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July 31, 2008

Dodgers Trade for Manny Ramirez

I don't have all of the details yet, but it appears the Dodgers have acquired Manny Ramirez from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris. Both of them will go to Pittsburgh, who then have shipped Jason Bay to Boston. The Pirates also got Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen from Boston. I'm also hearing the Red Sox dropped Ramirez's options as a condition of him waiving his 10 and 5 rights, meaning he'll be a free agent after the season.

Not sure what this does to the Dodger outfield situation, but on the surface, the team has certainly made a huge splash and not sacrificed too much. If the Dodgers were really trying to top the Angels' Teixeira deal, then I'd say they can credibly say "my rental is better than your rental." More to come later...


I've been slightly critical of the Dodgers in the past, saying that they shouldn't be making short-term deals to satisfy the local media and create headlines. Great organizations never put themselves in position to resort to such gimmicks. It's as if the organization saw yesterday's Bill Plaschke video at LATimes.com, and accepted the challenge to match the Angels. ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick writes about a litany of deals that were made to satisfy short-term desires, and turned out to hurt the organization. Too often, the LA media pushes the Dodgers or the Angels into making these deals without fully understanding the implications, and then bashes them when they fail to wave the magic wand. Very rarely does one move change an organization, and very rarely are one-sided moves even feasible.

So with that all of that being said, I really like this deal for the Dodgers. Yes, it's a short-term gimmick that will grab headlines and appease the local pundits. But Manny Ramirez is a special player. He is one the great power hitters of our generation and he is still putting up terrific numbers. He also has the personality to thrive in this city which puts a premium on superstars. Ramirez puts an instant shot into the arm of a brand that had been sagging somewhat this year.

In all likelihood, Ramirez is a short-term rental. But I don't think that's a problem. For one, the lift he is bringing this franchise is enormous, even if it is unquantifiable. Secondly, the Dodgers gave up a more than reasonable package for him. Bryan Morris is a high-ceiling pitcher, but he's already had Tommy John Surgery, and is at least three years away.

A lot of people like Andy LaRoche, but the Dodgers were going to need to trade him at some point to make room for Blake DeWitt. Given the current dynamic between the Dodgers, the organization, the fans, and the media, LaRoche was setup to fail. It seemed like few people had the patience to watch him develop, he was setback by injuries just enough for impatient types to believe he was a bust, and he didn't put up stellar numbers in the very small sample size of at-bats he was given. If LaRoche had been handed the 3B job full-time, and gotten off to a mediocre start, then he might have been ridden out of town. I don't think LaRoche is the next Paul Konerko, who this town also soured on quickly, but I do think he has the talent to be a quality everyday major leaguer. But I also think that DeWitt has a higher ceiling. So at the end of the day, LaRoche was expendable.

With Ramirez in the lineup, the Dodgers get some much-needed power. And it's not just any power. Ramirez has slugging ability that just a tiny handful of MLBers can match. In fact, he's arguably the greatest power hitter to ever wear a Dodger uniform for any length of time. Eddie Murray and Frank Robinson are the only other Dodgers to have ever hit 500 home runs.

The Dodgers are now the clear favorites in the NL West, and given Ramirez's excellent postseason history with the Red Sox, their odds look better in October.

The only other question now is what the Dodgers will do with their crowded outfield. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier have both proven they're everyday major leaguers, and it would stunt their development to take them out of the lineup. Andruw Jones has proven that he has no business being in the lineup. And Juan Pierre continues to be a topic of hot debate. I wouldn't be surprised if the Dodgers chose to outright Jones to the minors (provided he accepts). If he doesn't accept, then Jones would be a free agent. Either way, he'd be owed all of the money on his contract, but Jones has been so inexplicably awful that they really might not have a choice.

July 29, 2008

Angels Trade for Mark Teixeira

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim made a big push for the stretch drive today, acquiring Mark Teixeira from the Atlanta Braves for Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek. The deal brings the Angels the "big bat" that they've desired for so long, but it's also a calculated gamble.

There's little question that Teixeira is a top-flight power hitter, and he will absolutely make a difference in the Angels lineup. The Angels were probably going to the playoffs without him, but they needed someone who could get a big hit in the playoffs, and Teixeira is a better guy to count on in the middle of the order than what the Halos have been working with lately.

Still, Teixeira is a free agent after this season, and his agent Scott Boras is going to demand an astronomical contract for his client. Boras will probably play the market to drive up Teixeira's price, and it's not clear if the Angels will pay him in the neighborhood of $20 million a year for the long-term.

