Imagine Kobe, Howard as Clipper Teammates

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Imagine the jersey colors in this photo reversed.

    Playing “What If” with the history of the Clippers can be more involving than Sims 3 — there are so many things that if they just had gone differently could have changed the team’s fortunes dramatically.

    Take the summer of 2004.

    The Clippers had finished the season with the fourth worst record in the NBA, just 28 wins. That earned them a lot of ping-pong balls in the annual draft lottery — and the big prize that year was Dwight Howard. Coming straight out of high school, Howard was expected to evolve into the dominant player he is now.

    The Clippers were not so lucky. They ended up staying in the fourth spot. Howard went to Orlando. The Clippers ended up drafting Shaun Livingston, the talented but often injured point guard who is now trying to earn an NBA roster spot.

    The Clippers made one other big move that summer. Kobe Bryant, fresh off the disappointment of losing to Detroit in the finals and having had to deal with a petulant Shaquille O’Neal all season, decided to test the free agent market.

    The Clippers were the other primary bidder, besides the Lakers. Bryant said after the fact that he really didn’t make a firm decision until the night before he announced he would resign with the Lakers, and that he was very close to having become a Clipper. (If the Lakers hadn’t traded Shaq, he likely would have moved on.)

    But none of that came to pass. And dwelling in the land of what might have been for the Clippers can be a soul-crushing experience for a fan.