Monday night's Clippers victory over the Orlando Magic was marred by an Achilles' tendon injury to Chauncey Billups, who is a big reason the Clippers are 15-7 and in second place in the Western Conference.
On Tuesday, the Internet was abuzz with fans pointing to Billups' injury as another example of the "Clippers Curse."
One problem. There is no Clippers Curse. What believers consider a curse the rest of the world considers a series of bad management decisions. Oh sure, there are times when players have been injured: Blake Griffin missed his first season because of a knee injury. Danny Manning, the Clippers' top pick in 1988, blew out his knee in his rookie season. The team traded two first-round picks for Tiny Archibald in 1977; one month into the season, he tore his Achilles' tendon and missed the entire season. Bill Walton had a series of foot injuries during his seasons with the team.
Some call that a curse, but other teams call it a day in the life of an NBA team.
Ask Lakers fans about James Worthy breaking his leg just before the start of the 1983 NBA playoffs, probably costing the Lakers an NBA title. Or ask them about Byron Scott and Magic Johnson both suffering torn hamstrings during the 1989 NBA Finals, with Scott hurting his before Game 1 and Johnson during Game 2. The Lakers were swept in that series. Or Magic retiring after testing positive for HIV. Does anyone say the Lakers are cursed? No, because the Lakers officials have a history of making wise draft picks and trades, leaving the team in position to recover quickly from setbacks.
Look at the Clippers draft history: In 1981, they drafted Tom Chambers, who went on to have a solid career ... with Seattle and Phoenix. After averaging 17.4 points for the Clippers, they traded him to the SuperSonics for James Donaldson, Greg Kelser and Mark Radford. To be fair, the Clippers did draft a future Hall of Famer in 1981: Tony Gwynn, who is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1983, the Clippers selected Byron Scott, then traded him to the Lakers. In 1984, they selected Lancaster Gordon with the eight overall pick of the draft. Lancaster Gordon? Meanwhile, eight picks later, the Utah Jazz selected John Stockton. In 1985, with the third pick in the draft and with Chris Mullin, Detlef Schrempf, Charles Oakley, Karl Malone and Joe Dumars all available, the Clippers selected, wait for it, Benoit Benjamin. (By the way, that same year the Lakers selected A.C. Green with the 23rd pick.)
We could play the "name the bad draft pick" game all day. In 1987, the Clippers had three first-round picks. They went with Reggie Williams, Joe Wolf and Ken Norman. Remember Danny Ferry? Bo Kimble? LeRon Ellis? Randy Woods? Terry Dehere? Lamond Murray? Michael Olowokandi?
So, no, there is no Clippers Curse. There was just a series of horrible player personnel decisions made by the team. Which seems to have changed this season under new General Manager Neil Olshey. Who is probably busily trying to fill the hole Billups' injury leaves.
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-- Houston Mitchell
Photo: Chauncey Billups is guarded by Glen Davis (11) and Jameer Nelson (14) of the Orlando Magic during Monday's game. Credit: Sam Greenwood / Getty Images