I just heard from a league source who said that contrary to the popularly reported theory: the Clippers did not have the option of offering a sixth year to Elton Brand. The Clippers had to renounce their rights to Brand in order to offer Baron Davis, thus eliminating the possibility of offering the sixth year.

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The latest

One of the best Clippers offseason’s ever just went very, very wrong.

Late Tuesday night, star power forward Elton Brand informed the Philadelphia 76ers that he would sign a five-year deal, worth an estimated $82 million dollars, despite the Clippers best, last-ditch efforts to keep him.

And just a few hours later, swingman Corey Maggette agreed to a deal with Golden State, though the exact amount of that deal wasn’t immediately known.

Two league sources told the Daily News that by the end of negotiations with Brand, the club had offered more than $80 million dollars over five years.

“I don’t understand how this could’ve happened,” one source said. “It clearly wasn’t the money, because (the Clippers) came very close to what Philly offered.”

A message left by the Daily News on Brand’s phone was not returned.

By moving the Philadelphia, Brand is closer to his hometown in upstate New York, back in the less-competitive Eastern Conference, and able to join one of the up-and-coming young teams in the league.

Still, his decision came as a shock to the Clippers, who believed Brand would re-sign with the club up until late Monday night and did everything they could to keep him on Tuesday evening.

Brand, 29, is coming off an Achilles tendon injury, which sidelined him for all but eight games of last season. But the Clippers believed he was healthy and were committed to bringing him back. The former No. 1 overall draft pick had spent nine seasons with the Clippers and had grown into the face of the franchise.

Just a week ago, the Clippers had been dreaming of their newly constructed team, with Baron Davis running the point and Brand as the team’s cornerstone in the middle.

When Brand opted out of the final year of his contract on June 30, he said that he intended to return to Los Angeles, but wanted to see if the Clippers could make a splash in the free agent market.

Less than 24 hours later, the Clippers pulled off what was the biggest free agent coup in their history by agreeing on a five-year, $65 million deal with Davis.

Brand though, decided to listen to offers from other teams before committing to return. Golden State offered $90 million over five years last week. Philadelphia was interested, but didn’t have as much salary cap space available.

Then on Tuesday, Philadelphia cleared more than $2 million in salary cap space by trading away Rodney Carney, Calvin Booth and a future No. 1 draft pick to Minnesota.

The Clippers tried to get close to matching that offer, but Brand decided on the 76ers.

As soon as Brand’s decision was known Tuesday night, the Clippers immediately dispatched a representative to reach out to Davis.

A message left by the Daily News on Davis’ cell phone, and his agent’s cell phone was not returned.

So what do the Clippers do next?

The good news is they have plenty of salary cap space available to pursue other free agents now that Brand and Maggette are off the books, and very little competition to drive up the bidding now that Philadelphia is committed to Brand.

Memphis is the only other team with comparable space, but it is not believed to be actively pursuing other free agents.

Reached on his cell phone Tuesday night, Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy did not want to comment on the Brand or Maggette situations, but said that he was encouraged by the financial commitment owner Donald Sterling had shown in the offers the team had made to Davis and Brand which totaled more than $140 million over the next 10 years.

A league source said that the Clippers would immediately make a push for Atlanta forward Josh Smith, but he is a restricted free agent and Atlanta can match any offer sheet he signs.

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Clippers offer to Brand

I just spoke with a source close to the Clippers who said that by the end of negotiations with Elton Brand today, the team had come “very close” to matching the $82 million over five years he ended up agreeing to with the 76ers.

The source said the Clippers went over $80 million in their final offer to Brand.

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The Clippers begin summer league play in Las Vegas Friday afternoon, and will scrimmage with the Lakers Wednesday afternoon. The teams three draft picks –Eric Gordon, DeAndre Jordan and Mike Taylor– are all on the roster along with last year’s No. 1 pick Al Thornton.

Only first round picks are guaranteed contracts, but both Jordan and Taylor stand a good chance of making the team if they play well.

“I’m excited,” said Jordan, who had been projected as lottery pick out of high school, but slipped to the second round of the draft after a tepid freshman season at Texas A&M. “I’m going to take this (slight) and use it as motivation to prove people wrong.

“I’m going to do whatever I need to do to make it, whatever they ask me to do. If they ask me to wipe up the floor, I’ll do that.”

Taylor, who was the first player ever drafted out of the D-League, said he felt optimistic of his chances of sticking with the team.

“Of all my workouts, and I did like 13 of them in 20 days, my best one was with the Clippers so I had a sense they might be the team that took me,” Taylor said. “I’m really excited to have this opportunity.”

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What will Elton do?

By Ramona Shelburne
Staff Writer

MANHATTAN BEACH– There were, at most, four players at the Clippers practice facility Tuesday who were operating with a real sense of confidence about their place on the team next season.

The rest of the guys were either rookies looking to earn a job with a good summer league season or veterans waiting on how the chips fall into place once Elton Brand decides where he’ll be playing basketball in the near future.

Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, those answers will start becoming a little more clear as the NBA releases the exact figure of next years salary cap, and the moratorium on free agent signings ends. At that point, Brand will have hard numbers from each of the teams –the Clippers, Warriors and 76ers– that have been throwing themselves at him since he opted out of his contract on June 30.

Those teams are as anxious as anyone for Brand’s decision.

“Until we get the Brand thing resolved, we don’t know where we stand,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said Tuesday after working out the team’s summer league roster.

Once the Clippers know if Brand is returning, they can decide what to do about the rest of their free agents. Brand, Corey Maggette, Paul Davis, Shaun Livingston, Quinton Ross, Dan Dickau and Smush Parker are unrestricted free agents. Nick Fazekas and Marcus Williams are restricted free agents.

Davis was working out at the Clippers practice facility Tuesday afternoon, and Dunleavy said the team would like to bring him back, but that “it will depend on a lot of factors.”

The biggest of those factors is Brand.

The choice for Brand breaks down this way. The Warriors have offered him the most money (5 years, and $90 million), the Clippers a chance to stay in Los Angeles and play with Baron Davis but about $20 million less than Golden State, while the 76ers offer him a chance to play in the weaker Eastern Conference and be closer to his hometown of Peekskill, New York.

Tuesday afternoon, the Associated Press reported that the 76ers had agreed to trade swingman Rodney Carney and forward Calvin Booth to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a move to clear an additional $2 million of salary cap space for potential free agents. The 76ers are also interested in Atlanta forward Josh Smith, who is a restricted free agent, but did not give him an offer sheet when he visited last week. After Tuesday’s trade, Philadelphia would have close to $14 million in salary cap space.

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Meet Gordon

Eric Gordon had his introdcutory press conference as a Clipper, one week after he was drafted.
“Hopefully, I’m somewhat of a missing piece for getting the chemistry back together with everyone,” Gordon said.

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