NEWS OF THE MORNING
Sale price of Clippers shocks the world | Spurs smart enough to fear what they know | Welcome to West’s neighborhood for Game 6 of Heat-Pacers | Curry on board with Kerr, still getting over Jackson firing
No. 1: Clippers $2 billion sale price causes sticker shock — Stunning. That is the only way to describe the sale price of the Los Angeles Clippers, a robust and record $2 billion from would-be-owner and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. As if the Clippers’ saga couldn’t get any crazier, word leaked out Thursday evening and the reaction from the Southland and beyond has been a collective dropping of jaws that the Sterlings (Donald on the sidelines according to reports and his wife Shelly as the point person) are going to make off with billions. Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times provides some context:
The Clippers curse has been at least temporarily swallowed up by the Clippers purse, which was bulging with Thursday’s news that the team has been sold to former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.
Leave your jaw on the floor. It’s all true. The Clippers. Two billion bucks. No NBA championships. Two billion bucks. No appearances in the conference finals. Two billion bucks. No league most valuable players, no Staples statues, and no real national love until their owner became the most disliked man in America. Two billion bucks.
We all know how Donald Sterling feels about blacks. Now we’ll find out if he has a higher opinion of green.
The deal was brokered by Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling and, depending on whom you ask, may need approval by her husband. Donald Sterling has been banned from the league for making racist remarks on an audio recording that also led the NBA to vow to strip his family of ownership.
Representatives for Donald Sterling have claimed that he won’t give up the team without a fight, but here’s guessing that getting $2 billion for a team that cost him $12.5 million in 1981 — a team he mostly ran like a true Clip joint — would be enough to convince him to slink away.
The NBA would have to then approve Ballmer as an owner, but here’s guessing that would also not be a problem considering he was already vetted last year when he was part of a group that attempted to buy the Sacramento Kings.
So the good news is that there are now 2 billion reasons for the Sterlings to disappear. But the uncertain news is, what does that price mean for the team they are leaving behind? In other words, are the Clippers really worth $2 billion? How on Earth can even a brilliant former Microsoft boss crack the code to make this kind of deal work?
No. 2: Spurs smart enough to fear what they know— A healthy dose of fear of the known has served Spurs coach Gregg Popovich well. It’s what makes the reigning NBA Coach of the Year the mastermind that he is and will continue to be, as long as he’s willing to try any and everything to put his team in a position to win games. Popovich is the only man who could get away with benching a season-long starter for a guy who hasn’t started all season and no one question him or his methods. Well, even if they did question him, he wouldn’t care. Pop’s shake-up — he started Matt Bonner for Tiago Splitter in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals and then changed again, starting Boris Diaw for Splitter after halftime — lasted one half. But Pop’s genius endures, as the great Buck Harvey of the Express-News explains:
On Thursday Popovich moved “these athletes” around himself. Maybe the only coach who could get away with benching his starters in Game 4 is the only one who could start someone in Game 5 who hadn’t started all year.
On other teams, Matt Bonner would have signaled chaos. On this team, where Popovich tried 30 different starting lineups during the season, this was common stuff.
Still, it was startling to see Bonner trot out as The Adjustment. The lineup of Bonner, Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Duncan played 27 minutes together during the regular season. And here they were walking out together for the pivotal Game 5 of a conference finals?
Bonner was never meant to be the game-changer. If he threw in a 3-pointer and got the crowd going, fine. But his job was to be what Popovich needed to counter Serge Ibaka, which was to have a stretch 4 on the floor for the entire 48 minutes.
Still, this was more than strategy. This is what the Spurs have been for years, and this gets back to their smartest, as well as their oldest. Duncan and Ginobili.
They’ve both been through a lot of playoff series together. And this one, with five blowouts in five games, all won easily by the home team, is unusual.
“It’s the craziest series I’ve ever been involved in,” Duncan said.
Forgive him. He’s old. He forgets the way it was in 2005 when he and Ginobili won their second championship together.
Then, in the Finals against the Pistons, they won two one-sided games at home only to be overwhelmed in the next two in Detroit. Ginobili, on the podium Thursday, referenced it.
The lasting image of Game 4 in Detroit: Popovich sitting on the bench during the Spurs’ 31-point beating, a hand on one of Duncan’s knees, trying to bring him back to life.
The following Game 5 was nothing like Thursday; Robert Horry saved them in overtime. But belief was as in question then, and Popovich leaned on the same emotional edge he leaned on in this one.
The message to his team: You cannot match their ability, so you have to be consumed by every pass, every switch, every possession.
That Spurs team needed to win one more game, just as this one will, and it was mostly about Duncan and Ginobili then. Both were in their prime, with better physical ability than they have now, but the Pistons’ force scared them to another level. When they won Game 7 at home, as this Spurs team likely will have to do, either could have been the Finals MVP.
No. 3: West welcomes Pacers and Heat to his neighborhood for Game 6 — David West knows the antics from Lance Stephenson during the Eastern Conference finals have dominated the headlines. No more. It’s grown up time for the Pacers if they have designs on stretching this series to their preferred seven games, the final battle on their home floor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, should it come to pass. As NBA.com’s own Steve Aschburner points out, West has been the man for the Pacers in this instant before in these playoffs. And he’s more than ready to do it again:
It might be time, however, for the Pacers to put away childish things. And look to their resident grown-up,David West.
