The Los Angeles Clippers know who they want with the No. 1 pick in Wednesday's draft.

The trouble is, they're afraid he won't be there when it's their time to pick.This is the latest Clippers joke-de-jour making the NBA rounds. A team unrivaled for incompetent decisions - except for the Mavericks the last decade or so - can't bungle this one.

Mike Bibby is who the Clippers set their sights on from the start. In recent days, some general managers have become convinced the club is now beginning to lean toward Pacific center Mike Olowokandi.

These will be the first two players taken in the draft. How that order unfolds is what holds the intrigue.

Vancouver has generated so much interest with the No. 2 pick - and the idea that it will yield Olowokandi - that the Clippers have become jealous. Why not float the rumor that it could take either player and see what offers come their way? If L.A. could move down two or three spots and come away with a starter and Paul Pierce or Antawn Jamison, wouldn't that make sense?

It would. But the Clippers aren't about common sense. They're about tragic comedy. That leaves the Grizzlies in control.

If the Clippers trade the first pick to another team, it will be for Olowokandi.

Bibby would slide to the Grizzlies, which would make them perfectly happy.

The more likely scenario is that either Denver or Toronto moves to No. 2 to select Olowokandi. This would leave the Grizz-lies with a starter from one of those teams and the third or fourth best player in the draft.

Vancouver wants Bryant Stith and the third pick from the Nuggets to switch spots. The asking price is Doug Christie and the fourth pick to switch spots with the Raptors. When push comes to shove, dealing with the Nuggets is more likely, given the animosity between the two Canadian franchises.

Whatever happens, the Grizzlies are playing this to the hilt. The club has brought in Raef LaFrentz and Robert Traylor for second workouts, giving every team the impression they are willing to move down for the right price.

"This helps us evaluate our options in terms of keeping or dealing the pick," Vancouver general manager Stu Jackson said.

Spoken like a man who's in control of the top half of the draft.

FOREIGN INTRIGUE: Germany's Dirk Nowitzki and Slovenia's Radoslav Nesterovic are two of the more interesting figures in this draft.

Some general managers believe Nowitzki will be the best player in this draft. But his coach/agent has told clubs the small forward's desire is to play in Europe for two years, compete for the German team in the 2000 Olympics, then jump to the NBA at the tender age of 22.

Nowitzki is worth the wait for a good team. But can a bad team afford to take him high in the first round and sell their fans on the fact it makes sense to wait?

That's why Nowitzki is an X-factor in Wednesday's draft. So is Nesterovic.

The seven-foot center e-mailed NBA clubs last month saying that while he was under contract for next season, he could buy his way out of his contract with Italy's Kinder Bologna if he was selected. Initially, the buyout was $1 million. One general manager said it has dropped to $250,000 in the last few days.

This isn't that much. But some clubs believe Nesterovic isn't ready. They have also been told that if he comes to the NBA next season, it will cost zero to buy him out of his contract.

At least one general manager has compared Nesterovic to former Denver center Blair Rasmussen. If that's the case, look for the team that selects him to be willing to wait.

DRAFT FODDER: Mississippi's Ansu Sesay has refused to work out for teams below No. 20, saying he won't be around that long. Guess again. . . . Georgia Tech's Matt Harpring has been unable to work out in recent weeks because of a sprained ankle and has seen his stock drop. He has begun to work out for teams - Orlando and Houston among them - in recent days. . . . St. Louis guard Larry Hughes hurt his ankle while working out for Sacramento and was hobbled the next day in his audition with Golden State. . . . North Carolina's Vince Carter wowed Denver with a 36-inch vertical leap and by draining 18 of 25 three-pointers in one minute. . . . North Carolina's Antawn Jamison refused to work out for either of the Canadian clubs. Toronto tried to set up an interview with Jamison in North Carolina, but it fell apart. . . . All Golden State wants out of its first-round pick is someone who can start and won't choke Coach P.J. Carlesimo.

THE FINAL WORD: From Scott Layden, Utah's vice president of basketball operations: "You can identify the top seven players in the draft. After that, it's as wide open as I've ever seen it."