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Scott Howard-Cooper

The Clippers have plenty of cap space to make a play for this summer's biggest free agents.
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Clippers: Star first, coach second

Posted May 21 2010 8:24PM

CHICAGO -- The Clippers are considering holding off on hiring a coach until after July 1 to offer a superstar free agent a voice in the process, part of a recruiting pitch to lure him to Los Angeles, has learned.

The team is known to be preparing a bid for LeBron James, among others.

The Clippers are declining comment on the search for a replacement for Mike Dunleavy, who resigned Feb. 4 to focus solely on front-office duties and then was fired as GM. The team decided not to offer the coaching job to Kim Hughes, who took over for Dunleavy and coached the Clippers through the rest of the season.

League insiders attending the pre-Draft camp here said the Clippers are prepared to wait until July to name a head coach if they feel the decision can be used as part of an intriguing, if unusual, offer to their top target.

The Clippers can make a credible offer to any free agent. They will have approximately $17 million in cap space, a requisite if James is the main target, as many believe him to be. Plus, the Clippers' biggest hole seems to be at small forward, one of the positions James can easily fill.

They can surround James, or whoever, with All-Star Chris Kaman at center, Blake Griffin at power forward (as the No. 1 pick of the 2009 Draft works back from a knee injury), Eric Gordon at shooting guard and Baron Davis at point guard, along with the eighth pick in the June 24 Draft. The marketing possibilities of Los Angeles also would be part of the recruiting pitch.

The Bulls also have a coaching opening and are expected to pursue James, among others, as well.

"There might be a couple of teams that decide to wait until after free agency begins to hire their next coach," one executive said, noting how the openings could be used to attract a mega-star such as James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson and probably Amar'e Stoudemire.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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