If the Angels lose him, then they've effectively given up Casey Kotchman for nothing. While there's plenty of argument among Halo circles as to how promising a young player Kotchman actually is, he's been the third-best hitter on the team and seemingly still has room to grow. The Angels may figure though that they could lose Teixeira in the off-season, and at least find a comparable first baseman to Kotchman statistically at a low price.

Overall, this move will satisfy Angels fans who have been begging the organization to make a move. Sometimes, I think MLB teams have to be careful not to make a trade just to make one and satisfy some sort of primal urge. One could argue that's the case here. The trade makes the Angels a better team this year, and possibly years to come if Teixeira re-signs. Their odds of going to the World Series have just improved. But in the long-run, the Angels will either be saddled with an expensive contract that could hurt their payroll flexibility, or they will have created a hole at first base in exchagne for two good months of offensive production. It's a calculated gamble.

July 27, 2008

Dodgers trade for Casey Blake

I was at Dodger Stadium last night to see the debut of newly traded-for third baseman Casey Blake, and he looked great, going 2-for-3 in the Dodgers 6-0 win over the Nationals. Earlier in the day, Blake had been traded from Cleveland for Jonathan Meloan and Carlos Santana.

The trade has drawn a wide mix of reactions from all sides of the baseball community. For the remainder of this season, the deal clearly helps the Dodgers. Casey Blake isn't an all-star, but he's an above-average hitter, who has some power, and his bat will add a sorely-needed boost to a Dodger team that has been inconsistent offensively all season long.

He's a significant upgrade over Blake DeWitt, who has been awful since he was NL Rookie of the Month back in May. At this point, it's best for DeWitt's development to play every day in AAA. He wasn't even supposed to be in the majors this season, and while he's talented, MLB scouting reports figured him out and he hasn't learned to adjust yet.

Blake will also be starting every day over Andy LaRoche, a third baseman who draws a wide variety of opinions. Scroll through Jon Weisman's Dodger Thoughts blog, and you'll find plenty of people who think that LaRoche has the talent to be a very good ballplayer, but bemoan that he's been jerked around by the organization and never given a fair a opportunity. It seems as though the mainstream LA media, such as the LA Times, has never been high on LaRoche, and they don't like what they've seen in the few snippets of playing time he's received.

If LaRoche hadn't torn a thumb ligament in spring training, then he almost certainly would have received the opportunity many felt he deserved. But now, at 24, he's almost too old to be a prospect, and one can't help but feel that the Dodgers organization has soured on him. There are still plenty of teams that like LaRoche, and I'd expect him to be traded in the offseason.

Blake also doesn't figure into the Dodgers future plans, as he's 34 years old, and a free agent after the season. For now, he's a rental down the stretch.

Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus is critical of the deal, claiming the Dodgers gave up too much for 200 at-bats, and is disappointed that LaRoche's development is blocked. Jonathan Meloan flourished in the minor leagues as a reliever, but struggled in five games last September in the majors. He was converted to a starting pitcher this year, and struggled in that role in Las Vegas. In reality, he's probably best used as a reliever, and he could be a really good one.

Carlos Santana is putting up excellent numbers in Single-A, but he's a bit old for that level of the minors, and his path to the majors is obviously blocked by Russell Martin.

I'd argue that the Dodgers gave up a good package to get Casey Blake, and it has more potential than what they received. At the same point in time, it's questionable if that potential will ever be realized. While the Dodgers might have a losing record, they're only 1 game out of first place, there is no runaway team in the NL, and anything can happen in the playoffs. I can't see LaRoche thriving this season within the current structure of the Dodger organization, given the lack of patience that seems to exist with his game, even though it's probably not fair that impatience exists. For now, I think this helps the Dodgers in their pursuit towards the playoffs, and I'm not convinced they'll regret it 5 years from now.

July 17, 2008

Sports Beat, 7-17-08

--The Clippers traded for Marcus Camby from the Denver Nuggets, only giving up a second-round draft pick. Acquiring a big man so soon after Elton Brand left certainly makes a statement. They're not giving up so easily. Donald Sterling has proven recently that he is willing to spend money on this franchise, and Camby will cost the Clippers $20 million over the next two years.

Camby has earned a reputation as a defensive player, a shot-blocking specialist who can rebound and was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2006-07. Most teams would love to have a guy like him. But Camby is also 34 years old, and it remains to be seen how much basketball he has left in him. He may have been the only Nugget who played defense, but I don't recall him being too effective in slowing down Pau Gasol in the first round of the playoffs. I also wonder how he'll fit in with Chris Kaman, since both guys basically play the same position, but I guess it's possible to slide Camby over to the power forward position.

