Last Updated on March 21, 2003 by Paulette Brown-Hinds

Clippers Struggle to Find Answer – and Chemistry

By K.J. Sala
Special to the BVN

Staples Center – “It keeps me up until the wee hours of the morning trying to figure out why we aren’t winning the games we won last year,” said Clippers coach, Alvin Gentry.

Gentry’s words came three days after the Clippers fell 108-104 to the Washington Wizards. Gentry referred to the fact that the Clippers managed to bring themselves back from a 14-point third quarter deficit to within one (90-91) with 6:36 left in the game.

Michael Jordan recorded a game high 23 points and 12 assists, yet also recorded his sixth foul with 18.4 seconds left in the game. The Staples Center crowd gave His Airness a standing ovation as he took a seat on the floor. Later, Jordan would dispute the foul out. “They gave me an extra foul,” Jordan protested. “I haven’t fouled out since 1992, but I was tired anyway.”

Jordan and the Wizards drew a crowd of 20,578, the largest crowd ever to witness a professional basketball game in Southern California. It was evident who the bulk of the fans were there to see. Every time Jordan came close to touching the ball, the crowd roared, begging him to shoot – hoping that they could get a last glimpse of (arguably) the greatest player who ever played. While no one is wheeling refrigerators onto the court for him, ala Kareem, everyone knows this is his Goodbye Tour and he will, once again, be missed.

After the game, Jordan seemed genuinely grateful for the reception he has been getting from fans at Staples Center and around the league. “I’m really enjoying it,” he said. “It makes me smile a lot – To me, it means that they’re showing their gratification for the way I played the game.” As he continued to smile and answer questions, making several self-deprecating references to his age, calling himself an “old man,” one could only shake their head in amazement because the old man is still able to have such an impact and make the game look so beautiful and easy.
Though Gentry is able to justify a loss to the Wizards, he continues to grasp for
the answer to the Clippers woes.

“That team has the best player in basketball history,” he said. “He has an unbelievable will to win and if I could give anything to my players, I would give them a little bit of what he has. The most important thing to him is to win and he does whatever is necessary.”
While the Clippers may display a will to win, they have not displayed a will to work together. This was evident on Wednesday when the Clippers dropped to 10-17 at home with a more-disappointing-than-usual 92-84 loss to the Boston Celtics.

The Clippers led 78-72 with 5:24 left in the game, yet four turnovers in less than two minutes allowed the Celtics to come back to take a 92-82 lead with :41 left when Gentry was ejected after storming onto the court in protest of a foul call. Gentry had to be restrained by assistant coach, Dennis Johnson and was escorted out of the arena.
“I guess I was just frustrated with everything that’s going on,” Gentry explained.

The foul was only the tip of the iceberg of Gentry’s frustrations. “I don’t think the chemistry is as good as last year,” he said. “I’m not saying we have bad guys – they’re all good guys. The guys are a year older and certain agendas have changed. For some reason we haven’t clicked together as a cohesive unit.”
“We’ve just gotta execute, he shrugged.” “There’s no magic formula.” Back to the lab…

K,J. Sala is a veteran columinist and can be reached at