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This Week in Clippers History: Banners, Openings, and Cons, Oh Me Oh My!

Benoit Benjamin threatens to go to Italy, the Clippers sign an ex-con, Staples Center opens, the Clippers spoil the Thunders debut, and the Clippers do the unthinkable, all in the latest issue of This Week in Clippers History.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor


Clippers Lose Benoit Benjamin to Italian Team

Coming off the best season of his young career, Benoit Benjamin was in talks with the Clippers over a new contract. When talks stalled, his agent asked for a trade. When the Clippers refused to trade him, Benjamin and his agent looked for alternative threats. Apparently they talked to Danny Ferry, who had recently spurned the Clippers and instead signed with Italian team Il Messaggero. It got so serious that Benjamin actually signed a contract with Italian team Philips Milano, with reports on the dollar amount of the contract ranging from $500,000 to $2 million.

Benjamin joined the Italian team that featured a couple of past and future Clippers connections. The roster included former Buffalo Brave Bob McAdoo and future Clippers assistant coach Marc Iavaroni, who had been injured — Benoit Benjamin was to be his replacement.

Benjamin was with the team for 3 days, then he decided to return to the states and open up negotiations with the Clippers again. After Philips Milano lost him, they turned to another future Clippers coach, Kim Hughes, who would serve as an assistant under Mike Dunleavy and as the interim head coach when Dunleavy was fired.

The contract negotiations took some time, but Benjamin finally resigned with the Clippers in November and made his season debut on November 22. For the season, he averaged 13.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg and 2.6 bpg.


Clippers Copy the Indians from the Movie Major League, Sign Ex-con

In 1994, the Clippers signed Orlando Vega out of Sandstone Federal Correctional Facility in Sandstone, Minnesota, where he was a SG for the prison team. At one point, as a high schooler, Vega was one of the best. In a 1988 high school showcase game, he won the MVP trophy over future NBA stars Alonzo Mourning, Chris Jackson, Billy Owens, and Shawn Kemp. He was destined for basketball greatness. But things didn't go the way they should have.

He grew up with a hard life; his mother was a drug addict and his father wasn't around. At the age of twelve, his mother sent him to a group home. He started hanging out with street thugs, breaking the law. But those same street thugs encouraged him to pursue basketball. And he was good at it. To get away from the street life, he transferred to Oak Hill Academy for his senior season and was eventually awarded a scholarship to attend the University of Arizona. Unfortunately, he had academic issues and never played for them or the school he later transferred to, Providence. He ended up moving to Puerto Rico, and played professional basketball there.

In 1990, while visiting some friends in Washington DC, he was in the home of a known drug dealer when the cops raided the house. He was arrested and sentenced to 5 years in prison. After his release, he returned to Puerto Rico to resume his pro basketball career. In Puerto Rico, he averaged over 34 points and 6 rebounds per game, which caught the eyes of the Clippers scouts. He signed to a non-guaranteed contract with the Clippers, but unfortunately did not make the team. He was released just a couple weeks later.


The Boss Opens the Clippers New Home

The new home of the Clippers (and the Kings and Lakers) opend this week, and to kick things off "The Boss", Bruce Springsteen, performed live.

The Clippers would play their first game at Staples Center, a preseason matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks, on Oct. 27. The Clippers lost that game, 109-96, and had a bad first season in Staples Center, going 15-67. I think the one bright moment of that season came in the first game, Lamar Odom's NBA debut, where he went for 30 points and 12 rebounds and gave all us Clippers fans hope!


Clippers Spoil Home Debut for Thunder

Maybe somewhere deep down inside, this is why many of the Thunder players seem to have beef with the Clippers. Maybe they've done their research, and they know that the Clippers were the first ever team to beat the Thunder in OKC, even though it was just a preseason game. Maybe we can thank Mike Taylor for giving Wussel Restbrook motivation to become the player he has become.

The Clippers beat the Thunder in their first ever game in Oklahoma City, 90-88, as Taylor made Restbrook look like the rookie he was in the closing minutes to help lead the Clippers to the victory.


How Dare the Clippers Cover the Sacred Lakers (and Kings and Sparks) Championship Banners

You gotta love Lakers fans. They get so upset over the way the inside of Staples Center looks during Clippers games.

In the preseason of 2013, the Clippers unveiled a new look inside of Staples Center, one where the Lakers, Kings, and Sparks championship banners would be covered by gigantic pictures of current Clippers. Doc Rivers felt that when the Clippers were playing, it should feel like the Clippers' home, and not that of the hallway rival. This angered many Lakers fans. Shoot, it even angered former Clipper and current Laker, Nick Young. But Laker legend Magic Johnson had no problem with it. Why were the Lakers fans so hurt? I never heard anything from Kings or Sparks fans.