Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Kim Hughes

On another wild night in Clipperland, one of the most entertaining parts had to be our pre-game press conference with assistant coach Kim Hughes, who was filling in for Mike Dunleavy tonight.

Hughes is a smart guy with a dry sense of humor. With all the crazy developments taking place before Wednesday’s game –Jason Hart and Brian Skinner coming down with the flu, Chris Kaman taking up until game time to decide whether his painful left arch would allow him to play, Ricky Davis potentially shutting it down for two weeks with a sore left knee — that sardonic wit really took the edge off of things.

I’ll try and convey just how funny, wry and engaging Hughes was in this account.

Q: How many times have you been the head coach?

KH: “This is the second time. The other was February of last year in Madison Square Garden. We got lucky and won.

Q: So if you win tonight, and go 2 for 2, think Mike will let you do it more often?

A: This isn’t about me, this about us getting a win.

The last time; Mike was sick and (TV announcer) Ralph Lawler said to me on the bus, are you nervous and I said, `About what?’ and he said, `You’re coaching.’

I said, `Oh really?’ That was about 4:30 in the afternoon.

“I thought I’d be really nervous and I wasn’t. It’s not that much different than people think. And … the power is a rush.”

Q: Did you ride the refs?

KH: “No, I don’t do that. My father refereed college basketball for 25 years and he said he’d break my neck if he saw me doing it. I’ll talk to them. I think it’s more effective to talk to them under your breath and talk to them like a man. I think you can milk calls a lot better (that way) than embarrassing them. I’m upset with them, but if you’re yelling they’re not listening to you.

Q: Will you stand up as much as Mike?
KH: “I’m not even comparing it to Mike. In the second half I won’t have to stand as much because they’re in front of us. I’ll stand in the first half because the defense is away from us and try to transfer the calls to our guys. We’ve got a situation where a couple of our guys don’t know our plays, actually, more than a couple. So we have to make it as simple as possible.

Q: How much will Zach play?

KH: That will depend on the status of Chris Kaman. He may not be able to play.

Q: What’s wrong with him?

KH: Do you have like an hour to talk about it?

Oh, physically you’re saying. He’s got a strained arch and I don’t know what the chances of him playing are. He’s in the training room getting treatment right now, he didn’t participate in shoot-around, he didn’t practice yesterday.

He’s actually been struggling with it for five games. If you notice he can’t jump any more. He’s been fighting through it. He’s missed a lot of short layups because he can’t finish at the rim. He’s been fighting it, he sat out two days, and he’ll get a cortisone shot tonight, which he’ll do either at halftime if he’s not playing or after the game if he’s playing.

He had a bone bruise in his ankle. This is a diferent injury. It’s on the bottom of his foot and its really more pain than injury. But it’s limiting his jumping and he thinks it affects his movement.

Q: Does this game being against Denver (where Hughes spent five years as an assistant) have any extra meaning?

KH: No not at all. I loved my time in Denver. I had a really bad last year, where I wasn’t able to work. But I lived in Denver 28 years and it was a good time for me. I liked George Karl, I loved Nene. A lot of their players are gone from when I was there.

But when I left I always told Mike you need to go get Marcus Camby because he’s so good, he’s so smart.

This is not a vendetta (game).

Our whole focus is: We’ve got to get better, we’ve got to find our chemistry, we’ve got to guard dribble penetration and we’ve got to be tougher.

Q: What happened in Denver in that last year?

KH: I was told by management that the coachign staff didn’t want me there. But a lot of the players would come up to me and ask me questions. Jeff Bzdelik told me, `I really want you on staff but I’m not able to’ and I believe Jeff. I think Jeff was being very honest with me.

And I don’t begrudge them because in all honesty I wanted Larry Harris to be the GM before Kiki (Vandeweghe) got there, so why would Kiki want me around. And I like Kiki, but why would he want me around if I wanted Larry Harris to be the GM. You want your own people and I fully understand that.

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Kaman update

Clippers center Chris Kaman played just 12 minutes before leaving Wednesday’s game with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. The injury has bothered Kaman for about five games, but has gotten progressively worse.

Kaman said he’ll get a cortisone shot in his foot after the game.

“I’ve been playing a lot of minutes,” Kaman said. “Right now it’s pretty sore. Hopefully once I get this injection it should be good in two or three days. Basically I (was) trying to get through today because we have a couple of days off and then Thanksgiving.”

He’s listed as day-to-day.

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What happened to Ricky?

Ricky Davis has been a bit of a mystery this season, averaging career lows pretty much across the board and shooting a frigid 27 percent. Wednesday he provided a glimpse of what might be wrong.

Apparently the tendinitis in his left knee has been flaring up a lot this season, making it painful to jump, shoot and cut. He’s tried to play through it because the team needed him, and he knew he had an opportunity to play a lot in the early going. Unfortunately the pain, he said Wednesday, has gotten to be too much and he’s going to shut it down for a little while to try and get things back in order.

