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He will always be Elgin Baylor

Clippers situation was sad for a man who had always been a towering figure around the NBA.

February 15, 2009|Mark Heisler and Mark Heisler

Good news for Elgin:

He'll always be Elgin

However Elgin Baylor was treated as Clippers general manager, he had enough time to remedy that in 22 years, if only by leaving.

His Achilles' heel was his love for the job. It was especially sad because of the towering figure he had always been.

He was the one who refused to play in West Virginia when the Lakers' hotel wouldn't accept their African American players.

He was the one who turned Lakers owner Bob Short around in 1964 when the All-Stars refused to play until they got a pension plan and Short pounded on the dressing room door, demanding Baylor and Jerry West come out.

As Tom Heinsohn later remembered in Thomas J. Whalen's book, "Dynasty's End": "I can still remember Elgin standing up and [saying] . . . 'Tell Bob Short he can go . . . ,' " well, you get the idea.

Bad news

for the Clippers:

They're still the Clippers

This was Clippers history in a nutshell.

After months of negotiations between their attorneys, Donald Sterling said this had to be "some mistake" and he's "very close" to Baylor. Suggesting Sterling was sincere, the team had just invited Baylor to the All-Star game.

Clippers counsel Robert Platt noted Sterling's loyalty to Baylor after all those years with "only three playoff appearances."

Of course, if Sterling wanted to win as badly as he said he did every day of those 22 years, he needed a better reason to keep Baylor than loyalty.

Oops

Unfortunately for Baylor, there was a little problem with his big attention-grabber: asserting Commissioner David Stern was present when Sterling said his offer to Danny Manning was "a lot for a poor, black kid." Baylor's attorney, Carl Douglas, acknowledged it was wrong, saying it was a typographical error.

What, they meant to say David Stein was there?

The real question was why it was allowed to appear in the complaint at all. Because the commissioner works for Sterling and the other 29 owners, they couldn't just assume Stern would back them up.

Worse, if they hoped to get Stern to stand up for them, it wasn't a good idea to make him a party to the suit too, charging that the league condoned "Southern plantation-style" practices.

Baylor may have a better chance of collecting from Douglas than Sterling.

Win some,

lose some

All the Suns lost when Jerry Colangelo sold the franchise to Robert Sarver was the franchise. Colangelo ran a slick operation with a front office loaded with former players such as Connie Hawkins, Neal Walk, Mark West and Dick Van Arsdale.

Sarver messed it up from the day he took over, nixing a $50-million offer that would have kept Joe Johnson, getting Shaquille O'Neal, letting Mike D'Antoni go, and is now reportedly intent on trading Amare Stoudemire.

Meanwhile, Colangelo, who started with the Bulls, participated in a moving ceremony for Johnny Kerr, the team's beloved former announcer who is gravely ill, along with Michael Jordan, with a taped message from President Barack Obama.

"For him to battle all that and come out and give us a chance to say goodbye," Jordan said, " . . . he may not even feel good today, but he's going to come. That's why I came."

Kerr called it the happiest day of his life. It was also the NBA at its best.

-- Mark Heisler

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