The Clippers could have enough cap room in 2019 for two maximum-salary free agents, and one rival executive believes that the franchise – often viewed as an afterthought in Los Angeles in the shadow of the Lakers – could be the “most attractive free agent situation of all of them” next summer, according to Howard Beck of Bleacher Report.
“None of the available free agents want to be LeBron [James]‘s caddy,” the executive told Beck, explaining why a star player may choose the Clippers over the Lakers and other teams. “And they can become the greatest player in the history of a franchise in an unbelievable market with the wealthiest owner in the league. Why would that not thrill you?”
The “wealthiest owner in the league,” Steve Ballmer, spoke extensively to Beck for an in-depth feature that explores the Clippers’ plans for the 2019 offseason and beyond, while also looking back on a few major decisions that have shaped the organization’s direction during Ballmer’s tenure.
Beck’s piece is excellent and is worth reading in full, but here are a few of the highlights:
- One top agent tells Beck that he’s eager to steer clients toward the Clippers, pointing out that Ballmer won’t mind going into luxury-tax territory and “wants to win.” The Clips have “definitely changed” their image in recent years, according to that agent.
- In a speech to Beck, Ballmer previewed what a pitch to an elite free agent might look like: “You wanna have a legacy? You wanna really say you were involved in doing something super special? You come here. You be in L.A., the greatest market in the world, and you show people: ‘I’m the guy! I went to a franchise who’d never been there! I’m the guy! I made it happen! I get a legacy!'”
- Ballmer regrets waiting as long as he did to restructure the front office, since he now believes the president of basketball operations job is “all-consuming” and requires someone who can focus on it full-time — head coach Doc Rivers held that position until Lawrence Frank was promoted to fill it last year, allowing Rivers to focus on coaching. “There were too many [basketball operations matters] where I really wanted to talk to Lawrence, not Doc,” Ballmer said. “Doc was, as I would have said at Microsoft, an unnecessary middle layer.”
- Having everyone in the proper management roles should help the team maximize its assets and avoid making short-sighted moves, as Ballmer explains: “We want a team where we get maximum value out of the guys that we have, that we’re not dummies. I think if you look over the last five, six years, there’s some moves with hindsight I say, ‘God, now that I’ve been around longer, I wouldn’t make a move to give up a first-round pick to get Jeff Green.’ Because we weren’t as close to being a championship contender as we thought we were. So we gave up a pick we shouldn’t have.”
- Ballmer also admitted that the Lob-City-era Clippers often came off as “whiny” by complaining too often about calls on the court. “I think that was known for the Clippers,” he said. “I don’t want to be that way. That’s not who we want to be.” Ballmer added that, in order to help sell the team to top free agents, he wants to make it clear to the rest of the NBA what the present-day Clippers stand for: “I want us to be playing defense. I want us to be resilient.”