,” Cassell said.
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies, who got 21 points from Rudy Gay, are also in the middle of trade talks.
Most revolve around forward Mike Miller, who missed the game with a sore back.
“The Lakers or the Clippers?” Miller responded when asked about speculation he would end up in Los Angeles.
For now, Miller is a member of the Grizzlies. Just like Cassell is still in L.A. “As of right now, I’m a Clipper,” Cassell said. “That’s all I can say.”
With both players performing non-contact practice drills, Dunleavy said forward Elton Brand may be ahead of point guard Shaun Livingston in their recoveries from serious injuries.
Brand has missed the season with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon; Livingston with a dislocated knee and torn ligaments.
“Our tendency would probably be to be more conservative with Shaun,” Dunleavy said.