--The LA Kings have hired a new coach in Terry Murray, the brother of former Ducks coach Bryan Murray. Terry is a fairly accomplished NHL coach having won with Washington, Philadelphia, and Florida. He took the Flyers to the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals, but was fired after that season.

I know some Flyers fans who criticized Murray during his stint in Philadelphia for his goaltender rotation of Ron Hextall and Garth Snow, and for his "choking situation" comments after the team lost Game 3 of the Finals that year. But the fact is, Murray is a winner, and I don't know many sane Flyer fans. He figures to face much less scrutiny in Los Angeles.

The real question is if Murray is the right person to develop the Kings' good young players. Marc Crawford was an accomplished coach who did work not out in LA. We'll see if Murray can fill that role better.

--Russell Martin played extremely well in the All-Star Game last Tuesday night, and won constant praise from Tim McCarver. Clint Hurdle seemed so impressed by Martin's gritty defensive play and the bunt that he selflessly laid down, that he didn't bring in Brian McCann until the 15th inning. I know the Dodgers would like to sign Martin to a long-term contract, and I know Martin has been reluctant to have his arbitration years bought out, but the Dodgers should recognize they have a star and do whatever they can to lock him up. In this city of stars, Martin should be the face of the Dodgers.

July 13, 2008

Sports Beat, 7-13-08

--Earlier this week, I wrote that the Dodgers seemed to be playing better under Joe Torre. Then they lost 3 in a row to the Florida Marlins and continued to show why they are baseball's most inconsistent team. The Dodgers did rally back and beat Florida today (thanks to the golden arm of Chad Billingsley that almost no one is paying attention to), and are now just a game back of first place, despite having a 46-49 record at the All-Star Break.

Everyone seems to have their own theory as to why the Dodgers have struggled this season. Some have blamed it on injuries. Others have blamed the team's young players. I've also seen plenty of blame flown in the direction of General Manager Ned Colletti. But the best explanation I've seen comes from Jon Weisman on his DodgerThoughts blog, who lists 17 reasons why the Dodgers have disappointed in 2008.

In the meantime, Blill Plaschke spoke to Frank McCourt for a recent column, and it's now clear that Ned Colletti is on the hot seat. Much has been written recently about the "Dodger way". One hallmark of Dodger baseball was continuity. The Dodgers used to be the envy of the baseball world with their stable consistent management that seldom changed. But the team is now on its fifth GM this decade and sixth in the last 10 years. They've also had six managers in the last 10 years.

If the Dodgers want to be a successful team and restore the Dodger brand to what it once was, then they need to have a leadership team they can trust and one that will be given the time to build and execute a real plan. I would argue that the Dodgers last two GMs -- Dan Evans and Paul DePodesta -- are both excellent baseball minds who did not have a real opportunity to see their plans through. There are things that I do like about Ned Colletti, but we also have some philosophical differences. For example, I will never understand why a MLB GM would sign Juan Pierre to a 5-year $45 million contract, but I did support the Jason Schmidt and Andruw Jones signings at the time, although both deals have turned out worse than anyone's lowest expectations.

A major part of the old "Dodger way" was building from within. Branch Rickey was the founder of the farm system, and the Dodgers are an organization that has always prided itself on creating a family atmosphere -- both at the ballpark and within the organization itself. As frustrating as it may be to watch growing pains as the Dodgers go through their current transition, building with their young players is the best way to go in baseball today. Veteran players are more likely to get injured and the Mitchell Report has cast a cloud over some vets' past performances. Also the game's current economics are strong, and more teams are signing their good young players to long-term contracts, thus reducing the quality of available talent both in free agency and at the trade deadline.

Whatever the Dodgers decide to do, they need a stable and visionary management team. They also need to show patience through transition periods and growing pains as a plan is developed and executed.

On another note, there are two excellent Dodger-related stories in the LA Times today. One is from Bill Dwyre, who recalls the experience of covering Al Campanis' unfortunate comments in 1987. The second is from Steve Lopez, who writes about legendary Dodgers chef Dave Pearson.

