NBA Preview: Los Angeles Clippers

NBA Preview: The ClippersIn some NBA cities, even on the other side of Los Angeles, a 47-win season is cause for concern.

For Clippers fans, it's cause for joy.

Maybe even a parade.

The Clippers even won their first playoff series since their move to Los Angeles. The franchise resided in Buffalo when it last won a postseason round, when pet rocks were all the rage and disco was in its infancy.

But it was no fluke a year ago. Power forward Elton Brand earned Most Valuable Player consideration and combined with savvy veteran point guard Sam Cassell and emerging center Chris Kaman to elevate the Clippers into a Western Conference contender.

Coach Mike Dunleavy hopes another year together will translate into more victories and further advancement in the playoffs. The Clippers pretty much stood pat in the offseason, but the continued progress of Kaman and guards Cuttino Mobley and Shaun Livingston will help, as will the acquisition of forward Tim Thomas.


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Key additions: F Thomas, F/C Aaron Williams

Key subtractions: F Vladimir Radmanovic

Sportsbook odds: Bettors appear smitten with the Clippers, at least in comparison to the crosstown-rival Lakers. cautiously lists the Clips' over/under victory total at 45.5 and their odds of winning the NBA championship at +2200 (22-1).

Player to watch: Brand has always been a force. But he transformed himself into one of the premier players in the NBA last season. Was that a one-year phenomenon or a trend that will maintain his status as an MVP candidate throughout his prime? The answer to that question will help determine the Clippers' fate in 2006-07 and in seasons beyond. Arguably the most prolific combination scorer-rebounder in the game a year ago, Brand simply took games over. He certainly received tremendous help from the likes of Cassell, Mobley, Kaman and Corey Maggette, but Brand was the first stud player this franchise has had since Bob McAdoo was leading the league in scoring every year back in the 1970s.

Outlook: Odds are this team will win at least as many games as it did a year ago if it remains healthy. But there's not quite enough depth or overall talent here to challenge Phoenix, Dallas and San Antonio. The playoff triumph over Denver provided a nice first step for this woeful franchise, but only the continued development of the young nucleus, including Kaman and the wonderfully talented Livingston, will assure annual excursions into the postseason. The Clippers appear a pretty solid bet to make another playoff appearance, but also to fall by the wayside in the first or second round.