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Clippers won't win one for the ripper, even if he owns them

Donald Sterling's tirade has no effect on his underachieving, dysfunctional team. What else is new?

March 08, 2009|MARK HEISLER

Knute Rockne

Sterling World Plaza

Beverly Hills, Calif., 90210

Dear Knute, er, Donald,

How are you?

I was worried when you went berserk after the Spurs crushed your guys. If you get upset every time a good team steps on the Clippers, you'll be getting your mail at Cedars.

In the amazing part, you backed your coach!

Not that you wouldn't have already fired Mike Dunleavy except for his contract, but as long as he's here, why not back him up?

Of course, who expected you to storm into the locker room and launch what one report called a "profanity-laced tirade," telling your players you would trade them all but Dunleavy can keep the ones he wants?

Unfortunately, feelings were hurt. An unnamed source told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "After that, the guys don't even want to play for him."

Someone actually thinks the guys have been playing for you? It couldn't be Ricky Davis, who played in Cleveland, and is out indefinitely because of a "flare-up of tendinitis," could it?

The Plain Dealer reported you called Al Thornton "the most selfish player I've ever seen" -- which blogs recycled and ESPN's Linda Cohn regurgitated as fact two days later.

Two Clippers sources -- one player, one management -- say a lot was directed at Thornton, but not that. (We can ask Ricky when his tendinitis is better.)

It's a joke, in any case. Thornton is a gamer who has played hurt, missing only three games, while teammates went to Switzerland for second opinions.

The player you had in mind, first and foremost, was Baron Davis. He has his own list of complaints -- abandoned by Elton Brand; still feeling shackled (or as he told ESPN's Bill Simmons, "I don't think we play with enough freedom and trust.")

BD also arrived out of shape, after dropping all that weight for Jenny Craig . . . blowing $1 million in contract incentives to make $250,000, as your people now often note.

Then came his power play, revealing his "disconnect" with Dunleavy, only to learn that no matter what Corey Maggette told him, even if you put the freeze on Dunleavy last season, you weren't about to fire him.

Even friends say Dunleavy's system is too complex for anyone but him and Bill Bradley, but Dunleavy shelved it for a simple fastbreak scheme.

Freed, but not in fastbreak shape, BD hasn't pushed the ball as well as Mardy Collins and Mike Taylor, according to team statistics.

The real problem is, BD always has a list of complaints.

His early misadventures seemed like bad luck and youthful entitlement, Baron going to Charlotte in 1999 with the franchise awash in owner George Shinn's scandals, forcing a trade in 2004 with the bottom dropping out in New Orleans.

Golden State Coach Don Nelson let him do it his way -- BD's idea of a system -- for two exciting seasons, with a memorable playoff upset of Dallas, when Davis showed everyone how great a player he could be . . . until last spring's inexplicable-unless-you-spend-a-year-with-Baron decision by the Warriors to let him go.

With Brand telling Dunleavy he'd take less money to bring in Davis, Davis got the homecoming he always wanted, although it hasn't turned out the way he'd imagined it.

Davis is bright, has a real heart -- ask the kids in his old neighborhood -- and is no less talented than Chris Paul and Deron Williams.

All he has to show for that after 10 seasons is three playoff appearances, two trips to the second round and two All-Star selections.

He's also a multimillionaire producer who hangs out with movie stars. Of course, if that's all Magic Johnson had after 10 seasons, he would have retired and gone into seclusion as a monk in Tibet.

Engaging as Davis is, he has always wound up getting his way, and getting the story out the way he wanted it . . . until now.

When The Times' T.J. Simers skewered him ("I know dogs, so I dropped by to see Baron Davis"), Davis came back with 25-9-10 in a win over the Warriors.

"It's T.J. Simers' fault!" Ralph Lawler announced on the air. "He should have written that column in November!"

Within days, the Clippers were back to going belly up, as in last week's 23-point loss to Memphis, which had won three road games all season.

In other words, Davis had proved Simers' point.

Not that Davis always argues the point, telling Simmons about an e-mail he got from a friend, noting, "You're just going through the motions."

If Davis genuinely wants to stay, your people would have already moved him, but no one was looking for an $11.3-million player going through the motions.

Davis is now starting to resemble Stephon Marbury, who's problematic -- OK, a complete wacko -- and hated, although BD is problematic but popular.

Marbury has somehow lucked into a chance to turn it all back around.

Actually, so has Davis.

I heard that after your Profanity-Laced Tirade, you even returned to take it up with Davis, but he had left.

I can't wait to see what's next! As I've said in so many less-flattering contexts, you still take my breath away!

Your fan forever,

Mark Heisler


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