“It’s awful. We’re probably looking at about two weeks,” Davis said, when asked how much time he’d miss. “I haven’t really put a time on it yet. It was just a lot of pain going on.’

Why is he shutting it down now?

“I feel like I’m out there like 60 percent,” he said. “I’m kind of hurting the team more than anything. I decided to sit down and get it right. I thought I could play through it a little bit. I’d rather get it right.”

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Heavy news day

OK, bullet points because I’ve got an early deadline with the holiday:

–Kim Hughes will coach tonight. Mike Dunleavy did not make it back from Dallas, where he was attending his father in laws funeral. He will rejoin the team Friday.

–Brian Skinner and Jason Hart have the flu and are not even here tonight.

–Ricky Davis is contemplating shutting it down for two weeks to rest his painful left knee. He says that it’s been affecting his play to the point that he’s “hurting the team more than anything”

–Chris Kaman is deciding whether he can play tonight. His left arch has flared up and been causing him severe discomfort of late. He plans to get a cortisone shot soon.

–Zach Randolph would start if Kaman is unable to play tonight.

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Meet Mardy!

With all the drama surrounding the finalities of the Clippers big trade for Zach Randolph, the other guy included in the deal, guard Mardy Collins, has been largely ignored.

Collins was a bit of a throw-in to the deal, but the Clips are happy to have him. He’s a 6-6 guard with a great basketball pedigree though a lot of people just know him as the guy who started the fight with the Denver Nuggets back in December of 2006.

I called up a couple reporters who dealt with Collins back in New York who insisted that Mardy is actually a really good guy, and the brawl was very out of character for him. So far that description has been pretty accurate from what I’ve seen out of Mardy.

He struck me as a real polite, thoughtful guy. His inclusion in the deal takes him away from the East Coast for the first time in his life really. Collins went to Simon Gratz High in Philadelphia, the same high school as Aaron McKie and Rasheed Wallace attended. He also went to Temple, so the comparisons to McKie are pretty much cemented into his biography by now.

He’s generally regarded as a smart basketball player who plays some pretty good defense. He said today that he was excited about playing in the Clippers half-court oriented offense, which is more like the system he excelled in, in college.

“I think I’ve got most of the plays down,” Collins said after the Clippers practiced on Tuesday. “There’s a lot of combinations in them so it’s kind of confusing, but I should be alright.

“There are a lot of plays, but they all make sense and go together. It’s the kind of system I’ve worked in before, with half-court sets, so it definitely helps.

“Once I get out there and don’t have to think about what i’m doing, that’s when I think everything will feel a little better.”

With Ricky Davis doubtful for Wednesday’s game against the Nuggets with knee pain, don’t be surprised to see Collins see some minutes tommorrow.

“For Mardy it depends on matchups,” assistant coach Kim Hughes said Tuesday when asked how much Collins might play Wednesday. “I think he has the ability to guard Carmelo. … And I kind of like the fact that he got into it with Melo a year ago.”

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Ricky Davis doubtful for Wednesday’s game

I forgot to mention that shooting guard Ricky Davis is doubtful for tommorrow’s game with pain in his left knee. He did not practice Tuesday. A determination on his status will be made tommorrow.

If Davis is unavailable, rookie Eric Gordon would start the game. Though I have to say, I’m pretty sure that even if Davis is available, Gordon would be starting after the performance he had last night against New Orleans.

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Other rumors

A lot of rumors have been flying around about the Clippers and Charlotte talking about trades for Chris Kaman. Every time another one hits the internet, I call up four or five people who generally know what’s going on, and am told the same thing: Kaman isn’t being traded.

I’m not the only one making these calls of course. Agents and front office types are too, just seeing if there is anything to them. Any one of these calls could result in movement in the situation, which is sort of what happened last week when talks with the Knicks stalled over the Knicks’ request for Marcus Camby and draft picks, then re-opened later in the week after the Knicks came back and said they’d do the deal for Mobley and Thomas.

I can only go off of what people tell me, but every time I ask I’m told that nothing substantive is happening with Kaman right now.

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Addendum to Randolph trade

In addition to Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins, the Clippers received approximately $1 million dollars from the Knicks in the trade for Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas last Friday.

Also, because of the way Randolph’s contract is structured, nearly a third of his salary is deferred money. His salary cap number is the same of course, but the actual payouts are different.

In other words, financially this deal was quite a bit more shrewd for the Clippers side than we’d previously understood.

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In case you missed it

The Clippers and Knicks finalized their trade for Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins around 12:30 this afternoon.

Zach and Mardy were able to take part in the short practice Tuesday. Assistant coach Kim Hughes ran practice today because Mike Dunleavy was in Dallas for a family funeral.

Dunleavy said Monday that he expected to be back in time for Wednesday’s game, but it really depends on flight times. If he doesn’t make it back, Kim Hughes would coach the team against the Nuggets.

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