Steve Ballmer

Pacific Notes: Suns, Sarver, Lakers, Davis, J. Green, Ballmer

After handing Robert Sarver a one-year suspension and a $10MM fine following the investigation into the Suns owner’s workplace misconduct, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told some concerned players that he considered having the league’s Board of Governors vote on Sarver’s fate, but had some legal concerns about the process, report Baxter Holmes and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN (Insider link). Instead, Silver repeatedly spoke directly to Sarver in an effort to encourage him to sell the franchise.

As Holmes and Shelburne outline, Sarver was upset by his punishment and questioned why it was more severe than the one Mark Cuban received following an investigation into the Mavericks’ front office in 2018. Silver explained that the differences stemmed from the fact that Cuban wasn’t accused of misconduct himself.

While persistent nudging from Silver may not have been enough on its own to convince Sarver to sell, the Suns were facing the prospect of losing several key sponsors if he remained on as the team’s owner. Sources tell Holmes and Shelburne that nearly 30 sponsors are up for renewal after the coming season, including PayPal, which issued a statement calling for Sarver’s removal. There were indications that many companies would follow PayPal’s lead and put out similar statements.

“The walls were closing in on (Sarver),” a source close to the process told ESPN. “A group of sponsors were all moving towards this common position.”

After Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic reported last week that a “high-end estimate” for the sale price of the Suns could be $3 billion or more, ESPN’s duo is hearing the same thing. Multiple sources who spoke to Holmes and Shelburne, noting that the NBA has rebounded well from the impact of COVID-19 and has a new TV deal around the corner, predicted that the franchise could sell for more than $3 billion.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • As he preaches defensive effort and intensity to his new team, Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said on Tuesday that he likes the fact that multiple starting lineup spots are for grabs in training camp, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are locked in as starters and Russell Westbrook will “absolutely” join them if he shows the effort Ham is looking for on defense, but that would still leave two spots open. “I think it adds a little spice to camp, and LeBron and AD, they are who they are, as well as Russ, those guys are going to go at them,” Ham said. “That’s only going to make everybody better. It’s a controlled competitive environment.”
  • Davis told reporters on Wednesday that he was affected last season by a wrist injury that he suffered in January, tweets Jovan Buha of The Athletic. The Lakers‘ big man added that it’s not an excuse for his poor three-point shooting (18.6%), but that it affected the follow-through on his shot.
  • According to head coach Steve Kerr, the Warriors viewed JaMychal Green as a “critical” offseason addition because he adds some much-needed veteran experience to a young bench. Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area has the story.
  • Steve Ballmer of the Clippers remains the richest owner in sports, according to a report from Forbes, which estimates Ballmer’s net worth at $83 billion. Robert Pera of the Grizzlies ($17.6 billion) and Dan Gilbert of the Cavaliers ($17.3 billion) are the other NBA owners who rank in Forbes’ top 10.

Pacific Notes: Curry, Ballmer, George, Kings

Stephen Curry is under contract through the 2025/26 season and he hasn’t considered finishing his career with anyone other than the Warriors. In an interview during this afternoon’s Oakland A’s baseball game (video link), Curry talked about his love for the Bay Area and his plans for the future.

“I’ve been out here … I just finished my 13th year,” Curry said, “and to be able to say I’ve played for one team my entire career, and also to say between the 10 years in Oakland and these last three years in San Francisco, I can honestly say how special this place is. Also, there’s a huge need here that we can really kind of tackle some of those challenges, and do it in a meaningful way. Honestly, I don’t want to leave ever. I want this to be my one and only home, and even thinking about what happens after basketball is done.”

