Donald T. Sterling
Sterling World Plaza
Beverly Hills, Calif. 90210
I know, you didn’t really go anywhere, even if your Clippers stopped being the Clippers we’ve known for all these years.
I mean, welcome back as the Clipper owner that those of us who write NBA columns or lines for Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien knew and loved.
Wasn’t this season fun, while it lasted?
As hyped as your guys were after getting Chris Paul, and as forgotten as they were when the Lakers revived, you actually made a run at displacing the local rulers of all they surveyed, finishing one game behind, and lasting one less day in the playoffs.
All but eclipsed, your gritty Cliplets made the second round—for the third time in franchise history—falling to the Spurs the day before the Thunder polished off the Lakes.
(The second time was 2006 under Mike Dunleavy. The first was in 1976, before you knew there was an NBA, when the Buffalo Braves won a first-round mini-series, 2-1.)
Unfortunately, every attempt to start a new tradition brings the moment when you have to make important decisions.
Not that you’re not aces. but with the departure of GM Neil Olshey, who put this team together for you and was left, unaccountably, to field offers as a free agent, you’re zero-for-your-31-year-NBA-career.
As you may have heard, Olshey just bolted for Portland, two days after your guys announced he had been re-signed.
Whether talks with your people hit a snag (as everyone’s talks so often did), or Paul Allen bowled him over with a bag of money, there’s one big question:
Why didn’t you extend Olshey months ago?
This was a guy you were paying $450,000, who would have taken three years at $750K per and felt like the king of the world.
He’d have taken less than that a year ago, when he asked for an extension after replacing Dunleavy, his mentor, without getting a raise, hoping to buy a house.
The answer he got was, show us what you can do and we’ll talk next spring.
Unfortunately, Neil showed more people than yours, getting Caron Butler to come for less than New Jersey offered, ignoring Chauncey Billups’ agent’s threat to let him clear waivers and beating the Lakers to Paul.
So, this spring’s dialogue turned out to be shorter than you were figuring on, huh?
Half the teams in this league have assistant coaches making $750K, but you’re not “most teams,” are you?
After 22 years as your GM, Elgin Baylor, a living NBA legend, was making $350,000.
Not that you’re not having a great off-season, but Olshey’s departure followed the decision to pick up Coach Vinny Del Negro’s option for next season—without extending him, either.
In the good news for Vinny, he still has a job.
In the bad news, you just made him a lame duck who’ll start next fall amid the same speculation he managed to surmount this spring.
Of course, this isn’t a good time for one of your front-office convulsions.
The source who told me two weeks ago that Blake Griffin was a 90% shot to sign an extension this summer says Olshey’s departure won’t change that.
(This assumes you offer Blake a max five-year $90 million deal, but I have faith in you. Some things, even you can do.)
Not that I’d be surprised to see Blake take fewer years, like, say, four, with an out after three.
Then there’s CP3, who’s up in 2013 and no lock to stay.
Enchanted to be here, Paul kept insisting the horrific Clipper tradition everyone kept asking about meant nothing to him.
Chris just found out it’s not a fairy tale they tell kids.
Considering what Olshey did, what he meant and the dollars it would take to keep him, this is way up there on your list of blunders, which is saying something.
Of course, losing CP3 and seeing this team scatter would be the maraschino cherry atop the sundae of your career.
An arch-conservative estimate would put your profit at $100 million since moving into Staples Center in 1999 (your idea, and a brilliant one)… which would be chump change compared to what you’ll make if you keep Chris and Blake.
There’s a local cable bidding war, kicked off when Time Warner gave the Lakers that $3 billion, 20-year deal.
The Angels got a mega-deal the same size from Fox, which had lost the Lakers.
The Kings, signed with Fox through 2015, just got an extension through 2024 at almost twice the money, going from $12 million to $21 million annually.
That leaves two local teams with cable deals running out in the next few years, yours and the Dodgers.
Unfortunately, in your case, leadership, which hasn’t been your organization’s strength, is an even bigger problem.
At least, you had professional advice, even if you didn’t always take it or show your appreciation.
Remember Elgin’s final years when you took away his courtside seats, moving him back four rows, behind an aisle?
At least you talked to him. When Dunleavy was in charge, you went months without taking his calls.
No wonder Olshey thanked you in his Portland press conference. He only got short-changed, as opposed to the things he saw happen to his predecessors.
Dunleavy built on what Baylor had done. Olshey, brought in by Dunleavy, built on what Mike had done.
Now with what could be a juggernaut, they’re all gone.
Not that you don’t have a wealth of front office talent ready to move up, but last season you cut the the basketball operation to two full-time employes, ahead of the lockout: Olshey and personnel director Gary Sacks.
Of course, you still have a great young team on the lot, for the moment… so let’s look at this as an opportunity!
Wouldn’t this be a great time to start a new tradition, going out and getting an experienced NBA hand and letting him run the show?
Hey, why not Dunleavy?
I know, it sounds crazy but he helped get you here and, even if you fired him in 2010, he’s still under contract through July 1, since you have already paid him (after an arbitrator ruled in his favor, $15 million worth).
So, Mike would have to work for free!
If that doesn’t sound good, I’ll leave you to it.
In the bad news, sooner or later it will always depend on you, so you’d better figure out what to do on those days when Chris or Blake don’t just drop in your lap.
Just know I’m here for you, as I have been, lo, these many grisly (well, for you) decades.