It has often been said that the Los Angeles Clippers' own worst enemy is Donald Sterling.
The team's irascible owner was relatively quiet last season. At least by Sterling's standards. He was back at it again this summer, however, pulling one of his signature moves. As reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Sterling rescinded his previous approval of a three-team trade that shipped out Eric Bledsoe and allowed the club to acquire J.J. Redick via sign-and-trade. It happened in the early afternoon hours of July 3, 2013:
It didn't matter the news had broken 24 hours earlier of the Clippers sending Bledsoe and Caron Butler to the Phoenix Suns with the Suns' Jared Dudley and Milwaukee's Redick, on a four-year, $27 million contract, joining Los Angeles. It didn't matter the public had been praising Doc Rivers' first deal as the new senior vice president of basketball operations and coach, that Rivers and general manager Gary Sacks had given their word to teams, agents and players that this was a finalized agreement.
Soon, Roeser hurriedly delivered Sterling's declaration to Rivers, his ultimate “welcome-to-the-Clippers” moment.
This had been the kind of dysfunction that frightened prospective executives and coaches of Sterling, an eccentric, often illogical man long used to undermining and bullying staff he had often kept on short, low-money contracts.
And with that, Sterling left for a Fourth of July holiday vacation at an undisclosed beachfront resort. It was the owner at his best, which is everybody else's worst. The deal eventually found its way back on track before July 11, which marked the beginning of free agency and the first day all deals could be announced, but not without all the powers of persuasion that the newly arrived Rivers could bring to bear. Welcome to L.A., Doc.
Owner of the Clippers since 1981, Sterling has long been one of sports most perplexing figures.
He famously heckled Baron Davis from his courtside seat. Yes, Davis was playing for the Clippers at the time.
Zen master Phil Jackson offered his own point of view, talking about karma and all things humanitarian when asked about Sterling:
Things seemed to turn around when Chris Paul joined the team. Sterling was not only gracious but filled with pride when Paul was named All-Star MVP last season. The Clippers have evolved from a punchline to one of the league's true contenders. The hiring of Doc Rivers added another huge piece to what could be a championship puzzle. And then this.
You are who you are. Sterling has shown that he can still blow things up, without apparent reason, and at a moment's notice. The news about the trade that almost wasn't, will fade away. It will become just one more chapter in a strange, ongoing saga. Let's hope Sterling backs off during the regular season, and allows Rivers and a thoroughly talented team, to do their thing—free of restraint, interference and general craziness.