Dear Donald: This is where they need y-y-y-you

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Donald T. Sterling
Sterling World Plaza
Beverly Hills, Calif. 90210

Dear Donald,

Well, you said to write again when I found work!

As you may have heard, I’m no longer with the large, if not as large as it was once, metropolitan paper in Los Angeles.

Of course, times are even tougher in newspapers than David Stern said they are in the NBA, although in our case, we have the casualties to show it’s not just woofing.

But enough about moi, look at you!

After all those years as NBA laughingstock/fodder for late-night comics, you’ve got an exciting young team, or the exciting young team, in the process of eclipsing the Lakers, etc., blah, blah, see the stuff people were saying at the start of the season, with me chief among them.

(Before we get on with how you can screw this up again, er, what you can do to prevent the traditional exodus, remember the good old days when Conan O’Brien signaled his continuity with predecessor Jay Leno, zinging your guys 30 seconds into his first monologue: “This studio holds 380 people. It’s exactly like going to a Clippers game.”)

Now you’re Lob City, with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and, uh… all those other guys!

Unfortunately, your guys have run into problems after starting 19-9 and eclipsing the Lakes, who were 2 1/2 games back at that point, with their own fans lamenting how b-o-r-i-n-g they were in comparison.

The Lakes are still boring but they’ve honed in on their twin-seven-foot All-Star tandem (33.5 points a game before the All-Star break, 38.3 since) and re-eclipsed you.

Still, a lot has gone right for you and yours, even if it had a lot to do with coach/GM Mike Dunleavy, whom you fired and then stiffed, refusing to pay the rest of his guaranteed money until an arbitrator awarded him 100% of his $13.5 million claim.

Who knows, maybe the guy wasn’t impressed by your claim that Mike quit, despite all announcement and reports to the contrary at the time?

Hey, that’s what makes you you!

Mike started rebuilding three years ago. His protegé, your GM, Neil Olshey, picked it up and ran with it before this season, getting Caron Butler to come for less than others offered, and Chauncey Billups, who told everyone not to claim him off waivers, enabling him to bag the (miniature) elephant, CP3!

Unfortunately, Chauncey was hurt, his replacement Randy Foye is shooting 39% and Butler has gone missing.

Actually, Caron’s stuck in the corner away from the CP3/Blake pick-and-roll, waiting for the ball to swing to him late.

In the good news, Caron is two 3-pointers from his career high of 66—in 43 games.

In the bad news, he’s at nine-year lows of 12.4 points and 39.2% shooting.

Now teams load up on Blake, until the fourth quarter, when they know Chris will try to take over, load up on him and take their chances fouling Blake (54% at the line, down from last season’s 64%) as needed.

Voila, your guys are 7-10 since their high point!

Not that it comes at a bad time, but your people are counting on being able to extend Blake this summer, which would go a long way toward convincing Chris to stay when he’s up the summer after.

In any case, you’ll still need a good 2012-13 season to keep Chris.

So this is where everything gets back to y-y-y-you.

Whether it’s Vinny Del Negro’s fault or not, he’s only Vinny Del Negro. If this season ends, not with a bang but a whimper, as in a first-round departure, you guys become the Hornets of 2012, with the pressure on and the big teams calling up to say you’d better get what you can for Chris before he walks in 2013.

A big-name coach who gives you the best possible chance of success next season would be the way to go.

There are two out there, recently discharged Mike D’Antoni and Nate McMillan, great options depending on whether you want to go offense (Mike) or defense (Nate).

Mike’s the one whose offenses are unguardable with a great point guard, like Steve Nash… or Chris.

Unfortunately, both come with price tags of, say, $5 million per, depending on who else wants them.

You’ve been great to this point, ponying up for Chris and Caron, but those were no-brainers.

If your payroll is up to an unheard-of-for-you $69 million, that’s still under the tax threshold. With all your seats sold this season, and the potential value of your TV rights as the Lakers get set to go to a staggering $150 million annually with Fox (your guys) desperate to keep you away from Time Warner (their new guys), you’re looking at mega-profits for years, instead of the mere $75 mill or so you made in your first 10 seasons in Staples.

That, of course, assumes you 1) keep Blake and 2) keep Chris, which may require 3) ponying up even more for a coach.

Unfortunately, your track record in luring big-time, high-salaried coaches is all but non-existent.

You did hire one, Larry Brown, but he lasted one season-plus.

So, go cheap and risk watching all this go away, which is where all your other promising young teams went as soon as it was contractually possible.

I know you don’t often follow my advice, or ever. I’m not even sure you understand it, since that’s what you tell me, so I’m not sure you’ll want to trust me on this.

Nevertheless, trust me on this:

If this season turns out to be only a semi-bonanza, it’s a landmark in Clipper history… but next season will have to be a full-fledged bonanza, requiring a full-fledged big-time coach, or you’ll be back to Clipper History, pre-CP3.

If you need any help with the long paragraphs, or the short ones, or the nouns, verbs or even the articles like “the,” you know I’m here for you, if I have to reach back cross the entire virtual universe.

Best,
Mark
 
Mark Heisler is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops, LakersNation and the Old Gray Lady. His power rankings appear Wednesday and his columns appear Thursday. Follow him on Twitter.
 
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  1. L.A. Times Sports page isn’t the same without you. If you write it, I’ll find it.

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