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SUNDAY REPORT : Dunleavy's leverage: $$$$

November 15, 2009|MARK HEISLER

Donald T. Sterling

Sterling World Plaza

Beverly Hills, Calif. 90212

Donald, mon amour:

I'm sorry I've been busy, but you know how exciting it is with LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal and everyone becoming free agents!

So, how's that up-and-coming team of yours?

The worst ever?

That would take some doing, like that radioactive material in "The China Syndrome," eating into the ground and coming out on the other side of the world.

OK, you lost Blake Griffin? And Eric Gordon? And seven of your first 10 games, including Friday's after leading Toronto by 22 points?

Actually, I had the sense you were in pain when I saw you at the Minnesota game, your first win, when you grimaced at me.

You were miserable enough in the preseason when your guys were 6-2, looking as if you had taken an arrow in the shoulder that was still sticking out, but you were sucking it up.

I understand. If you were to complain, it wouldn't be about arrows or your medical staff but Mike Dunleavy, or as he's known among your friends, "That #%&$#!"

I know it's hard for you to keep defending Mike with people coming up to ask why you don't fire him, as if they were lined up back to Kansas.

Of course, the pain is knowing you owe Mike $10 million the next two seasons, whether he coaches, runs the front office or sits on the beach.

I feel your pain, dog.

I mean, I sympathize. I cover the NBA. I have a 16-year-old. That's what they say today.

You've had teams this bad -- you've actually had teams 100 times worse, assuming these guys ever get healthy -- but you've never had a mess like this.

You're embarrassed, which takes a lot. Firing Mike costs $10 million, unless he stays as a vastly overpaid general manager. And who says you won't continue being embarrassed?

Before Mike, the Dean of Clippers Coaches, you canned one every 1 1/2 seasons -- 13 of them in 20 years, counting interim guys, most of whom stayed on after you combed the nation for big names.

In his seventh season, Mike has single-handedly dropped your average to one coach every two years!

After you blew that 22-point lead, I heard Byron Scott's name was on the lips of every Clippers official not actually standing next to Mike, not to mention your friends and a family member or two.

I think a lot of Byron, but you may not be high on his list.

First, he's from here and knows something about . . . how to put this? . . . you.

Second, as close as he is to Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson, he could get the Lakers job if he's free when Phil Jackson calls it a career. With $100,000 a month coming from New Orleans through the spring, why wouldn't Byron wait to see what his options are?

Also, in the brief time Scott coached Baron Davis in New Orleans, each built a monumental distaste for the other, so Byron is a non-starter.

Of course, you've tried to get big guys who weren't available ("I'm building a doghouse with my kids and they grow up so fast") and still found someone one seat down on your bench.

That would be John Lucas or Kim Hughes, either of whom might do a good job when you get your players back.

Of course, if Mike is still here, he might do a good job when you get your players back. He has never actually done badly with all his starters; it has just been years since he had all his starters.

I know, ESPN's Marc Stein just quoted a source who said if Mike was fired, he might be too proud to stay on as general manager.

That wasn't you, was it, big guy?

Wouldn't that be a gift from the gods?

"I'm sorry I didn't come through for you, Mr. Sterling, but I don't think I can stay on, even if it means giving up $10 million."

If you fire Mike as coach, you can set your watch by the time he turns up in the office the next day.

It would be like before with Mike in Elgin Baylor's old seats -- three rows behind the baseline with ushers and fans walking in front of him.

It's true, everyone says you should be winning more. I hear there are even people who are still down on Chris Kaman and want to unload him.

Oh, that was you?

Unfortunately, your present team has no No. 1 option (someone to score in crunch time. That's the stretch. Oh, it's not important.)

The day all your guys are healthy, you can throw the five best defenders who ever played together out there.

No, I'm serious. You'd have two top-10 rebounding/shot-blocking 7-footers, an animal small forward, a shooting guard who's a prodigy at both ends, plus Baron, who can guard with anyone.

And if it works, you're the West Coast team with the young players and a max slot to make a play for . . . say it ain't so . . . LeBron!

At that point, you would be praised for your wisdom, as if you personally had planned it.

And best of all, you didn't have to give $10 million to Mike to sit around with his feet up!

Remember, where there's life, there's hope.

Well, in some lives.

Here4u4ever,

Mark

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mark.heisler@latimes.com

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