Steve Ballmer

Blake Griffin Denies Snubbing Clippers’ Owner

Blake Griffin insists he wasn’t deliberately avoiding Clippers‘ owner Steve Ballmer when he sprinted to the locker room prior to this afternoon’s game in Los Angeles, relays Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. In a video that quickly went viral, Ballmer approaches his former player for a pre-game handshake, but Griffin turns and runs away.

“For nine years now, as soon as I’m done with my pregame shooting, I make sure there’s a path and I take off running to the locker room,” Griffin told reporters after the game. “I don’t stop running. A lot of you have seen me do that before. I don’t change that for anybody. To tweet out something like that, I thought was kind of bull—-. That’s what it was. Plain and simple. It wasn’t anything planned. Every single game I’ve done this for how long.”

Although he claims the Ballmer incident was a misunderstanding, Griffin was clearly motivated to send a message to his former team. He had a game-high 44 points, along with eight rebounds, five assists and three steals, in leading the Pistons to an important road victory. He also picked up some revenge against the team that traded him 12 months ago, not long after signing him to a five-year max deal.

Griffin has admitted he hasn’t been in contact with any members of the Clippers’ front office since the trade, and when asked after the game about L.A. coach Doc Rivers, Griffin responded, “He’s not my coach anymore.” Another reporter asked if he would be willing to shake hands with Ballmer if given another chance and Griffin said, “I’m honestly not here to answer hypothetical questions.”

Griffin had a friendlier reaction to some of his former teammates, according to ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz, who writes that he embraced Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell following the game, although he traded words with Patrick Beverley in the final seconds.

Detroit coach Dwane Casey said Griffin’s teammates understood how important the game was to him, adding that the Pistons are thrilled with how the trade worked out.

“We’re glad we got him,” Casey said. “He’s the foundation of our program going forward. He showed tonight how he’s playing at an all-pro — not all-star — all-pro level.”

Legal Fight Continues Over Clippers’ New Arena

The Clippers’ plans to build their own arena could be tied up in court for the foreseeable future, reports Nathan Fenno of The Los Angeles Times.

Owner Steve Ballmer wants to create a new home for the franchise, which currently shares Staples Center with the Lakers and the NHL’s Kings with a lease that runs through 2024. Ballmer has targeted a four-block area in Inglewood as the location for a privately funded arena, team offices, a practice facility, a sports medicine clinic and other ventures.

The project, which undergoing an 18-month environmental impact study, is the subject of a legal battle between Ballmer and Madison Square Garden Co., which owns the nearby Forum. Neither side is commenting publicly on the legal proceedings, but the battle intensified this week when Murphy’s Bowl LLC, which is controlled by the Clippers, countersued MSG.

“The proposed Los Angeles Clippers Arena … is the latest in this series of projects that will reshape Inglewood and benefit its residents for decades,” the countersuit read. “MSG Forum LLC … fearing the competition it would face from a new arena in Inglewood, seeks to stop the Clippers Arena in its tracks.”

The project has attracted opposition since Ballmer reached an exclusive negotiating agreement with the city nearly a year and a half ago. Uplift Inglewood contends the community violated California’s Surplus Land Act by offering to use the area for an arena rather than affordable housing. A group called IRATE has filed a pair of lawsuits claiming the project would violate the state’s Environmental Quality Act.

A quick resolution isn’t expected, but about half of the Clippers’ 36-month negotiating agreement still remains. Ballmer appears resolute in his desire to build a new home for the franchise, and a spokesman for AEG, which owns Staples Center, confirmed that the team hasn’t engaged in any discussions about extending its lease.

Clippers Rumors: 2019 Free Agency, Rivers, Frank

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.”

Steve Ballmer Talks Team Strategy, Moving The Clippers

The past year for the Clippers has been about reconstruction, with the team having traded both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin since the end of the 2016/17 season, and letting DeAndre Jordan walk in free agency. The team’s brass finally has salary-cap flexibility and the franchise is eager to take that flexibility into the summer of 2019, when many stars – such as Kawhi Leonard – are expected to be available.

“You’ve got to take the payroll down to take it up. We’re going to recruit our asses off, whatever it takes to give you the best team that we can give you year in and year out,” owner Steve Ballmer said (via Helene Elliot of The Los Angeles Times).

While this season is expected to be a down year for the club, don’t expect Ballmer and company to tank.

“That ain’t us. Nuh-uh, no way,” Ballmer told Clippers’ season ticket holders and fans. “People can do it their way. We’re going to be good our way. We’re not going to show up and suck for a year, two years. I think we got higher expectations on us than the long, hard five, six years of absolute crap like the 76ers put in. How could we look you guys in the eye if we did that to you?”

Ballmer also spoke about his plans to take the Clippers out of the Staples Center.

“We’re moving to Inglewood come hell or high water,” he said of a proposed arena near the site of the stadium being constructed for the NFL’s Rams and Chargers. “We gotta have a house. So we’re working on a plan to get our own house. We want to get our own house. It turns out the way this works in L.A., which is much beloved to me, that if you start now you might be done in six years.”

