Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

BILL PLASCHKE

Clippers owner Donald Sterling makes his own luck

Yes, there's a curse. Even Phil Jackson has to admit that karma might be in play.

January 17, 2010|Bill Plaschke

Yeah, there's a curse.

His name is Donald Sterling.

You've believed it, I've believed it, but the idea of a single ominous factor fueling the 26 seasons of Clippers disaster grew even deeper roots Friday when a noted basketball witch doctor pointed his bony finger.

Now, even Phil Jackson believes it.

"I come from a generation that believed in karma," the Lakers coach said last week when asked about the Clippers' problems. "I do think there is karma in effect ultimately."

Although Jackson didn't spell it out, he implied that karma comes directly from a Clippers owner who recently paid $2.73 million to rid himself of discrimination allegations, a guy whose specter of odd and offensive behavior has haunted the good folks of his organization far worse than the sight of a faded star or crumpled prospect.

"If you do a good mitzvah, maybe you can eliminate some of those things," Jackson said. "You don't think Sterling's done enough mitzvahs to eliminate some of those?"

When a reporter mentioned all of Sterling's "humanitarian awards," Jackson got right to the point.

"How about all those other incidents that he has on file?" he said, raising two more questions.

Has any coach ever flattened an opposing owner like that?

Now that you think about it, can anybody disagree?

Although Sterling has been given a pass in recent years because he's finally paying money and actually won a playoff series, his negative presence runs as deep through his organization as red, white and blue.

From the sleazy tales of his apartment ownership to the discrimination suit filed against him by Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor, Sterling's swaying, pitching leadership seemingly will never steady this place.

The Clipper Curse became news again last week when another player became a victim of it, this time No. 1 overall draft pick Blake Griffin, sidelined for his rookie season without ever playing a game because of a knee injury.

Sterling obviously didn't cause the injury. But, as crazy as it sounds, if you agree with Jackson about karma, then this sort of odd and continuing misfortune might make you believe that nothing good will ever happen while that guy is in charge.

"I'm not a Hare Krishna, I can't go there," Coach Mike Dunleavy said Saturday when told of Jackson's karma charges. "We've had an unfortunate string of bad luck, but we keep pushing along."

Dunleavy has never publicly believed in The Curse -- no active Clipper will ever acknowledge its presence -- and he claims they have actually moved beyond it.

"We have ourselves in good position, with a good nucleus," he said. "We have a great building, a great city, a great practice facility, and the word is, we're making money."

Dunleavy was asked whether he wanted reporters to relay that last message down the Staples Center hallway to LeBron James, the potential free agent whose Cleveland Cavaliers were preparing for an eventual 102-101 victory over the Clippers.

"Do with it what you may," he said, smiling.

But, see, that's where the curse comes in again. While the Clippers have the money to sign James, and while he would face the ultimate cool challenge in attempting to steal Kobe Bryant's town, why on earth would he want to play for Donald Sterling?

James is considered one of the cleanest stars in sports. Can you imagine his image makers advising him to take money from a guy who just paid a bunch of it to settle allegations that he discriminates against Latinos, blacks and families with children?

He wants his name attached to that?

"With players it always comes to, can you pay the money?" Dunleavy said.

But a guy like James has enough money, it would seem, that selling his reputation would not be worth it.

Sterling has said the settlement money was no admission of guilt, but simply a way to end the proceedings without further cost.

So either the guy discriminates, or he doesn't care that people thinks he does, and which is worse?

Sterling was not at Saturday's game, and a spokesman said he would not be available to address the karma charges because, "how would he even answer that?"

That is part of the problem, of course. Sterling does interviews only with reporters who pander to him, exchanging access for air kisses, so he's rarely held truly accountable.

It's a shame, because the Clippers' organization is filled with some of the best folks in town.

The coach might be around only because Sterling doesn't want to eat his contract,

but Dunleavy works hard, his players play hard, and

the front-office folks truly

care about winning the right way.

They don't deserve the owner. They don't deserve that curse.

"Next time we play the Lakers, maybe I can be blessed," said Dunleavy, referring to Jackson, smiling. "Maybe he can give me some of his karma."

The whole thing would be hilarious, if it all didn't feel so real.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/billplaschke

Cleveland 102, Clippers 101

Butler scores 33, but

Baron Davis can't do it with the last shot. C9

Mark Heisler

Most teams wouldn't consider having two skilled 7-footers a problem. C8

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|