The prevailing question for the underachieving Clippers dramatically changed this week from, “What is wrong with these guys?” to “When will he be back?” The second question refers to Shaun Livingston and his horrific knee injury, in which he dislocated his left knee and kneecap and tore three of four ligaments. Understanding the Clippers also is not an exact science, but rather, an art. After coming within one victory of the Western Conference finals last season, the Clippers finally looked to be leaving all of the losing and negativity that had enveloped the franchise for pretty much its entire existence. Now, the Clippers are sliding back to the past, and this seemingly simple one-word question looms: Why? Anybody who has put serious time into following the Clippers has heard about the “Curse of the Clippers.” It’s also been called the “Curse of Elgin Baylor” and the “Curse of Bill Walton.” Usually, that theory is glib. Livingston’s injury was so graphic and heart-wrenching that it even seems inappropriate to bring up the ol’ curse theory. But what else can truly explain why the Clippers have bad things constantly happening to them? Clippers doctor Tony Daly says the 21-year-old Livingston could miss all of next season, but he also offered a six-month possibility as the best-case scenario for a return. “It’s not an exact science,” Daly said about placing a timetable for Livingston’s return. Bad luck seems to be part of the franchise’s history. Go back to 1979, when Walton joined the franchise in his prime at 25. He made the move with the team from San Diego to Los Angeles and didn’t come close to playing to expectations because of a series of foot injuries. When Walton joined the team, no one could have imagined his six-year tenure would be so unfortunate. The Clippers have had two No. 1 overall draft picks, and selected Danny Manning in 1988 and Michael Olowokandi in 1998. A common reaction is to criticize Baylor for choosing them, but at the time each was the consensus top pick among NBA brass. Those drafts also didn’t have any franchise-changing top overall picks, such as Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan and LeBron James. This season, when it was perfectly logical to think the Clippers could at least maintain the level they were at last season, they’ve digressed with Sam Cassell frequently injured and now the Livingston injury. Cassell is 37, and he’s had a variety of injuries. But the Clippers knew that was a possibility because of his age and couldn’t have let him walk after the impact he had last season. Livingston has been injury-prone throughout his three NBA seasons. He dislocated his right kneecap and tore cartilage in his right shoulder in his rookie season. His body certainly is not durable, but no one could have predicted he would suffer such a serious injury. The Clippers have been disappointing and perplexing, which is a shame considering that owner Donald T. Sterling has gone against the grain in recent years and opened up his wallet. Sterling has put serious money into his team: Chris Kaman ($52 million extension), Tim Thomas ($24 million contract), coach Mike Dunleavy ($22 million extension) and Cassell ($13 million contract) all have gotten deals. That’s $111 million put into a team that some fans still might consider to be the same old Clippers. It’s not that Sterling should be exonerated for his previous cheapness, or Baylor should be forgiven for his picks that didn’t work out. It’s just that blaming those two for this current group’s woes doesn’t make sense. But you can’t blame Sterling or Baylor for the current failures. Although Dunleavy has made several blunders during his tenure, you can’t even blame him, because who else was available out there that would do a better job? This time, the blame rests with the players. Kaman has made many glaring mistakes, so he is a favorite to blame. But all of the team’s top seven scorers are averaging fewer points this seasont, so any of them can take a fair share of the blame. Blaming the “Curse of the Clippers,” would be a cop-out, though bad luck – ridiculously bad luck – has always been a part of the franchise. Way back in 1978, the owner of the Boston Celtics, movie producer Irving H. Levin, had dreams of bringing an NBA franchise to California. In an unprecedented and often forgotten move, Levin traded the Celtics franchise to John Y. Brown for the Buffalo Braves. Levin then quickly moved the Braves to San Diego, and the Clippers were born. Trading franchises probably should only happen in fantasy games and video games. But somehow Levin ditched the storied Celtics and then moved the team he got to the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico. Is that enough to start a curse? Who knows? But if he could pull off that move, maybe anything is possible. Remembering D.J.: When Dennis Johnson died prematurely last week at 52 due to an apparent heart attack, it was a great loss for the basketball world and those who knew him personally. Most stories about D.J. this past week trumpeted his excellent NBA career. But I saw a different side of Johnson, his human side. I got to know him later in his life when he was an assistant coach with the Clippers, and I will always remember him as warm-hearted man who introduced himself to me on one of my first days on the Clipper beat. Yes, D.J. had a storied career and was one of the best defenders to play the game. But I’ll remember him simply for being an honest and caring man. [email protected] (562) 499-1338 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!