Clippers owner Steve Ballmer wants to see his team in the playoffs, even though it would mean surrendering this year’s first-round pick, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. Sources tell Amick that Ballmer has made his wishes clear to the organization, although it was widely assumed that the Clippers were resigned to a second straight non-playoff season when they traded Tobias Harris to the Sixers earlier this month.
L.A.’s draft choice, which is owed to the Celtics, is lottery protected, which means the Clippers keep it if they don’t make the postseason, but lose it if they do. The pick has the same protection for next year, then becomes a 2022 second-rounder if the Clippers miss the playoffs in both seasons.
While it might be nice to hold onto the pick for an infusion of young talent or an asset to chase Anthony Davis, the Clippers believe a playoff appearance is more important and could be a valuable selling point when they chase free agents this summer.
“I think the race, alone, would be a learning tool. If we can make it and they get in, you can’t have a better teacher than the playoffs,” coach Doc Rivers told Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. “You can talk about the playoffs all you want, but it’s a different beast.”
There’s more Clippers news to pass along:
- The Clippers have the 22nd-toughest schedule over the rest of the season, placing them between their closest competitors — the Lakers at ninth and the Kings at 25th — Amick adds in the same story. In addition to their other reasons for wanting to reach the postseason, the Clippers are very immersed in trying to best their cross-town rivals, especially when they might be competing with the Lakers for the same free agents.
- JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple didn’t have to wait long after the trade deadline for their return to Memphis, Woike writes in a separate story. They faced the Grizzlies Friday, helping their new team pick up a key win in the playoff race. “It’s just a competitive thing,” Rivers explained. “Sometimes it’s free agency, sometimes it’s trades, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. You still want to beat your old team.”
- Discussions with Inglewood officials about building a new arena began 10 months earlier than anyone previously admitted, according to Nathan Fenno of The Los Angeles Times, who reviewed more than 1,100 pages of emails and other documents that were made public. Ballmer wants his own facility for greater control of scheduling dates, but the project is locked up in a legal battle.