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L.A.'S NEWEST STAR? CLIPPERS ECSTATIC ABOUT RETURN HOME OF POINT GUARD MILLER.

Byline: Joe Stevens Staff Writer

Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor likes to make clarifications and set the record straight at news conferences. He did that again Wednesday, when he introduced Andre Miller to the Los Angeles media.

But unlike past news conferences, Baylor exuded a genuine feeling of happiness and repeatedly praised the 26-year-old from Watts, who will be the Clippers' new floor leader.

Baylor even went so far as to say the Clippers should be good enough to win in the playoffs. That would be a historic accomplishment because the franchise's last playoff series victory came in the 1975-76 season when the team was the Buffalo Braves.

``We feel that with a player of Andre's quality that not only will we get to the level we've talked about in the playoffs, but we feel that we can advance,'' Baylor said. ``That's our goal. We felt if we stayed the same, we'd probably get to the playoffs. But now we feel we're going to go further in the playoffs.''

When Miller talked, he literally made Baylor smile with a few of his lines. The former Cleveland Cavalier wasn't telling jokes but trying to explain how he sees basketball and his role.

``I'm not looking forward to coming here and being some kind of a scorer,'' Miller said. ``I'm just looking into coming here and making guys better.''

Miller led the NBA with 10.9 assists and averaged 16.5 points last season. He attended Verbum Dei High in Los Angeles and had his mother and stepfather, who live in Compton, at the news conference.

He repeatedly said he was happy to be home but didn't discount the fact that playing in his hometown will bring him distractions.

``Well, it's going to be tough,'' Miller said. ``Every time I played here when I was in Cleveland, I had to buy like 200 tickets.

``Whatever I have to do to help out people or be there for family or friends, I'll do as much as I can. But I'm not going to go out of my way.''

The main reason Cleveland traded Miller was that he was eligible for a maximum $84 million contract extension, which the Cavs weren't willing to pay. When the Clippers got Miller, it was with the understanding that the guard wouldn't get a contract extension until next summer.

``We know you have to have a courtship before you get married,'' said Lon Babby, Miller's agent. ``Of course, he comes here with expectations of staying here long term and we will have discussions about that next year.''

The price for obtaining Miller was Darius Miles, a 20-year-old forward whom the Cavs hope is a superstar in the making. Baylor had numerous responses to why he traded Miles.

``Darius is a player who is potentially a very talented player, but `potentially,' '' Baylor said. ``This (Miller) is a proven player. Darius was a reserve. We gave up a reserve that was not a starting player for a player of this stature. Again, it's up to the coaching staff. But Darius didn't start last year. He wouldn't start this year. He would have been a nonstarter. So I just think this is a tremendous deal for us.''

Baylor also said he had been trying to get Miller since the beginning of last season and seriously considered giving up more than one player to get him. He was ecstatic to get Miller straight up. Harold Jamison also went to Cleveland, and Bryant Stith is coming to L.A. But those players only were included to make the deal work economically by league rules.

``We took their best player,'' Baylor said. ``I don't think they got our best player.''

MILLER TIME

Here's a look at Andre Miller's stats in his three NBA seasons:

Games Pts. Reb. Assists

2001-02 81 16.5 4.710.9

2000-01 82 5.8 4.4 8.0

1999-00 82 11.2 3.4 5.8

CAPTION(S):

photo, box

Photo:

Newest Clipper Andre Miller, left, poses with his jersey and Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor on Wednesday at a news conference in Los Angeles. Miller was recently acquired from Cleveland.

Nick Ut/Associated Press

Box:

MILLER TIME (see text)
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Aug 1, 2002
Words:701
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