--Earlier this week, the Daily News reported that AEG may sell part of the LA Kings to outside investors. One potential group is led by Wyc Grousbeck, who owns the Boston Celtics. According to the report, AEG would still maintain control over the team, but they may bring in some executives from the Celtics to help run the Kings. I have a ton of respect and admiration for AEG, and they are certainly entitled to run the Kings as they see fit. But as a lifelong lover of LA sports, I have to admit that it would feel awkward to have a group from the rival Celtics playing an influential role at STAPLES Center.

--Speaking of AEG-owned enterprises, there's an interesting story in the Daily News discussing the experience of the Galaxy's foreign players.

--Ron Artest of the Sacramento Kings reportedly wants to be traded, and he'd love to be a Laker. He recently said that Phil Jackson was the type of coach who could bring the best out of him. But ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports that such a deal is unlikely, because the Lakers are unwilling to swap Lamar Odom for Artest. That would also indicate to me that the Lakers are intent on keeping Odom through the final season of his contract. It appears that the Maloof brothers like Odom though.

In the meantime, the Lakers are now mulling whether to match a 4-year $17 million offer sheet for Ronny Turiaf from the Golden State Warriors. The odds are against the Lakers matching. Some on talk radio have complained that the Lakers would be cheap to let him go, since they want to avoid paying too much of the luxury tax. But I think fans also need to realize that $4 million devoted to Ronny Turiaf annually will count against the salary cap, and in a few years that could be $4 million less than they have to acquire a big name player.

--I don't know quite what to believe in the whole Elton Brand saga, but between the David Falk negotiating ploys and Mike Dunleavy's comments, I do know this... if Elton Brand really wanted to be a Clipper then he'd be one right now.

If Brand had opted out and openly said he was exploring all his options, then I don't think he'd be criticized as much as he is right now. We can pick at Brand's words all we want, but he clearly led the Clippers and its fans to believe he wanted to return, and that he'd be more likely to do so if the organization improved. With the acquisition of Baron Davis, they did just that. I have to give credit to Davis for sticking with his commitment, even when few would have faulted him for bailing after Brand bailed.

As for Brand, it now appears that the money being offered from Philadelphia and LA was equal, and David Falk had to know that the Clippers would go as high as they could for him. I doubt they issued an "ultimatum", but they probably did tell Brand that $70 million was the most that they could do under the salary cap. When Brand waffled, they renounced the rights to some free agents, and went up to $75 million. Then they renounced the rights to more free agents, and were at $80 million.

Now the Clippers have renounced the rights to five players, including Shaun Livingston. Oh, and rookie Eric Gordon is already injured and will miss the remainder of the summer league. It's a tough time to be a Clipper fan.

--Earlier this week, we discussed the rumors about the Jacksonville Jaguars potentially being sold and moved to LA. But Sam Farmer in the LA Times, notes that it's not easy for the team to leave Jacksonville. The Jaguars have a lease that runs through 2030. They can get out of it if they can prove losses for three consecutive seasons, but that won't be easy in today's NFL. Even if they did leave, the team could be forced to repay tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue to the city of Jacksonville.

July 10, 2008

Jaguars owner denies sale, move to LA

We've mentioned the Jacksonville Jaguars as prime targets to move to Los Angeles in the past. Jacksonville is a tiny market in a state where the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers already have large followings. The team has struggled to sell out many of its games over the years. And the question is frequently asked, "why play in Jacksonville, Florida when you can play in major market Los Angeles and dramatically increase your franchise value."

The Philadelphia Daily News is reporting that Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver is negotiating to sell the team to billionaire Dean Metropoulos, the former Chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Foods. Metropoulos could then move the team to Los Angeles. Theoretically, the "LA Jaguars" could play at the Coliseum or Rose Bowl until Ed Roski's new stadium is built in the City of Industry.

However, Weaver today denied the reports and claims his team is not for sale.

"I'm not selling the Jaguars," Weaver said. "The team is not moving to LA. I don't know how I can say it any more clearly than that. At some point, maybe I will sell the team. But not now."

Obviously, it's hard to know what is really going on. And now that LA has a viable stadium plan with Roski, it's normal to expect multiple teams to be rumored to move here. Many will also try to use LA as leverage to get better stadium situations at home. But the Jaguars are not in a great situation in Jacksonville, and despite Wayne Weaver's denial, he did not rule out selling the team either.

