Steve Ballmer

Lakers Briefly Explored Leaving Staples Center For Forum

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and business mogul Irving Azoff had discussions about the idea of moving the Lakers’ home arena from the Staples Center back to The Forum, according to emails obtained by Nathan Fenno of The Los Angeles Times.

As Fenno details, it’s not clear how far those discussions actually advanced, but the Lakers have no plans to move out of the Staples Center when their lease expires in 2025. In fact, the franchise is believed to be discussing an extension for that lease, per The Times’ report.

Still, the messages obtained by Fenno – which began when Azoff reached out to Buss about the idea of “rebuilding” The Forum and moving the Lakers back there – are intriguing. Azoff, an associate of Knicks owner James Dolan, whose MSG Co. owns The Forum, testified in a deposition last year that Dolan would have been on board with the idea of selling the Lakers half of The Forum, according to The Times.

“MSG approached the Lakers about the possibility of returning to the Forum following the end of our Lease at Staples Center in 2025, but nothing came from the discussions,” the Lakers said in a statement on Wednesday.

Azoff’s proposal came just before the Clippers revealed plans to eventually move out of the Staples Center themselves and establish a new home arena in Inglewood. The Clippers’ proposed site is just a few blocks away from The Forum, and the team and city have been waged in a legal battle with MSG Co. The company has attempted to prevent the construction of a nearby arena, which would be a direct competitor for concerts and other events.

As Fenno details, emails between Azoff and Buss show the Lakers’ owner expressing surprise and skepticism at the Clippers’ plans.

“They are all crazy,” Buss wrote in one email. “This is a joke. Why would Adam let this happen?”

Presumably, the “Adam” in question is NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

When Azoff wrote back to say that Silver has “no vote” in the matter and added that there will be a long legal fight, Buss replied, “Didn’t Ballz (Clippers owner Steve Ballmer) see what we did to my brother (former Lakers head of basketball operations Jim Buss)?? He will have nothing but Clippers basketball. Whoopee.”

Since the Lakers don’t intend to leave the Staples Center and the Clippers’ lease runs through 2024, this battle isn’t expected to affect fans anytime soon, but Fenno’s report – which is worth checking out in full – provides an interesting glimpse behind the scenes at the fight over some L.A. real estate.

Clippers Notes: Playoffs, Green, Temple, Arena

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.

Clippers May Pass On Pursuing Jimmy Butler

The Clippers may not pursue Jimmy Butler as a free agent this offseason, as the team doesn’t view him as a top-tier target, sources tell The Athletic’s Sam Amick.

Los Angeles traded Tobias Harris to the Sixers at the deadline in a deal helps the franchise obtain their goal of adding two max-level players. The team reportedly plans to pursue Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard, though should one or both sign elsewhere, other stars will be prioritized over Butler.

Butler will be a free agent after the season and it’s no lock that the Sixers will make maximum salary offers to both Butler and new addition Tobias Harris, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com hears. Lowe adds that it’s nearly certain that both players will find a max deal if they look outside of Philadelphia.

The Clippers will have approximately $53.19MM in cap space this summer, which is just short of the two projected maximum salary slots. Amick writes that the front office already has a plan in place that carves out the additional cap space needed to bring in two stars (approximately $65MM total) without shipping out Danilo Gallinari, who is set to make $22.62MM next season.

Rival teams believe Leonard will sign with the Clippers should he leave Toronto. Durant’s future remains a mystery with the former MVP unwilling to delve into free agency hypotheticals.

Owner Steve Ballmer will angle to bring both in and he has a promising pitch. The Clippers are stocked with resources. Los Angeles has several first-round picks outside of their own selections and Ballmer’s personal net worth, which comes in at $38.4 billion—the most among all North American franchise owners—indicates that the team won’t be phased by potential luxury tax hinderances akin to LeBron James‘ super teams in Miami and Cleveland.

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.