LOS ANGELES (AP) -Sam Cassell would love to have a rookie point guard to take under his wing. He just might get his wish.
Cassell realizes that is a best case scenario, a point guard with the ability to help the Los Angeles Clippers next season to be available when their turn comes Thursday in the first round of the NBA draft.
That would be at No. 14 and, of course, there's no way to know if that will happen.
That player presumably would serve as a backup to Cassell, who said this week he's healthier now than at any point of last season and expects to be in even better shape when training camp begins in October.
``Whoever they draft, I'll open up my arms to them,'' Cassell said. ``I don't get into the draft thing. How many guys come out of college ready to help you win, especially at a key position?
``Like I helped Shaun (Livingston), I'll help him as much as I can.''
Livingston, the fourth overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft, underwent reconstructive surgery on his left knee last March and isn't expected back until midway through next season at the earliest.
``His situation has us thinking about point guards,'' Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. ``We've got to protect ourselves at that position.''
The 21-year-old Livingston has been hampered by a variety of injuries in his three years with the Clippers, and hasn't been able to play a full season.
With Cassell slowed by several ailments, Jason Hart manned the point guard position for the most part late last season, when the Clippers fell just short in their quest for a playoff berth. Hart is an unrestricted free agent and might not be back.
``I think there's a guy we would like to get,'' Dunleavy said regarding the draft without identifying the player he has in mind. ``You just don't know. It's not out of the realm of possibility.''
M, Javaris Crittenton of Georgia Tech, Aaron Brooks of Oregon and Jared Jordan of Marist.
Law, Crittenton and Mike Conley Jr., of Ohio State are considered the three best at that position in this draft. It's possible all three will be gone when the Clippers make their first pick.
``We're just looking for a good player - a player who will fit into the system,'' Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor said. ``We're looking for someone who can come in and give us some playing time. You get into trouble looking for a particular need. We've looked at every position.
``Only time will tell. I think it's a good draft, a deep draft. There are several guys we like. You just can't focus on one guy.''
Baylor acknowledged last season was a disappointment for a team coming off a year in which it fell one win shy of playing in the Western Conference finals for the first time.
``They know they have to redeem themselves from last year,'' he said of the current Clippers nucleus that includes Cassell, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Corey Maggette and Cuttino Mobley.
Cassell, who turns 38 in November, said his goal is to play two more seasons.
``I'm feeling that good right now,'' he said.
``He's back in here doing all the work he needs to do to get himself ready,'' Dunleavy said. ``You can always judge Sam by the conversation. When he's loud and talking a lot, you know he feels good. He's been kind of yappy.''
Cassell admitted he called Brand at the end of the season and said because he didn't do what was necessary, he was so embarrassed he had to get out of town.
That's motivation for next year.
``My abdominal muscle caused most of my pain and anguish,'' Cassell said. ``It's healed up. My back feels fine. The foot's been healed up.
``At the end of the season, I was 203 (pounds). I'm 196 right now. At the beginning of training camp, I'll be at 192.''
When asked what he hoped to accomplish next season, Cassell replied: ``Do what I did when I'm healthy, be the spoon that stirs the coffee. I think my teammates need me.
``We're going back to the playoffs. That's not even a question. If I play 75 games, we're going back to the playoffs.''
The Clippers also have the 45th overall pick in the draft. Baylor said he didn't believe there was any possibility they'd be able to make a deal to move up from No. 14.

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