Ballmer’s wife, Connie, has remained in the Pacific Northwest, an area where Ballmer served as the CEO of Microsoft for 14 years. That has resulted in speculation that the Clippers could potentially be relocated to Seattle. However, the former CEO shot down those rumors.

“I love L.A. I also love my wife, by the way, but I love L.A. and I don’t want there to be any mistake about it. We want to be part of the fabric of this community,” Ballmer exclaimed.

Doc Rivers, Clippers Agree To Extension?

All indications are that Clippers coach Doc Rivers has reached an agreement with owner Steve Ballmer on a multi-year extension, reports Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times. Nothing has been made official, but Plaschke speculates the news means Rivers is willing to be part of a rebuilding effort in L.A.

There had been rumors that Rivers, who has one year remaining on his current contract, may not want to stay with the organization after it traded Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the past year and faces the possible loss of DeAndre Jordan in free agency.

Rivers and the Clippers declined to comment on the report, but Plaschke notes that both sides have been complimentary in their recent statements.

“I love where the organization is at right now,” Rivers said in an interview this week, while Ballmer stated that Rivers did an “amazing” job this season with an injury-depleted roster.

Plaschke notes that Rivers is a valuable asset for the franchise as it tries to accelerate its rebuilding process by attracting a top-level free agent like Paul George or LeBron James, who are both rumored to have a desire to play in Los Angeles. The Clippers, who will likely have two lottery picks, have also been mentioned as a possible destination if the Spurs decide to trade Kawhi Leonard.

“This season gave me life, it really did,” Rivers said. “This year’s group was great to coach, an extraordinary group, and it tells you that you can bring in the right guys and build the right culture and we can get this done.”

L.A. Notes: LeBron, Billboards, Ballmer, Clippers

Former Laker Jordan Clarkson admits the possibility of LeBron James joining the team this summer was a frequent topic of locker room conversation, relays Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. Los Angeles has been a rumored spot for the Cavaliers’ star in free agency. James has never said he’s considering the Lakers, but his business interests in the city and his home in the Brentwood neighborhood have sparked speculation.

“I wouldn’t say like management and the coaches or nobody, but in the locker room people talk when they see what’s going on,” Clarkson said. “That’s probably the only thing people talk in the locker room.”

James can expect plenty of questions on the topic this weekend as the Cavaliers travel to L.A. to face the Clippers and Lakers.

There’s more NBA news out of L.A.:

  • Los Angeles is the latest city to use billboards in an attempt to attract James, notes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. After a Philadelphia-based company put up billboards near Quicken Loans Arena last week urging James to join the Sixers, an L.A. attorney has responded with four billboards in the Los Angeles area making an appeal for the Lakers. They include messages such as “Cleveland & Philly, you can’t compete with L.A.” and “#NextRetiredJersey.” The Lakers, who have received two heavy fines for tampering in the past year, are making it clear that they have nothing to do with the billboards.
  • Clippers owner Steve Ballmer talks about the major changes the franchise has gone through over the past nine months in an interview with Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times. The upheaval began with the Chris Paul trade last June, followed by the decision to take front office duties away from coach Doc Rivers, the hiring of Jerry West as a consultant and the decision to deal Blake Griffin to the Pistons. “I said, ‘Look, things aren’t going to progress this way … we need to make other changes if we really are going to put ourselves in a position to win a championship,” Ballmer said of the Griffin trade. “It was not an easy decision, but we’re in it to win championships, and it turns out, you have to take more risks.”
  • More changes could be coming if the Clippers miss they playoffs, and they have an extremely challenging road ahead, notes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Ten of their 13 games this month are against playoff contenders, and seven of those are on the road. “March is a monster for us,” Rivers said.

Pacific Notes: Chandler, Kings, Ballmer, Pachulia

Suns center Tyson Chandler is unsure when he’ll be able to play again because of a neck injury, Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic reports. Chandler has missed five of the last six games due to swelling in a neck joint. That swelling has caused his neck to spasm and even lock up, Chandler told Bordow. “Coming back from the All-Star break I was looking forward to playing really well down the stretch,” Chandler said. “So it’s disappointing coming back having to deal with this.” The Suns miss Chandler’s leadership when he’s out, Bordow writes in a separate piece, noting the Suns are 5-25 when either he or Devin Booker doesn’t play.

In other news around the Pacific Division:

  • The fact that Kings coach Dave Joerger has agreed to a 10- or 11-man rotation shows that he has a good working relationship with GM Vlade Divac, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes in a mailbag column. Joerger had been asked to expand the rotation to get more minutes for his younger players, even though he’d probably prefer a shorter rotation, Jones continues. Divac also consults with Joerger on when to send players to the G League, Jones adds.
  • Clippers owner Steve Ballmer doesn’t believe in tanking despite the team trading away Blake Griffin to the Pistons late last month. Ballmer made the statement at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference and the quotes were relayed by ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz. “I think bottoming out is a dangerous game,” Ballmer said. “If you have to play it, maybe you have to play it. Then again, superstars don’t want to go to teams that look like absolute losers. … In a way you’re being dismissive of your fans by taking that big a step back.”
  • Warriors center Zaza Pachulia was not disciplined by the league for falling onto Thunder All-Star Russell Westbrook on Saturday, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post tweets. Westbrook called Pachulia a dirty player after the incident.

