The Clippers filed a $100-million suit against the National Basketball Assn. and its member teams Thursday in a state court in Los Angeles, claiming that the league had conspired to terminate the franchise and had committed other alleged offenses against the team in the last four years.
The complaint detailed "various fraudulent acts" by the league against the Clippers dating back to 1981, when Donald T. Sterling bought the franchise.
The NBA has a suit pending against the Clippers. That was filed eight months ago and asked for $25 million in damages for the Clippers' move from San Diego to Los Angeles last May without league permission. The NBA's suit also asked that the court determine the league's right to prevent a move or terminate a franchise.
NBA Executive Vice President Russell Granik said Thursday night that he has not seen the Clippers' complaint and therefore cannot comment.
"But based on the string of judges' rulings that have gone against the Clippers in the early stages of the San Diego litigation (the NBA's federal court suit), this sounds like the act of a desperate man," Granik said.
Among the rulings that have gone against the Clippers in the NBA suit, according to one NBA source, have been their request for a change of venue and their attempt to obtain the financial records of Laker owner Jerry Buss. The Clippers are seeking $50 million in actual damages and $50 million in punitive damages. Clipper President Alan Rothenberg said that the club wanted to "go back to day one and collect on the many misdeeds against us in the last four years."
Mentioned in the Clippers' complaint is a claim that the NBA has offered to drop its $25-million suit if the Clippers would agree to a financial settlement.
"They (the league) said that they would stop all their action against us if we were to pay multimillions," Rothenberg said. "They have done this at least three times. The figure they've asked is $4 million, $5 million and once $10 million. It sounds like they open a book and pick a monetary figure.
"We obviously aren't going to pay that, because it's a wrongful demand. The NBA made a big error in suing us. Apparently they are acting as if the Raiders' case was never decided. It's unbelievable. They file a spurious suit and then come back and ask us to pay multimillions."
Granik would not comment on the Clippers' claim that the league offered to settle its suit out of court.
Rothenberg said the Clippers had been considering the suit since last spring, when the NBA filed its suit, but have actively pursued it only in the last few weeks. Apparently, the Clippers were waiting to see if the NBA would back down on its suit. But when Commissioner David Stern said during last month's All-Star break that the league hopes to have the suit come to trial in January, 1986, the Clippers decided to react.
During the NBA's board of governors meeting Feb. 9, Rothenberg had threatened a lawsuit unless the league was willing to negotiate a settlement.
The NBA filed its suit in a federal court in San Diego eight months ago, so its case will undoubtedly come to trial before the Clippers' case. Rothenberg said, however, that "both will be in the courts for years."