Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clippers Upbeat despite Sweep in First Round

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clippers Upbeat despite Sweep in First Round

Article excerpt

The Los Angeles Clippers went where few expected them to go this season, earning their first playoff berth in four years.

But after getting swept in the opening round by the Utah Jazz, they'll need to make changes if they hope to be serious challengers next season.

Los Angeles finished 36-46 - its third straight season of improvement under Bill Fitch. Two years ago, the Clippers won only 17 games as Fitch stepped in to overhaul yet another struggling NBA franchise. The Clippers managed seven more wins than last season despite playing without a legitimate center most of the season. Charles Outlaw and rookie Lorenzen Wright split time in the middle, but neither could contain Utah's Karl Malone in the playoffs. Center Stanley Roberts played only 18 games before injuring his back. The 225-pound Wright stepped in, but was nowhere near the presence of the 290-pound Roberts. Fitch believes the Clippers are a big man away from playing more evenly against most teams. "I never say, `We need,' because that means that I'm crying for somebody," he said. "I just said that if there's a bigger man in there, with these same people, we would be a very formidable opponent for anybody. We've played small, and you'd see a lot of times where the second shots killed us." Forward Loy Vaught was the only holdover from the last time the Clippers made the playoffs, with consecutive appearances in 1992 and 1993. "It's so nice to have a big guy down there that helps out blocking shots and clogging up the middle," he said. "That makes everyone else's job so much easier. "This year we had guys playing out of position to cover up for us. But hopefully, we'll have a healthy Stanley or a healthy body down there next season." The Clippers could be hard-pressed to acquire a center because of a glut at the guard spot. One guard - Malik Sealy - is a free agent and might not return since there are six guards on the roster now. …

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