July 8, 2008

Brand Leaves Clippers for Philadelphia

Well, so much for that. Just days ago Clipper Nation going ga-ga over the potential pairing of Baron Davis and Elton Brand. Now those hopes and dreams have been shattered, as the LA Times reports that Brand has signed a 5-year $80 million contract with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The move is rather shocking for several reasons. When Davis agreed to terms with the Clippers, a mere 24 hours after the NBA free agent period began, many observers assumed that the move had been prearranged between Brand and Davis. When Brand opted out of his contract, he indicated that it was done partially for the Clippers to obtain extra salary cap room and sign a big-name free agent... like a Baron Davis. He explicitly said that it was his intent to remain a Clipper. And while most players who have been in a Clipper uniform for any extended period of time seem desperate to take the first plane out of town, Brand had established firm roots in Los Angeles, having set up a production company and produced the movie Rescue Dawn.

While the Sixers will have one of the better Eastern Conference teams now with Brand, Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller, and Samuel Dalembert, it's hard to argue that a Clipper team with Brand, Davis, Eric Gordon, and Chris Kaman wouldn't have been better. Now, Elton Brand, who has always had a squeaky clean image, will branded in this town as a traitor.

As for the Clippers, one can't help but feel for them. The organization finally seemed to be doing everything right, bringing in one star player to complement another, and spending big money to do so. They offered Brand as much as they could have, and it's not clear that it was much less than what Philadelphia offered. Now they theoretically have plenty of cap room to go after some big free agents. But many of the top names have already made their decisions, including Corey Maggette who reached terms with the Golden State Warriors.

The Clippers are rumored to be interested in signing Josh Smith from Atlanta, a budding superstar who has shown immaturity, but Smith is a restricted free agent, meaning the Hawks can match any offer. They could also make a run at a restricted free agent like Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls. Or they could wait to use that cap space on a big free agent next year.

Dodgers in First Place

It may not be how they planned it. But after Hiroki Kuroda's near-perfect 1-hit gem last night, the Dodgers are tied for first place in the NL West with a 44-45 record.

While it's easy to be cynical about the Dodgers current standing, it's hard to deny that they have been playing visibly better baseball of late. The Dodgers are 8-3 in their last 11 games, and appear to have bought into Joe Torre's system. Torre's New York teams always seemed to get better as the season wore on, and it's possible that we'll see the same with the Dodgers. One of Torre's strengths is his ability to manage a clubhouse for a full 162 game schedule, and keep a team mentally strong through the ebbs and flows of a long season. The Dodgers may still be in a transition period, but it's nice to see Torre's influence begin to rub off on this bunch.

In the meantime, some Dodger fans are upset that the team couldn't pull off of a deal for CC Sabathia, who wound up with the Brewers. While Sabathia would have been a fantastic addition, as Bill Shaikin points out in the LA Times today, the Dodgers didn't really match up well for a trade with the Indians.

Some have bemoaned that the Dodgers are trying to win with "kids," but in reality, the best way to win in baseball these days is by building a solid foundation through a strong farm system. While it can be extremely frustrating to watch some of their young players go through growing pains, it's the right way to go. The Dodgers are on their fifth general manager this decade and have been inconsistent in recent years because they haven't had the leadership in place long enough to be patient with a plan.

A few days ago, Bill Plaschke in the LA Times said the Dodger young players have been "coddled." I'm not in the Dodger clubhouse, so I don't know what is really happening. But as Jon Weisman points out in Dodger Thoughts, that seems a bit far-fetched. Weisman notes that most of the Dodger young players have been sent down, benched, and/or criticized in the media. Yet I would argue that Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin, James Loney, Blake DeWitt, Chad Billingsley, and Jonathan Broxton have all earned their places in Dodger lineup. Also, from my perception, Ned Colletti and Joe Torre don't seem like the type of people who would coddle anyone.

I do think the young Dodgers could benefit from some veteran leadership though. The Tampa Bay Rays (which I have close connections to) are having an excellent season thus far and have benefited from the additions of Troy Percival and Cliff Floyd. Both players have been fantastic veteran leaders on one of baseball's youngest teams, and they have played an instrumental role in leading the Rays to the best record in baseball to this point. Down in Orange County, I think the Angels have really been helped by the leadership that Torii Hunter provides.

While it's possible the Dodger veterans are providing this leadership, I don't recall having read too many articles or quotes praising them in this role. I have read quotes from Jeff Kent criticizing his younger teammates though. It's also worth noting that many of the Dodger veterans have been injured this season, and there have been large chunks of this season when the Dodgers have had a higher payroll on the DL than on the field. It is somewhat difficult for a player to lead when he's at the training table or on a rehab assignment

If the Dodgers can continue to get healthy, and if they can continue to learn from Joe Torre, then I do like their chances to improve in the second half. They are fortunate to be tied for first place considering all of their struggles this season. But it does seem like they're getting better at the right time.