With four championship rings and two MVP trophies, Curry is among the most popular and successful athletes in the history of the Bay Area. He’ll be 38 when his current deal expires and hasn’t given any indication about whether he plans to continue playing after that.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • In a tour of the Inuit Dome construction site, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer tells Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN that he wants to have the premier team in Los Angeles (Twitter link). “You said this is a Laker town. No, Laker-Clipper,” Ballmer said to Youngmisuk. “And someday I want to be able to say Clipper-Laker.” Of the new arena, Ballmer said, “I think it’s another statement that says, ‘Hey look, we’re nobody’s little brother. We’re a real team.’”
  • Clippers forward Paul George will be the latest NBA star to make an appearance at the Drew League, tweets Law Murray of The Athletic. The pro-am league in Los Angeles has attracted numerous NBA players this summer, including LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan, Trae Young and John Collins. This will be George’s first Drew League appearance since 2014.
  • James Ham of Kings Beat offers four suggestions on how the Kings can improve their defense for the upcoming season.

Steve Ballmer Has Big Plans For Clippers’ New Arena

Optimism was the theme that Clippers owner Steve Ballmer emphasized as he talked about the team’s new arena project with Jabari Young of CNBC. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday for the $1.8 billion facility, which will be located in Inglewood and called the Intuit Dome. It will become the new home for the franchise in three years.

The Clippers are looking forward to establishing their own identity after years of sharing the Staples Center with the Lakers and the NHL’s Kings. Ballmer notes that it took a lot of faith to embark on the project, which the franchise started without any land to build on. The team had to pay $66.2MM to Inglewood for the site where the facility will be located and $400MM to purchase the nearby Forum from the Madison Square Garden Company.

“This stadium is about being optimistic about our team,” Ballmer said. “It’s about being optimistic about our fans. Get in the building, pump up, make energy. Your energy can feed our team to greater success.”

The 18,000-seat arena will include a lot of high-tech features as Ballmer hopes to create a unique experience for paying customers. It will have a halo-shaped video board with 44,000 square feet of LED lights, along with technology that will enable fans to purchase concessions from their seats without the need for cash or credit cards. The Clippers will also have four cabanas at courtside that Ballmer compares to end-zone suites in the NFL.

The arena won’t host hockey games, so it will be built with “basketball geometry” that’s tailored for the best NBA viewing experience. The team will move its business operations and its practice facility to the Intuit Dome, and Ballmer estimates that the arena will create $260MM in economic activity for Inglewood and will result in more than 7,000 new full-time and part-time jobs.

“It’s a big market,” Ballmer said. “There’s plenty of fans that can be fans of the Clippers and Lakers. But we want to tell you who we are. I think there are many folks in L.A. who identify with this notion of being the underdog, the person who strides. It’s almost two L.A.s. It’s not all showtime and movie business. Our fans are grinders.”

As a former CEO of Microsoft, Ballmer is still relatively new to the sports world, buying the Clippers in 2014 after former owner Donald Sterling was banned from the league. Along with having seasons affected by injuries, Ballmer said the most challenging thing about adapting to the sports environment is “judgment and understanding of where and how I should be involved on the basketball side.” Still, he has been able to take some of the lessons he learned from the business world and apply them to the NBA.

“You don’t blink,” he said. “We’re not blinking on the Clippers. We’re going to consistently invest and making our team as good as it can be. And in this new building, we’re going to invest.”

Clippers’ Ballmer Unsure Whether Kawhi Will Play In 2021/22

After undergoing surgery in July to repair a partial tear of his right ACL, Clippers star Kawhi Leonard has no set timetable for his return to the court. Addressing Leonard’s health in a conversation with Mark Medina of USA Today, team owner Steve Ballmer said it’s “possible” the star forward will be back on the court before the end of the 2021/22 season, but he isn’t willing to make any guarantees.

“Nobody knows at this stage,” Ballmer said. “Nobody knows. It’s possible. For sure, it’s possible. But it will depend on what the doctors say and what Kawhi says.”

When a player suffers an ACL tear during the fall or winter, it typically ends his season, but a player’s recovery timeline is less clear when the injury occurs at or near the end of the prior season. For now, it seems safe to assume that Leonard will at least be sidelined for most of the 2021/22 campaign. However, Ballmer still believes the Clippers are a “very good team,” telling Medina that he expects to be in the hunt for a championship again if Kawhi can make it back in the spring.

“We’re coming in this year looking for a title,” Ballmer said. “Obviously not having arguably one of our two best players, that hurts. We’ll see when we get Kawhi back. But you think through a three-year stretch, we got all of these guys under contract for this year and next year. I think it gives us a lot of opportunity to compete.”