And-Ones: Jackson, Bennett, Williams, Clippers

Maryland sophomore forward Justin Jackson, a projected first-round pick, will miss the reminder of the season with a torn labrum, according to a school press release relayed by Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com. Jackson first suffered the injury before he joined the Terrapins and aggravated it numerous times this season. He’ll soon undergo surgery. The 6’7” Jackson was ranked as the No. 18 overall prospect by Jonathan Givony of ESPN earlier this month. He was averaging 9.8 PPG and 8.1 RPG.

In other news from around the league:

  • Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, was acquired by the Celtics’ G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, according to the G-League team’s website. He was dealt by the Northern Arizona Suns. Bennett appeared in 14 games with Northern Arizona, averaging 11.7 PPG and 5.6 RPG.
  • Former NBA forward Derrick Williams has signed with the Tianjin Gold Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association, according to an ESPN report. Williams, 26, played a combined 50 games for the Cavaliers and Heat last season. The second overall pick in the 2011 draft also played for the Timberwolves, Kings and Knicks. He averaged 8.9 PPG and 4.0 RPG in his NBA career.
  • The Clippers have gotten lost in the shuffle in Los Angeles and it’s not going to get better considering the current state of the team, as Mark Heisler of the Orange County Register examines in a column. Owner Steve Ballmer has threatened to move the team to Inglewood but the Clippers’ lease at the Staples Center runs through 2024, Heisler continues. Seattle would be a natural landing place considering Ballmer’s roots there but he has brushed aside that speculation in the past, Heisler adds.

Clippers Coach Doc Rivers’ Job Seems Safe

Clippers coach Doc Rivers will likely hold onto his job the remainder of the season, multiple sources told USA Today’s Sam Amick. Owner Steve Ballmer feels the team’s rash of injuries has made it difficult to judge Rivers’ performance this season, Amick continues. The team’s top player, power forward Blake Griffin, is out at least a month with an MCL sprain. Point guard Patrick Beverley underwent season-ending knee surgery, while newcomers Milos Teodosic and Danilo Gallinari have barely played because of ailments. “You’ve just got to hang in there,” Rivers told Amick. “People get down on the team. They get down on you. They get down on everybody. That’s what happens, and you can’t waver. You’ve just got to keep doing your job, and the players have to just keep playing.”

Other notable items from Amick’s story:

  • The club is taking calls on center DeAndre Jordan but not actively shopping him. Jordan is expected to opt of the final year of his contract next summer, leaving $24.1MM on the table. The front office believes it can re-sign him, so they’re asking price for any potential deal is high. The market could heat up on December 15th, when many players who signed new contracts last summer are eligible to be dealt. Jordan hired an agent on Monday, which could facilitate trade talks.
  • The team remains committed to building around Griffin, who re-signed with them over the summer. Griffin doesn’t have an opt-out on his massive five-year, $171.1MM deal until the summer of 2021.
  • Productive role players, such as guard Lou Williams, could be dealt for draft picks. The team still has its first-rounder in June but dealt away its 2019 pick.

Western Notes: Paul, Thompson, Mitchell, Oliver

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer had a feeling last spring that Chris Paul wanted to move on, he told Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times in a Q&A session. Ballmer’s feelings were confirmed shortly after the season but he didn’t get a final decision from Paul until a phone conversation while Ballmer was vacationing in the Greek Isles. Ballmer has stayed in touch with Paul since he was traded to the Rockets but doesn’t believe the team is necessarily worse off without the All-Star point guard, he told Turner. “Chris is an awesome player. But we’re such a different team,” he said. “We are younger. We are more athletic than we were. We are longer than we were. … But we’re different and we’ll see whether we’re different good or not.”

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Klay Thompson said he’s willing to give the Warriors a discount when his contract expires after the 2018/19 season, he told Marcus Thompson and Tim Kawakami of The Athletic in a podcast that was relayed by NBCSports.com’s Kurt Helin. Thompson hedged when asked if he’d take a $9MM cut, as Kevin Durant did this summer, but asserted that he’s willing to make a sacrifice to keep the core group together. “I would definitely consider it cause I don’t want to lose anybody,” Thompson said of a potential team discount.
  • First-round selection Donovan Mitchell has impressed Jazz coach Quin Snyder with his defensive tenacity, Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News writes. The No. 13 overall pick enjoys playing defense, as he told Sorensen, and his head coach has noticed. “Donovan’s defense — if you’re on the wing and trying to get open, you better be ready, because he’s going to make it hard for you to catch the ball,” he said. The shooting guard will battle Alec Burks and Rodney Hood for playing time.
  • Rockets rookie forward Cameron Oliver underwent surgery to repair a fractured right hand, the team tweets. Oliver, who went undrafted out of Nevada, will be re-evaluated in approximately 4-6 weeks, the team adds. Oliver signed a two-year minimum contract that includes a $300K guarantee.