Advertisement

T.J. SIMERS

Clippers owner Donald Sterling has an answer for everything, and he questions that

This summer has been a bust for his team, but you would never know it by the way the owner talks. He brushes off criticisms as beyond his control, and insists, 'People love the Clippers.'

August 16, 2010|T.J. Simers

If you had one question to ask Donald Sterling, what would it be?

"Why do you run your own picture so much in advertisements in the L.A. Times?"

Sterling's response: "I like the way I look.''

And so it went Monday at the Clippers' practice facility, Sterling of good cheer for an owner of such a failing organization and taking on all questions while the team unveiled new uniforms since they don't have any new players to showcase.

The lightweight uniform with holes in it, seemingly tailor-made for the Clippers although everyone in the league will have them, was fitted to a mannequin with its head cut off — reminding everyone of Baron Davis running the Clippers' offense, Davis wearing No. 5 this season because No. 1 never did fit.

A couple of months ago this was going to be the summer of all summers for the Clippers, a fresh start, a chance to hire a new coach, $17 million in cap space to go after LeBron or other big names like him and make a huge splash.

And so they signed Randy Foye and Ryan Gomes.

Or, as Sterling put it, "If I really called the shots we wouldn't have signed Gomes and what's the other guy's name?

"You know, they told me if we built a new practice facility we'd attract all the top players in the game," Sterling adds. "I guess I should have doubled the size of this place."

He's no different than most Clippers fans.

"I swear to you, I never heard of these guys," Sterling says, "but what if the coach says he wants them?"

The new coach is Vinny Del Negro, confident and cocky at first like all the other Clippers coaches who have come and gone, Del Negro saying he did a great job in Chicago and Sterling saying he's been told by the Bulls' owner that Del Negro was his favorite guy.

So how come the guy was fired after two years?

"I really like the coach," says Sterling, Del Negro standing across from him, "but then I guess I've said that every time I've hired a new coach."

In addition to hiring the Bulls' reject, as the summer of all summers go, this one smelled from the outset, inexplicably Sterling and Mike Dunleavy locked in a dispute over what he was owed after Dunleavy's departure. Same old Clippers.

Sterling says he can't understand why LeBron didn't listen more intently to the Clippers' overtures, which included $100 million and unstated things being done by Staples Center to enhance the L.A. invite.

But picture LeBron sitting there, free agency yet to begin, and reports out of Los Angeles the Clippers are pinching pennies and embroiled in a public dispute with their former coach and last two GMs.

"If you resign from The Times, what rights do you have?" Sterling says. "The lawyers say [Dunleavy] quit."

He says the NBA deals in litigation every day, missing the point the Clippers cannot afford such messy nonsense when trying to rehab a horrendous reputation.

"In the overall picture," Sterling continues, "[Dunleavy's] situation is not that important."

Reminded again he's in charge of the Clippers, as well as the lawyers, and he owns almost every building on and off Wilshire in Beverly Hills — why not just take care of Dunleavy and avoid such a public embarrassment?

"And not listen to the lawyers?" he says.

When I suggest the Clippers wasted this summer, he says he will be having lunch with The Times' publisher and chief of advertising Tuesday, "the people who handle the money," Sterling says. "You will get a raise in 30 days."

So long as I stop asking questions, I presume, Frank McCourt long gone by now, but Sterling attaches no such proviso, although he's surprised his enthusiasm for the new-look Clippers isn't being shared.

"People love the Clippers," Sterling insists, and I ask him who he's been hanging around.

He says everyone he runs into wants to talk Clippers. He mentions Lady Gaga, and yes, I can picture them together.

He says he attended an event before a performance that attracted lots of billionaires, while winking at broadcaster Jim Hill, who dresses like one.

"These men are all successful, far more than I am, and they wanted to talk about the Clippers," he says. "We're a very popular team. They just love our players."

I ask him to name one player, any player, that folks might love, and he's quick with the answer.

"The best player in America," he says.

Right away this seems to beg for a follow-up question.

"Better than LeBron? Than Kobe?" Not to mention, "Who?"

Upon reflection, Sterling says, "Blake Griffin did very well in summer league play two years ago," and "No, he's not better than LeBron and Kobe, but everybody is excited to see him play."

About that time someone wearing a Clippers jersey with the name "Jordan" on the back walks by.

"What do you think of him?" Sterling says.

"Don't know the guy," I say — a little funny, though, to see a guy named Jordan wearing a Clippers jersey.

"We had a chance to trade him for a No. 1 pick," Sterling says while still trying to make the point he doesn't call the Clippers' shots. "My people didn't want to do that. I would have."

Jordan is still here, the team wrapped in litigation with Dunleavy because the lawyers want it, as well as with Elgin Baylor, and now Gomes and "what's the other guy's name" have some introductions to make.

It's all apparently out of Sterling's control, possibly everyone else set up for the fall should any of it backfire, and now he's telling me he'll be having dinner soon with Sam Zell, the guy best known for the Tribune bankruptcy fiasco. Sterling invites me to join them.

I accept, although I know it won't happen, awaiting the call now from his people to tell me something came up and it was just out of Sterling's control.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|