Ballmer, who made the media rounds in advance of breaking ground on the Clippers’ new Inglewood arena, conveyed a similar sentiment to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

“Every year I want to win,” Ballmer said. “Some people will talk about, ‘We’re taking a step back’ or ‘We got an injured year.’ No. Our fans can count on the fact that we are going to try to win as many ballgames as we can every year. Now, we took a little setback. We got to get Kawhi healthy. And when he’s back, we’re back at full strength.”

In conversations with Medina, Shelburne, and other reporters, Ballmer stressed that moving out of the Staples Center and into the Intuit Dome in 2024 represents the Clippers’ desire to create their own “identity” outside of the Lakers’ shadow.

The Clippers’ have long had a reputation as the Lakers’ overlooked little brother, but Ballmer told Medina he thinks his team has become a “great free agent destination” in its own right. The next steps for the Clippers, Ballmer says, are winning a championship and getting their own building.

“There’s 30 teams in the league. There’s 29 others. And we got one that happens to be based in L.A.,” Ballmer told Shelburne. “And we got our fans. We use our expression, ‘L.A. Our Way.’ And we’re building our own presence, identity. And if the other guys (the Lakers) feel a little threatened — the other guys’ fans, I mean; the players are actually a little different deal — but if they feel a little threatened, that’s OK. It means we’re doing good.”

And-Ones: Social Justice Board, Boatright, Jazz, Moore

Carmelo Anthony, Avery Bradley, Sterling Brown, Donovan Mitchell and Karl-Anthony Towns are the players chosen to serve on the league’s Social Justice Coalition Board, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania (Twitter links).

The NBA and NBPA agreed to create the group to advance equality and social justice after teams walked out of games in late August to protest a police shooting. Commissioner Adam Silver, deputy commissioner Mark Tatum and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts, as well as owners Micky Arison, Steve Ballmer, Clay Bennett, Marc Lasry and Vivek Randadive and coaches Lloyd Pierce and Doc Rivers.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Ryan Boatright has signed with Lithuanian club team BC Rytas Vilnius, the team tweets. Boatright, 28, played in Europe last season after spending time in the G League during the 2018/19 season. The former University of Connecticut guard also played in Italy, China and Turkey.
  • The sale price of the Jazz bodes well for the league’s franchise valuations, Bill Shea of The Athletic notes. The team, along with an arena and a couple of minor-league teams, were sold to Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith for $1.66 billion, and the league’s owners are expected to approve the sale. The valuation falls in line with expectations and doesn’t reflect any pandemic discount, Shea continues. It also reinforces the notion that team values keep going up.
  • Former Pacers forward Ben Moore has signed with South East Melbourne Phoenix of Australia’s NBL, according to the team. Moore is expected to join the club for preseason training next month. Moore, who also spent time in the Spurs organization, logged two games with Indiana during the 2017/18 season.

Steve Ballmer Discusses Decision To Replace Doc Rivers

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer wasn’t happy with the version of the team he saw in Orlando, but he didn’t want to rush into a coaching change, writes Mark Medina of USA Today.

Ballmer waited nearly two weeks after the Clippers were eliminated by Denver, blowing a 3-1 lead in the process, before deciding to replace Doc Rivers, who had coached the team for the past six years. Ballmer called Rivers “a fantastic championship coach” and “a mentor” and said he never would have considered the move prior to the team’s performance at Disney World.

“It’s very important to me that we not do anything in the heat of the moment,” Ballmer told reporters today in a conference call. “That’s not rational, like, ‘Oh, we lost a game.’ That’s not sane. We took our time. Doc and I took our time together and arrived to the point we did.”

The Clippers were considered one of the favorites to win the title after signing signing Kawhi Leonard and trading for Paul George last summer. They appeared headed for a showdown with the rival Lakers in the conference finals before the series with the Nuggets slipped away.

