The summer of 2003 was a wild ride for Clipper fans. The team tabbed center Chris Kaman with the sixth overall pick in the June draft. Soon after, they’d sign the well-tested and proven Mike Dunleavy as Head Coach. The work was just beginning.
One of the problems with the prior season had been that about half the team was at the end of a contract. That made for a busy summer. Miami gave a big offer to Elton brand who was a restricted free agent. The Clippers quickly matched it. Utah threw money at Corey Maggette who was also a R-FA. The Clippers matched. They would become the heart and soul of the team’s future.
Lamar Odom, Eric Piatkowski, Andre Miller and Michael Olowokandi all signed elsewhere. The cupboard was far from bare. Kaman was a solid replacement for Olowokandi. Q. Richardson was ready to replace Odom’s scoring while Marko Jaric, Keyon Dooling and Eddie House were on hand to handle Miller’s point guard duties. Dunleavy also found a diamond in the rough in former Washington Wizard small forward, Bobby Simmons. Add a young a developing Chris Wilcox and the steady play of veteran Predrag Drobnjak and this looked like a competitive group.
For the second time in ten years, the Clippers would open the season in Japan. This time the opponent would be the Seattle Super Sonics. Brand was entering his third season with the Clippers. He was the “rock” on which this team was being built. Sadly, E.B. went down in the first game in Japan with a stress fracture in his right foot. The stunned and now short-handed Clippers dropped both games against the Sonics.
They had their state-side opener a week later in Denver against the Nuggets. Even without Brand, the Clips scored a thrilling 104-102 over-time win with Corey Maggette exploding for 29 points. When Brand returned on December 5th, the team was 6-8 on the season and there was a feeling that the year could be salvaged. He would go on to average 20 points and 10 rebounds a game after the injury, but it was not enough to lift this team into playoff contention.
Brand, Maggette and Richardson provided a potent one-two-three scoring punch, averaging 58-points a game as a trio. However, coach Dunleavy didn’t have many additional weapons. The team finished the year 28-54. Richardson supplied a highlight by making a franchise record eight three-pointers in a game against the Boston Celtics on February 4, 2004.
The other good signs aside from the Big 3 scorers included the growth of Kaman, the late season play of Simmons, the versatility of Jaric and the promise of Wilcox. The foundation still looked good.
- Single Game Tickets
- game night
- clipper nation