Steve Ballmer

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.

Hiatus Notes: Dudley, Blazers, Ballmer, Booker, Mavs

Veteran forward Jared Dudley is pessimistic that the NBA will resume its season after this indefinite hiatus, he explained on FOX Sports Radio this week.

Dudley joins a growing list of NBA players and officials who are skeptical about whether the league can resume its regular season. The overall concern, he explains, is focused around limiting injuries.

“Once I heard the news of no more practice facilities, if that goes for a month or month-and-a-half to two months, I find it almost impossible to then have a season because now you’re telling a professional athlete, ‘For 60-to-80 days you’ve done no training,'” Dudley said.

League officials know that resuming the regular season after several weeks of limited training would be risky unless each team is awarded ample time of preparation, much like what’s already being offered in the fall with training camps. Dudley estimates that 70% of athletes don’t have a personal gym inside their home to utilize during this break.

“I’m not optimistic right now at all for a season to be honest with you,” Dudley said. “Unless something happens here in the next 30 days where they open back up the facilities. But how do they do that? Once everyone starts getting tested you’re going to hear more and more cases because it’s a very common thing to get.”

The NBA is discussing a plethora of different avenues to take as this unprecedented hiatus continues, with commissioner Adam Silver open to receiving suggestions from the league’s players, coaches, agents, executives and fans for the time being.

Here are some other notes related to the NBA’s hiatus:

  • The Trail Blazers and owner Jody Allen have committed more than $4MM towards COVID-19 relief efforts, the team announced on social media (Twitter link). The money will assist game night employees impacted by the league’s postponement.
  • The Ballmer Group, founded by Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, have donated $1MM to community groups in Los Angeles to help during the coronavirus epidemic, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times writes.
  • Suns guard Devin Booker is pledging $100L through Twitch livestreaming to support non-profits that best serve the needs of the most vulnerable in the community, the team announced in a press release. Phoenix Suns Charities will match Booker’s initial donation, the release adds.
  • Mark Cuban, Luka Doncic and Dwight Powell have teamed up with the Mavericks Foundation to donate $500,000 to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Parkland Hospital, the team announced (Twitter link). The funds will support childcare for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response.

Ballmer In Advanced Talks To Buy Forum In Inglewood

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is in advanced negotiations to purchase The Forum in Inglewood, California from its current owner, the Madison Square Garden Company, sources tell ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz.

The Forum, the former home of the Lakers and the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, is no longer the home arena for any professional sports teams, but continues to host major sporting events and concerts. With the Clippers looking to open a brand-new arena of their own in Inglewood once their current agreement with the Staples Center expires, the presence of The Forum has represented a major roadblock.

Ballmer wants to build the Clippers’ new arena on a parcel of land that sits approximately a mile from the Forum, as Arnovitz notes. The Clippers owner and the city of Inglewood have been engaged in a lengthy legal battle with James Dolan‘s MSG Co. for the last year or two. MSG has taken exception to the city working with the Clippers to develop a new, nearby arena that would be a major competitor for The Forum.

Sources tell ESPN that the two sides began to engage in negotiations about a sale of The Forum following the most recent round of lawsuits by MSG and community groups bankrolled in part by MSG. Arnovitz suggests that a sale looks like the “path of least resistance” when it comes to finding a resolution to the stalemate.

If it’s sold, The Forum would continue to operate until the Clippers’ new arena is ready to open, and perhaps even beyond that, per ESPN. Although sources tell Arnovitz that an agreement is “imminent,” the Clippers wouldn’t confirm or deny the report.

“The Clippers continue to pursue plans to build a state-of-the-art, 18,000-seat basketball arena and entertainment complex in Inglewood and are currently working with the city to successfully complete the comprehensive Environmental Impact Report,” the team said in a statement. “We are examining every possible way to resolve our differences with Madison Square Garden Co. regarding our new arena.”

Ballmer Determined To Build New Arena Despite Lawsuits

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer plans to build a new arena in Inglewood, Calif. despite lawsuits that essentially pit the franchise against Knicks owner James Dolan, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN reports.

