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Sam I Am

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Every now and then Elgin Baylor makes a good trade. It doesn't happen often. It happened during the 2000 NBA Draft when the Clippers underwent a dramatic makeover that brought them Corey Maggette, Darius Miles, Quentin Richardson, and others from the Orlando Magic. It also happened during the 2001 NBA Draft when they effectively dealt Tyson Chandler for Elton Brand. And it happened it again yesterday.The Clippers acquired Sam Cassell and a first round draft pick from the Minnesota Timberwolves for Marko Jaric and Lionel Chambers.

LAist has always been big fans of Cassell. He played a major role on the Houston Rockets back-to-back championship teams of the mid-1990s. He was a big reason why the Minnesota Timberwolves reached the Western Conference Finals in 2004, and might have taken them one step further, had he been healthy. Cassell instantly makes every team he plays for better. He's an excellent mid-range shooter, who also seems to be able to find the open man, and set up other shooters for scores. While it's a stretch to say that Brand will become Kevin Garnett and Maggette will turn into Sprewell, Cassell should make both of them better.

All the Clippers had to give up was Jaric, who desperately wanted to leave anyways. Call us crazy, but LAist has never been on the Marko Jaric bandwagon. He might be a 6-7 point guard, but calling him an average player would be a compliment. Jaric has now reaped the rewards of American capitalism, and will make $40 million over six years in Minnesota. If there were a Minnesotist, they'd be really upset with Kevin McHale right now.

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The biggest question with Cassell is his health. His hip has been problematic over the past two seasons, and he turns 36 this year. But Cassell is also in a contract year, and will be motivated to play at a higher level. He also could serve as a mentor and bridge to Shaun Livingston.

Had the Clippers held onto Jaric, they would have done so with a one-year qualifying offer, and he would have grumbled his way through the whole season. Now they have an experienced veteran and team player in Cassell, to add to an already potent starting lineup with Brand, Maggette, and Cuttino Mobley. With a franchise changing for the better, LAist now believes the Clippers have few excuses not to make the playoffs.