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MARK HEISLER / ON THE NBA

Clippers' Donald Sterling still a wonderment

Clippers owner never ceases to amaze in his upside-down approach to his team and the league as he juggles contentious issues.

March 25, 2011|Mark Heisler
  • Owner Donald Sterling watches the Clippers play against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center on Sunday.
Owner Donald Sterling watches the Clippers play against the Phoenix Suns… (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / US Presswire )

Donald T. Sterling

Sterling World Plaza

Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Dear Donald,

I wanted to say hi before it gets hectic with the Lakers in the playoffs and you making plans for the lockout as the hawk most likely to shut the league down for as many years as it takes.

I know you've been busy too, with the Elgin Baylor trial, and the upcoming Mike Dunleavy arbitration.

By the way, even though everyone else was surprised, I found your testimony that you didn't really know who Elgin was when you hired him totally credible.

It also showed me how genuine you're being, as opposed to having been prepped.

An eighth-grader could had done the prep and if you said you barely knew who Elgin was, he could have filled you in.

One of the first great NBA superstars?

Half of the great Lakers tandem of "Baylor and West?"

(Jerry West was another all-time great who played with Baylor.)

Wait till they hear your testimony in the coming arbitration case of Mike Dunleavy (Clippers coach, 2003-2010) that you didn't fire him, he quit!

According to you, Mike stopped coming in, while, coincidentally, the team announced it would "sever ties" with him, justifying your cutting off his pay, guaranteed contract or no, if he wasn't doing anything to earn it.

Who comes up with legal strategies for you? You?

I actually want to talk about the team.

You do remember you have a team.

The Clippers?

Many losing seasons?

Staple of late-night comics, like Jay Leno ("You know the only thing that hasn't changed in 17 years? The Clippers still ")

As you may or may not remember, your team now has all these great young players with Blake Griffin (No. 1 pick, 2009), the best you've ever had.

As you may or may not remember, your guys haven't had a great season, by normal standards.

By recent Clippers standards — in which your star is hurt before the season, signs with someone else, or both — it's a major turnaround.

If 28-45 sounds modest enough, that's one win from your three-year high!

Better yet, since starting 5-21, they're 23-24, counting Friday's loss after chasing the Lakers (big guys around here, purple and gold, many titles) to the wire.

Your guys have not only been competitive for three months, they've done it while you moved Baron Davis (don't ask), his contract and tsuris, lowered your 2011-12 payroll to about $15 million under the salary cap assuming, of course, there's a 2011-12 season with Chris Kaman (No. 1 pick, 2003) missing 45 games and Eric Gordon (No. 1 pick, 2008) missing 26.

Oh, and the lower bowl and most of the upper bowl are sold out the rest of the season so, as always, you're in the money!

Sly boots that you are, I know you know who Blake is, you're committed to keeping him and confident he's committed to staying.

Actually, Blake needs to see some things go right, but you've always been confident your star was committed.

Of course, every last one of your stars, from Danny Manning (No. 1 choice in 1988) to Elton Brand (star of your 2006 playoff team) left.

Not that any of this is a surprise around here, knowing you as we have.

It's like Mozart (famous composer) in "Amadeus," hearing what he thinks is drivel written by his friend, Salieri, who's anxious to know what he thinks.

"One hears such sounds," offers Mozart, "and what can one say but … Salieri."

On the other hand, how in the name of Sigmund Freud (Viennese psychiatrist, father of modern downtown Beverly Hills) can you expect Blake to regard this as a legitimate operation when he sees you heckle Davis one day in court against one of the NBA's all-time greats the next and the day after that in arbitration against the coach you ostensibly fired, who you claim quit?

One sees such a world upside down and what can one say but … Donald!

You da Don,

Mark

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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