West is about as far removed from Lance Stephenson as anyone on the Indiana roster gets. West doesn’t blow in opponents’ ears in a juvenile attempt to get under their skin. He has been known, though, to cast a withering glare in some guys’ direction, the intent behind it – along with West’s burly 6-foot-9, 250 pounds and New Jersey no-nonsense roots – understood and wisely heeded.
West doesn’t yap, either. He chooses his words carefully and doles them out sparingly, such that they resonate way beyond the motor-mouths’ banter. Usually his message is loud and clear before he utters a word.
This is Game 6 coming up, West’s killing field twice already in these 2014 playoffs and the moment that, unless it belongs to West, might not belong to the Pacers.
“It’s not something I go out and look to do,” West said of his Game 6 performances against Atlanta in the first round and Washington in the East semifinals. “It’s part of how the game goes. Sort of what the moment dictates.”
Those moments dictated desperation. Against the Hawks, Indiana was right where it is now: down 3-2, on the road, its season in jeopardy. The Pacers had fallen behind 84-79 in the fourth quarter when West had had enough – he scored 12 of his 24 points in that period and sparked the 16-4 run with which Indiana closed the game .It was the power forward’s first double-double of the postseason.
Against Washington, the circumstances weren’t quite as dire: Indiana led 3-2 in the series. But the precocious Wizards had blown out the East’s No. 1 seed in Indianapolis by 23 points and were gaining confidence. West and the Pacers didn’t want lose at Verizon Center and have to put their home court to the test.
“My message to [teammates] was, ‘Just come to me,’ ” West said that day. “Ultimately I wanted it to be on my shoulders. If we lost this game, I wanted it to be on me.”
So West scored 29 points, hitting 13-of-26 shots, the most field-goal attempts he’s ever taken with Indiana and his most, period, since he was playing for New Orleans in 2009.
Said Indiana center Roy Hibbert: “He’s a veteran player who’s been through it all. He exudes a lot of confidence and he’s very contagious.”
No. 4: Curry on board with Kerr, still getting over Jackson firing — Stephen Curry is a team-first guy, so there was no way he was going to make noise about the hiring of Steve Kerr as coach. That doesn’t mean he’s over the firing of former coach Mark Jackson. They had grown close during Jackson’s tenure, Curry became an All-Star under Jackson’s tutelage. Carl Steward of the Bay Area News Group has the details:
Curry, who has been quiet on Jackson’s firing and Kerr’s hiring except for a brief interview with Bay Area News Group columnist Marcus Thompson II, said he already has had three or four phone conversations with Kerr and is eager to meet him face-to-face once Kerr’s analyst assignment with TNT for the NBA Western Conference finals is over.
“A lot of it is just outlook on the locker room as it is now and what his vision is for us next year going into the season,” Curry said. “So not much details have been talked about, but I think in the coming weeks we can sit down — as I’m sure he will with most other guys on the team — and talk about expectations and what his style of coaching will be. We’ll be able to adjust and hopefully be good to go.”
Curry said he has talked to all of his teammates since Jackson’s firing, which occurred almost immediately after the Warriors were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Clippers in seven games. He acknowledged that residual bitter emotions still exist.
“I think the feeling was how quick things happened after the season — it was kind of a shock,” he said. “It takes some time to kind of respond and react. Obviously, they made a semi-quick hire, but I think as the summer goes on, we’ll kind of remove ourselves from last year to next year, and it’ll be fine.
“It’s just tough, though — there’s no sugarcoating it. It was a weird, expedited situation that we didn’t see coming, and guys as humans have to be able to adjust to it and have some time to respond.”
Curry confessed he personally did not deal well with the sudden severing of ties with Jackson, especially after pleas to management that he be retained.
“That relationship will never stop,” he said. “He did a lot for me as a player and as a person. It’s emotional, for sure, to see that come to an end.
” … Obviously, we have to focus on next year and grow under Coach Kerr, hopefully even more. But it’s tough to kind of react to that, especially so soon after Game 7 — fighting, fighting, fighting trying to win. So I just try to take it a day at a time and then one day come back to training camp, talk to Coach Kerr all summer and try to figure out how to make this team better, because that’s going to be the mission.”
Curry said as long as the Warriors organization continues to be committed to winning, he wants to remain with Golden State.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Timberwolves are talking to Vinny Del Negro about their coaching vacancy … Grizzlies, Joerger in a good place … It’s up to the Wizards, but Andre Miller is eager to return to Washington … Donald Sterling is the most hated person in America? … Clippers sale is a win-win for everyone involved … Alvin Gentry interviews today, Lionel Hollins Saturday with Cavaliers … No one is laughing at Lance Stephenson‘s clown act, not the Heat or Pacers …
ICYMI of The Night: They have written his obit several times the past few seasons. But like a good rash, Manu Ginobili keeps coming back. The Spurs’ veteran looks refreshed against the Thunder, as he did in Thursday’s blowout in Game 5 …