President of basketball operations Lawrence Frank emphasized that the organization doesn’t hold Rivers solely responsible for the playoff loss, but there was a feeling that a coaching change was needed. Assistant Tyronn Lue was chosen because he is familiar with the roster and he has already succeeded in a similar situation, taking over for David Blatt in Cleveland and leading the Cavaliers to the 2016 title.

“We’re talking about chemistry and continuity, and it’s not more so off the court and guys not liking each other,” Lue said. “It was hard to get continuity and chemistry throughout the season because we didn’t have a lot of practice time for our starting unit or our whole team for a large part of the season. When we talk about chemistry and continuity, it’s more so on the basketball court of just being familiar with guys.”

Even though the Clippers managed to claim the second seed in the West at 49-23, they dealt with injuries and other distractions all season long. They had a combined 114 games missed due to injuries and used 33 different starting lineups. Leonard sat for 13 games with left knee issues, and George missed 16 games after having offseason surgery on both shoulders.

The regular lineup wasn’t together enough in Orlando to develop any sort of comfort. Lou Williams left the Disney campus for a funeral, then had to quarantine for 10 days after stopping for food at a strip club in Atlanta. Montrezl Harrell missed all eight seeding games after the death of his grandmother, and Patrick Beverley was sidelined for four games with an injury.

Lue said he spoke to Leonard and George after his hiring was announced about his expectations for next season. He admits the team needs to play at a faster pace and do a better job with ball movement and floor spacing. He welcomes the opportunity to be a head coach again and believes there’s enough talent on hand to make a run at the 2021 championship.

More Details On Doc Rivers’ Departure From Clippers

Although the Clippers‘ official press release on Doc Rivers‘ exit from the franchise suggested that the split was a mutual decision, people with knowledge of the situation told Dan Woike and Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times that Rivers was “surprised to learn” the club wanted to move on.

[RELATED: Doc Rivers Out As Clippers’ Head Coach]

While the coaching change may have come as a surprise, it didn’t come out of nowhere, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, who reports that a divide occurred as a result of an “accumulation of philosophical differences” over the years and especially in recent weeks.

According to Buha, Rivers and team owner Steve Ballmer had multiple “candid” discussions following the team’s second-round playoff exit, exploring where things went wrong and comparing their visions of the organization’s future. They ultimately decided that they had differing visions of the path forward, resulting in what Buha refers to as a mutual decision to go their separate ways.

Rivers’ view, per Buha, was that the Clippers’ roster had some flaws and that he had tried the make the best of a less-than-ideal situation. The franchise, meanwhile, viewed the second-round collapse as “inexcusable” and considered Rivers culpable for many of the club’s shortcomings despite the unfavorable and unusual circumstances dictated by the coronavirus pandemic and the Orlando bubble.

Here’s more on the Clippers’ split with Rivers:

  • Rivers’ insistence on sticking with a struggling Montrezl Harrell over Ivica Zubac at key moments in the postseason and his reluctance to develop or empower young players during his Clippers tenure were among the factors the team considered when it made its change, according to Buha. Harrell’s energy and effort on the defensive end of the court was questioned both inside and outside the locker room, Buha adds.
  • There was a sense that the Clippers played with a “distinct lack of joy and on-court chemistry” this season and that Rivers had a hard time balancing his treatment of new stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with that of Clips veterans like Harrell, Lou Williams, and Patrick Beverley, Buha writes. The perception of preferential treatment for Leonard and George was an ongoing issue for multiple Clippers players all year.
  • The decision to part ways with Rivers was ultimately Ballmer’s, but the Clippers owner called a few key players, including Leonard and George – to get their opinions, sources told Ramona Shelburne and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. None of the feedback Ballmer received changed his mind about the need for a change, and Rivers didn’t feel comfortable staying with the team without Ballmer’s full sport, per ESPN’s duo.
  • The Clippers didn’t have a specific replacement in mind when they decided to part with Rivers, and there’s an expectation that the search for a new coach could take several weeks, according to Buha, who says there’s no clear-cut top candidate yet.
  • Michael Scotto of HoopsHype spoke to some executives around the NBA about the Rivers news and the most logical candidates to replace him on the Clippers’ bench.

