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The CW (Clipper Weekly), 4th Edition

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Current Record: 6-6, 5th Pacific

Last Week: Was it only a week ago when we were singing the Clippers’ praises and talking about their position atop the Pacific Division and #2 in the entire league? Four losses later, they’ve fallen to last place, ahead of only three teams in the conference. Amazing how quickly things can change in a week, especially in the ridiculously tough West. Apparently the Clippers felt like taking a holiday like many of the rest of us since they failed to show up for each of their games, particularly after taking a tough loss to the Lakers on Tuesday. They were outgunned by Seattle on Wednesday, trailing the whole game while getting lit up Rashard Lewis all over the court. Saturday featured an embarrassing fourth quarter meltdown against lowly Minnesota, in which the Clips were outscored 19-2 over the final five minutes to turn a nine-point lead into an eight-point loss. And yesterday, Denver drubbed the Clips by 15, shooting nearly 52 percent from the field compared to the LA’s 36.4%. To add insult to injury (or is it injury to insult), Chris Kaman sprained his ankle in practice on Friday and missed the last two games while Sam Cassell also sprained his ankle against the Nuggets.

Quick Take: Late word out of Clipper camp is that Mike Dunleavy has signed a four-year contract extension (more on that in a future post), so all potential distractions have now been diffused; it's time to show some return on Donald Sterling's investment. Last week, the CW noted that in order for the Clips to make the leap, they needed to win in hostile conditions. So far, they have failed miserably: 0-5 on the road, 0-2 on the back end of back-to-backs. Cassell is blaming it on effort. Indeed, the Clips have appeared to be going through the motions, even during their winning streak. Mistakes are up from last season (1.2 more turnovers per game) and focus is clearly lacking (free throw percentage has dropped by 4.4%). The Clippers seem to be burdened with the pressure of expectations and have thus far been unable to play with the same level of enthusiasm and energy as they did last season. It's much harder to be the hunted, and the inconsistent play is reflecting this.

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This Week:

Tuesday: at Sacramento (PRIME, 7:00 pm) - if the Clippers are going to reverse the momentum, Arco Arena will be a great place to start: the Clips haven't won there since before Monica Lewinsky became a household name (16 straight losses). Swingman Kevin Martin may be the best player you've never heard of, averaging nearly 25 points a game (10.8 last year). Of course, you've all heard of Ron Artest, one of the preeminent street brawlers defensive stoppers in the league. Unfortunately, his rap game is not as strong as his right hand: K-Fed sold 17 times as many albums during their first week in stores.

Wednesday: vs. Memphis (PRIME, 7:30 pm) - you know you're bad when: 1) you have a worse record than the Knicks; 2) ex-Laker Chucky Atkins (a role player during the Rudy T disaster) is your leading scorer; 3) your coach's hairpiece is a bigger conversation piece than your team. The Grizzlies' offense has been crippled with star forward Pau Gasol's broken foot, ranking 27th in scoring and last in shooting percentage. I would bet every hair on Mike Fratello's head that the Clippers win this one.

Saturday: vs. Lakers (KTLA-CW for Clipper broadcast/KCAL for Laker broadcast, 7:30 pm) - the first matchup was a terrific game with the stars shining brightly. Hopefully this rematch, on the Clipper home court, will be equally entertaining. With the Lakers now sitting on top of the Pacific, the Clips hope to exact a measure of revenge to get back on track. More on this game later in the week.

Sunday: vs. Orlando (KTLA-CW, 6:30 pm) - Darko Milicic has been a running punchline since he entered the league, being drafted ahead of superstars such as Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh. While he's still light years away from being even an all-star, his size and skill provide a nice complementary frontcourt piece alongside the man-child Dwight Howard (leading the league in rebounds). Orlando is the surprise leader of the Eastern Conference, mixing in the contributions of a healthy Grant Hill and mighty-mite Jameer Nelson. Given Hill's star-crossed history, it seems dubious to expect this early success to last, but if Darko can contribute, anything is possible.

AP photo by Jeff Lewis