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Two Surprising Developments

There were two surprising Clipper developments in the LA Times today.  

The first development is that the Clippers exist.  For the first time in 36 days, the Times mentioned something about the 'other' NBA team in Los Angeles.  In case you're thinking, well, there wasn't anything newsworthy during that time, Elton Brand did get his cast off with nary a word from the Times.  Another LA based NBA all star would be getting daily progress reports following major surgery.  But I digress.

The second is that former lottery pick Yaroslav Korolev will be at training camp in Santa Barbara.

Free-agent forward Yaroslav Korolev will report to the Clippers' training camp in Santa Barbara next week, ending speculation that the team's 2005 lottery pick would report with another team or play in Russia this season, a source said Wednesday.

Korolev, the 12th overall pick two years ago, tried out with the Phoenix Suns and other NBA teams in recent weeks but has returned to working out at the Clippers' El Segundo training facility. Korolev is expected to sign a non-guaranteed contract before camp begins.

From the moment that Ruben Patterson signed, it's been fairly apparent that there was no room for Yarik on the Clippers roster.  That's not just a metaphor - the team is only allowed to carry 15 guaranteed contracts, two of which are the injured Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston.  After the Patterson signing, they held the maximum 15, although the amount of guaranteed money for Guillermo Diaz and Josh Powell is not clear.

The bottom line is, Korolev has very little chance of making this team.  And although he was rumored to be auditioning for the Suns, while Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce also showed interest, he's going to camp with the team that DIDN'T exercise their third year option on him last year and DIDN'T sign him to a minimum contract this summer.  Like citizen ClipperJoe (hat tip, by the way) said in his Diary, "I guess the guy is a sucker for rejection."

Does he have any chance of making the team?  Surely he believes he does, or why would he show up?  And one would think that MDsr and the coaching staff would have built up enough rapport with the guy over two full years that they would not lead him on if he had no chance at all.  I mean, by all indications this was MDsr's pet lottery pick - I can't imagine that he would be anxious to cut him AGAIN!  But then there is that pesky roster math.  It probably comes down to the possibility of waiving Aaron Williams and his $1.7M.  In the long run, with Williams in the final year of his contract and unlikely to be a Clipper after that (they do still hold the rights to MBFGC after all), it would not seem to serve any purpose to hold onto him.  So for the minimum salary that Korolev would require, they could keep Korolev and waive Williams, opting for the potential of a 20 year old former lottery pick versus the one year services of a 36 year old role player.

At any rate, this will make for an intriguing October - much more so than usual.  The Clippers have 17 players that, it would seem, belong on an NBA roster, but only room for 15 of them.  The plight of Korolev, and the battle between Guillermo Diaz and Jared Jordan, will undoubtedly stretch into the final days of pre-season.  One only hopes that the coaching staff gives everyone a chance to prove themselves.