It's time for This Week in Clippers History, your favorite look back in time at some of the big stories that happened in Clippers past. Being that it is the middle of August, there aren't many stories, let alone big stories. But don't worry, I've have found some stories worth revisiting anyhow.
Marvin Barnes was a star at Providence in the early 70's, enough so that he was the number 2 overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1974 NBA Draft. He never wore a Sixers jersey due to the fact that there was another prominent professional basketball league, the ABA. His professional career started with a bang as a member of the Spirits of St. Louis. Barnes would average 24.1 points and 13.4 rebounds per game, while appearing in 2 ABA all-star games, and winning the 1975 ABA rookie of the year award.
When the ABA merged with the NBA, the Spirits were not one of the teams included in the merger. Barnes was drafted 4th overall by the Detroit Pistons in the ABA dispersal draft. His NBA career never took off, and he would play only 4 seasons in the NBA, finalizing in 1979-80 with the San Diego Clippers. So what happened?
Barnes was always in trouble, be it with drugs or the law. That is how he earned his nickname, 'Bad News'. While in high school, Barnes was involved with a group of gang members that attempted to rob a bus. Barnes was caught due to the fact that he wore a state championship jacket with his name on it. In college, he attacked a teammate with a tire iron, which he plead guilty to. While on probation, he was caught with an unloaded gun in his bag at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. He was also a heavy drug user, to the point that he was snorting cocaine during games. With his NBA career cut short, he would end up homeless, having spent all of the money he made during his professional career.
In July, 1989, with his career way behind him, Barnes was arrested for theft at an adult bookstore. Two times. The first theft included adult movies, and then the next night, lingerie items from the same bookstore. He plead not-guilty, but was convicted a year later. He would also be arrested for trespassing, possession of narcotics, and burglary of a locked vehicle.
Barnes passed away on September 8, 2014 at the age of 62. He was still battling drug problems up to his death. He is just one of many "what could have been" NBA stories.
Charles Smith was my first favorite Clipper. I started following the team in 1988, as a young 9 year old boy, who had just started following the NBA. Of course, I had known about the Lakers, but chose the Clippers. I can not tell you why I chose them. More than likely, it was just coincidence. Danny Manning and Charles Smith were both promising young rookies in that 1988-89 season, with Manning, the number 1 overall pick, the more heralded of the two. But I liked Smith. He had a cool flat top, and was a really good player.
When his rookie contract ended after the 1991-92 season, Smith was looking for a big payday. In his first 4years in the NBA, he averaged 18.4 points, 7 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. But no team offered him a deal. Why? Well, the Clippers let it be known that they would match whatever offer was made to him. This was the early days of restricted free-agency, and teams were scared off by this. With no new contract, Smith signed with the Clippers for 1 year at $1.25 million dollars. Smith vowed that he would walk at the end of the season.
With this threat, the Clippers started shopping Smith, to at least get something in return. Eventually, in September, just a month after signing his 1 year deal, Smith was traded to the New York Knicks in a 3 way trade that included the Orlando Magic. The Clippers, who also included Bo Kimble and Doc Rivers, received Mark Jackson and a 1995 2nd round pick from the Knicks, and Stanley Roberts from the Magic.
In August of 2005, the Clippers traded their young starting point guard, Marko Jaric, along with Lionel Chalmers to the Minnesota Timberwolves, for Sam Cassell and a protected draft pick, which would eventually turn into Austin Rivers. So ultimately, the Clippers are still benefiting from a trade that happened 10 years ago.
When Cassell was traded to the Clippers, the team was still a laughing stock in the NBA. They had some solid pieces in Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, and Corey Maggette, but they still lacked any success. Cassell, who was coming off a nice stretch with the Timberwolves that included a Western Conference Finals run and all-star appearance in 2004, was in the final year of his contract. In those days, the Clippers were known for being stingy with their money, so Sam-I-Am had legitimate concerns. He wanted a new contract. He was 36 years old, and this would be his last chance for anything other than the veterans minimum.
Eventually, even without a new contract, Cassell joined the Clippers, and was the reason the team achieved the level of success they did in the 2005-06 season, including a run to the second round of the playoffs. He was the leader of the team, even more than coach Mike Dunleavy. In the 2006 off-season, Cassell signed a 2 year contract with the Clippers for $13 million dollars, but was unable to lead the team to the playoffs again. He was later waived during the 2007-08 season, to allow him to sign on with a contender for a last chance at another title, which he got with the Boston Celtics.