July 1, 2008

Clippers sign Baron Davis

In what will be the biggest free agent signing in Los Angeles Clipper history, the team has reached a verbal agreement with Baron Davis on a 5-year $65 million contract. Later today, the LA Times reported that the Clippers are now expected to re-sign Elton Brand.

The two moves make the Clippers a very relevant team in the NBA. For the first time, they have legitimate superstar player who can move the needle here in Los Angeles. Davis is an LA native, and I absolutely love his game. Stealing him from the Golden State Warriors is a coup. He brings playmaking ability that the Clippers have never had, he's a terrific complement to Brand, and he allows the Clippers to bring Eric Gordon along slowly.

Still, while Davis is a great player, he has a history of injuries, and he doesn't necessarily guarantee the Clippers a playoff berth in a conference where Portalnd is much improved, Denver, Utah, Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio, New Orleans, and Dallas are pretty darned good too, and the Lakers are still LA's team. But this move is a major shot in the arm for a franchise that sorely needed one. The Clippers are now certainly in the mix with the other good Western Conference teams, and it's hard for them to ask for a whole lot more.

Over the years, people have criticized Donald Sterling for refusing to spend money on players in an effort to pocket profits. But that criticism hasn't been accurate recently. Sterling is now paying large contracts to Chris Kaman, Cuttino Mobley, Tim Thomas, and now Brand and Davis. He was also paying a large contract to Corey Maggette. Now all of those contracts aren't necessarily great, but it's awfully hard to say Sterling is cheap these days. Give him credit for spending money and trying to improve the product on the court.

Laker, Clipper free agent updates

--The Lakers have made it clear that they want to keep as much of their team together as possible. Last night, the team formally extended offers to both Sasha Vujacic and Ronny Turiaf, making them restricted free agents. If either player signs an offer sheet with another team, then it seems as if the Lakers are set on matching, so long as the contract is not outrageous.

As for the rest of the team, we still haven't heard any substantial trade rumors about Lamar Odom. It appears Mitch Kupchak believes that coming back with the same team plus a healthy Andrew Bynum should be enough to push the Lakers ahead one extra step. That's not a bad philosophy, but given Odom's frustrating play in the Finals and that he has just one year left on his contract, they will at least have to consider trade options. Two weeks ago, we mentioned Richard Jefferson as a possibility, but he's already been dealt to Milwaukee.

--As for the Clippers, both Elton Brand and Corey Maggette opted out of their contracts. Maggette's move was expected, and Brand was only a mild surprise. Brand has said publicly that he is still intent on staying on as a Clipper and working out a long-term contract. Still, both Memphis and Philadelphia have cap room and could potentially sign him. Also, it's well-known that Pat Riley has salivated over Brand for years, and he'd love to work out a sign-and-trade for Brand to come to the Heat. The Clippers would probably have to settle for Shawn Marion if they were stuck in that situation.

Maggette has also said that he'd like to stay, but hasn't seemed quite as bullish about it. While he's reportedly a favorite of owner Donald Sterling, he has butted heads with head coach Mike Dunleavy. It's more likely that Maggette leaves the Clippers, possibly through a sign-and-trade that could net LA a high quality player in return, or an expiring contract.

The big news today in Clipperland though is their sudden pursuit of Baron Davis, who surprisingly opted out of his deal with the Golden State Warriors last night. Davis is an LA native who went to Crossroads for high school and then played at UCLA. They can afford him under the cap if they renounce their free agent rights to Maggette. And if they can re-sign Brand, bring in Davis, and pair the duo with Eric Gordon, then the Clippers are a very interesting basketball team.

Meanwhile Davis said he preferred to remain a Warrior, while not ruling out the Clippers. In an e-mail sent to ESPN.com's J.A. Adande, Davis wrote: "Clipps r possible. G State is where I wanna b."

The Clippers are also pursuing Beno Udrih, although it's not completely certain how he fits into this mix now that Davis is on their radar. Another possibility is Gilbert Arenas, an LA native who went to Grant High School in Van Nuys. Getting him in Clipper red and blue would be an absolute coup. However, Arenas has spurned the Clippers in the past and right now the smart money is on him choosing to stay in Washington.

Still, either Arenas or Davis would give the Clippers enough star power to be relevant on the crowded LA sports scene, and either paired with Brand should be enough to get them into the playoffs in a competitive Western Conference.