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Clippers Get Pick Of The Litter

The coachless Los Angeles Clippers earned the right to pick first in next month's NBA draft next month somewhat by default.

The Vancouver Grizzlies actually had the first four-number combination drawn Sunday, but they were automatically dropped to the No. 2 spot as part of their expansion agreement when they entered the league for the 1995-96 season.

Four more numbered balls were then drawn and the Clippers, who had the third worst record this past season at 17-65 under recently fired coach Bill Fitch, got the top pick when the numbers 3-5-9-11 came up.

Another Vancouver combination was drawn third and discarded before Denver, which had the worst record at 11-71, got the third pick when its combination of 1-5-11-14 was drawn.

Toronto will pick fourth in the draft that ironically will be held in Vancouver. Golden State, which stood to lose its pick because of a trade if it finished first, second or third, will select fifth followed by Dallas, Sacramento, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Boston, Detroit and Orlando, which will have the final two picks.

It's expected that Utah, which has the option, will take one of the Magic's selections.

This marks the second time the Clippers have won the lottery. Ten years ago they won and picked Danny Manning with the No. 1 choice.

Elgin Baylor, the Clippers vice president of basketball operations, said he knows who the team will select this season but he would not identify the player.

While there isn't a franchise player like Tim Duncan in 1997, personnel directors say there are six very good players Arizona's Mike Bibby at point guard, Vince Carter of North Carolina and Paul Pierce of Kansas at the swing position, Antawn Jamison of North Carolina and Raef LaFrentz of Kansas at forward and Pacific's Michael Olowokandi at center.

The last NBA team to win the lottery after having the worst record in the league was New Jersey Nets in 1990. There have been three teams with 70 losses in the regular season since the lottery started and each now has failed to win it, with the Nugges joining the Dallas (11-71 in '93) and the Clippers (12-70 in 1987).

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