The NBA's most dysfunctional team, the Clippers, was back at it again when it was revealed that owner Donald Sterling has been taunting and heckling players.
Not other teams' players. His own.
Sterling has reserved special ire for Baron Davis, taunting the point guard from his courtside seat at Staples Center, according to Yahoo Sports. Yahoo cited several sources in the story, and multiple sources, including injured Clippers center Chris Kaman, confirmed the account to The Times on Monday.
Kaman, who has been sidelined because of an injured left ankle, also confirmed that Sterling has directed verbal shots at him, seeming more amused by it than angered.
"All kinds of stuff," Kaman said. "Some stuff like, 'Oh, dunk the ball.' He owns the team. What do you want me to say? He's my boss. He signs the check. He owns me.
"Not really, but you know what I'm saying. My rights to my basketball skills for five years."
The Clippers are 5-20 this season, and Kaman and Davis are making a combined $24 million. Davis has two years left on his contract after this season and Kaman has one year remaining.
"What he really wants is to not pay the guy [Davis], and they told [Sterling] he can't do that. . . . I know he wants to do it, but obviously he couldn't do it," said a league source who has worked closely with Davis and required anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly for the player. "He used to tell Baron, 'You're terrible. You can't shoot threes. Why do you shoot threes?' "
The Clippers, asked to respond, declined to comment.
Davis has had issues almost from the moment he arrived in Los Angeles. He was rarely on the same page with general manager/coach Mike Dunleavy his first two seasons, and didn't thrill new Coach Vinny Del Negro with his off-season approach to conditioning.
"I really don't have any comment on it," said Davis, who says he is down to 209 pounds. "I have to continue to engage [with] my teammates and my coaches. Right now we're playing a lot better basketball and our chemistry is getting better. . . . I think the most important thing right now is for me to block everything out and focus in on this team."
There were different methods of handling Sterling's behavior.
Team employees would try to talk to the owner about the comments but felt it was an exercise in futility.
The Yahoo report cited a source close to Davis as saying it was taking a strong toll on the point guard.
That seemed obvious, the league source interviewed by The Times said.
"That would be something that would bother anybody," the source said. "It doesn't matter. First of all, it kind of fuels the fire of the fans, potentially. Players talk about it all the time. Your morale is taken down by it.
"That's the M.O. If you have the lowest payroll, or one of the lowest payrolls, in the league, how does that translate into a playoff team? The facts are always there. Teams that get into the playoffs spend the most money."
That last comment was a reference to Sterling's having told Times columnist T.J. Simers in August that he wouldn't have signed Ryan Gomes and Randy Foye, whom the Clippers did sign in free agency. (Sterling couldn't even remember Foye's name.)
Kaman has plenty of years of perspective on Sterling and his woebegone franchise.
"He's an interesting guy," Kaman sad. "He likes to watch us play. He's very into it. Very into the decisions from what I understand. He's frustrated like anybody.
". . . The only thing I can say is that if it is negative at all, it's out of frustration. We're not trying to lose games. We're not trying to play bad. It's part of life. It's part of basketball."