Dolan is the executive chairman and CEO of Madison Square Garden, which has owned the Forum — the former home of the Lakers — since 2011. The Forum is located in Inglewood and still hosts numerous events. MSG has two lawsuits pending, according to Youngmisuk, including one against the city of Inglewood and its mayor over building a new arena adjacent to the Forum.

Ballmer told reporters, including Youngmisuk, that he’s unfazed by the legal challenges. He’s eager for the team to have its own arena, rather than sharing one with the Lakers. The target date to move into the proposed arena is 2024, when the Clippers’ lease with Staples Center terminates.

“We are going to open that arena one way or another,” he said.

Ballmer invested $100M in the city of Inglewood last month. The investment was created as part of the city’s new arena development agreement and is focused on community programs.

Commissioner Adam Silver, who supports Ballmer’s plan to build the new arena, has talked to both owners about the legal action but isn’t ready to step in and settle the dispute.

Ballmer believes he’ll prevail in the end.

“We’re on a path where we think we can build the arena, whatever happens in the litigation,” he said. “We’re moving along. … The other side is just trying to slow us down a little bit. … I’m not sure they understand what they’ve gotten themselves into, from my perspective in the sense that we’ll just keep going.”

Doc Rivers On How Clippers Landed Kawhi, George

The Clippers were one of the big winners of the 2019 offseason, landing the top free agent on the market in Kawhi Leonard and trading for MVP finalist Paul George in perhaps the most shocking deal of the summer.

While the Clippers can look back fondly now on a first week of July that culminated with the club reaching agreements to acquire both stars, head coach Doc Rivers admits to Arash Markazi of The Los Angeles Times that it wasn’t exactly a smooth ride at the time.

According to Rivers, on Friday, July 5 at noon, it looked like the Clippers wouldn’t be able to pry George away from the Thunder. Failing to complete that deal was expected to result in Leonard signing with the Lakers or returning to the Raptors, and Rivers was particularly dismayed at the idea of Kawhi joining the Lakers, telling Clippers owner Steve Ballmer that they couldn’t allow that to happen.

“I actually told Steve jokingly that if that happens, we’re moving the team to Seattle,” Rivers told Markazi. “It was a joke, but I was actually serious about it. I really believed that.”

Less than 12 hours later, the deal with Oklahoma City was back on and the Clippers had secured a commitment from Leonard, shaking up the NBA world and putting Rivers in position to coach two of the game’s top players.

In his conversation with Markazi, Rivers offered a few more entertaining tidbits about the Clippers’ pursuit of Leonard and their trade for George. Here are a few of the highlights from the veteran head coach:

On the Clippers’ subtle, season-long recruitment of Leonard in 2018/19:

“I got a lot of credit, and so did [special consultant] Jerry West, but the guy that was the hero in all this was [president of basketball operations] Lawrence Frank. He did all the work. He had Steve Ballmer going to Raptors games and he went to some, too. We were warned that no more Clippers players, coaches or employees could go to games in Toronto. We were sending guys to go sit the stands.

“There was nothing wrong with what we were doing, but Steve Ballmer sitting courtside in Toronto seemed a little strange. But we didn’t say a word. We just wanted [Leonard] to know we were there and we were interested.”

On Leonard essentially giving the Clippers an ultimatum:

“He said, ‘I want to play for you,’ and he pointed at me. He said, ‘Mr. Ballmer, I love the things you do and what you stand for, but your team is not good enough and if you don’t change your team, I’m not coming.'”

On how Leonard zeroed in on Paul George as a potential teammate:

“We actually had a list of guys, which was a mistake, but we got lucky. We shouldn’t have had a list, because then he got to choose who he wanted to play with and the assumption was that we could get them. We didn’t know if we could get anybody. We just showed him guys that we thought would match him and when he saw Paul George’s name he said, ‘I want to play with him.’ We showed him everybody else and he didn’t want to hear it. He just stayed on Paul George, so after the meeting we sat down and I said, ‘We got to get Paul George. I don’t know how we are going to do it, but we have to do it.'”

On sending a massive haul of draft picks to the Thunder for George:

“Steve Ballmer was nervous about the picks. I said, ‘Steve, you keep saying six picks for Paul George is insane, but you’re saying it wrong. It’s not six for Paul; it’s six for Paul and Kawhi. So three for each. I would do that.’ You have to look at it in those terms.”