The Los Angeles Clippers' deepest fear has materialized. Top NBA draft pick Danny Manning has torn a knee ligament and surgery to heal the injury could jeopardize his promising career.

Team physician Tony Daly confirmed late Tuesday that the 22-year-old forward has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Daly made the announcement after studying results of computer-enhanced X-rays.Reconstructive surgery could sideline Manning for the rest of the season and even longer.

Manning's agent, Ron Grinker of Cincinnati, flew to Los Angeles on Tuesday to be with his client, saying, "I'm here to be with Danny and comfort him. We want what's best for the future of Danny Manning and the Los Angeles Clippers."

Already, head coach Gene Shue was contemplating the possibility of playing without the star rookie.

"It's a hard injury to play complete again with and I feel bad for Danny about that. But it's also a blow to the team," Shue said. "We have to regroup. It's going to be very hard."

Grinker and team executives were scheduled to meet today to re-evaluate the situatuion and decide when Manning should undergo another test, a diagnostic arthroscopy. The diagnostic procedure had been scheduled today and was to have determined the extent of damage to Manning's knee.

"After studying the results of the test Danny took Tuesday morning, I am 95 percent certain that the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee is torn," Daly said. "The degree to which it is torn will have to be determined through diagnostic arthroscopic surgery."

Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor was shaken last Wednesday when the 6-foot-10 player was taken out of a game in the first quarter after saying he "heard a snap" when he landed stiff-legged from a layup in the loss against Milwaukee.

Rehabilitation of such an injury could stretch over a year.

On Tuesday, Baylor said the team was "investigating every possible alternative," but refused to elaborate. "We're gathering as much information as possible," he said.

"Danny Manning's health and playing career is our primary concern," Baylor added.

Grinker had said as early as Monday that the Clippers already have told Manning to undergo the reconstructive surgery.

Manning signed a guaranteed five-year, $10.5 million contract with the Clippers, who, unlike other teams, do not insure their first-round draft choices.

The presence of the 1988 Olympic star boosted season ticket sales to nearly double the previous season.

At least four other Clippers, including 1980 first-round draft pick Michael Brooks, have suffered similar injuries.

And although each of those players underwent surgery to repair the torn ligament, their skills diminished after the operations.