Ballmer Finalizes Purchase Of Inglewood’s Forum

The Clippers issued a press release today announcing that CAPSS LLC – a recently-formed company backed by team owner Steve Ballmer – has completed its purchase of The Forum in Inglewood, California. The venue was previously owned by the Madison Square Garden Company.

The sale agreement was initially reported in March, when the two sides reached a deal for Ballmer’s group to buy The Forum for $400MM in cash. MSG Co. – controlled by Knicks owner James Dolan – had previously been engaged in a legal battle with Ballmer and the Clippers, who are trying to build a new arena in Inglewood.

The sale of The Forum will help end that litigation, paving the way for the Clippers to move forward on their new building. The Forum, meanwhile, will continue to operate as a live entertainment venue. The Forum’s existing leadership team of Geni Lincoln and Mike Fallon will now report to Gillian Zucker, the Clippers’ president of business operations, according to today’s announcement.

“The talented team at The Forum has created a world-class live entertainment venue, and we are committed to building upon that reputation,” Zucker said in a statement. “Having The Forum just a short distance from the L.A. Clippers’ new arena will give us the opportunity to provide the City of Inglewood with a number of benefits, including a collaborative approach to managing traffic and community activities.”

The Clippers are locked into their Staples Center lease through 2024, but Ballmer has long prioritized the idea of the team moving into a building of its own. The franchise will now be able to move forward on plans to build a state-of-the-art, 18,000-seat arena in Inglewood.

Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN reported in March that the Clippers’ proposal was undergoing an environmental review by Inglewood, with public hearings to approve the project expected to be held in the summer. It’s not clear whether the coronavirus pandemic has changed that timeline at all.

Coronavirus Notes: Ballmer, Cuban, BIG3

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, through the Ballmer Group, has pledged more than $25MM in aid to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets. The donation will help Seattle, Southeast Michigan and Los Angeles, areas that have been hard hit by coronavirus. It includes $10MM to University of Washington Medicine’s Emergency Response Fund to speed up testing for a COVID-19 vaccine. In an unrelated revelation, Ballmer said his team will lose at least $10MM this season because of the suspension of play, sports business Scott Soshnick tweets.

We have more coronavirus-related developments:

  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban suggests that fans could be checked for illness entering arenas once games are played in front of spectators, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News relays. “It’s not hard to use thermal guns to take someone’s temperature and look for fevers,” Cuban said on CNBC. “Is it feasible? Yes, absolutely. We have to be very cautious, particularly as we try to come back. At first, we’ll play a lot of games without fans and figure it out with all the medicines that become available, we’ll go from there.”
  • The BIG3 is moving forward with plans to play a quarantined reality-show tournament in early May, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports. The league is partnering with the producers of the TV show “Big Brother” to create the tournament. Players and referees will be quarantined in the same Los Angeles-area home provided by the league for the three-week preseason tournament, which will consist of 16 players, Haynes adds.
  • A well-known ESPN analyst is recovering from the coronavirus. Get the details here.

Steve Ballmer To Purchase Forum, Build New Clippers Arena

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has agreed in principle to purchase the Forum in Inglewood, California, which is a necessary step for the franchise to build a new arena in the area, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com writes.

The newly-formed CAPSS LLC will acquire the Forum from The Madison Square Garden Company – and executive chairman James Dolan – for $400MM in cash. The Forum will remain a music venue, but Ballmer’s purchase allows him to clear the existing litigation that was preventing an arena from being built nearby.

“This is an unprecedented time, but we believe in our collective future,” Ballmer said in the news release. “We are committed to our investment in the City of Inglewood, which will be good for the community, the Clippers, and our fans.”

The Clippers, who have shared the Staples Center with the Lakers since 1999, intend to build a state-of-the-art, 18,000-seat arena in Inglewood, notes Youngmisuk. Public hearings to approve construction of the building are expected to happen later this year.

The franchise anticipates creating an estimated 7,500 “high-paying construction jobs” and 1,500 permanent jobs, Youngmisuk added. The team announced that it has a $100MM package of community benefits on the way.