When Donald Sterling bought the Clippers, then based in San Diego, there was a lot of speculation that a move to the then Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim was imminent. The Angels and Ducks along with the NBA franchise would have rounded out a very nice sports trio in the O.C.
That however was not to be.
Despite great crowds and enthusiasm in what is now called the Honda Center for Clippers pre-season games Sterling chose to go further North. The collective yawn from the surrounding area and the fact that the Clippers, which Sterling bought for $12.5 million, are now worth $297 million according to Forbes suggest Sterling was right.
Let's digest that figure for a minute. In a little under 30 years he made $284.5 million. Nice return on his investment, right?
Sterling takes a lot of heat here in Los Angeles. He has been accused of being racist, a slum-landlord, absentee-owner and generally just an odd dude. Call him what you want, the $284.5 millions says that he knows what he is doing, loud and clear.
Sure, some knuckleheads fall into money. They scratch the $1 ticket one minute and are shopping for Maybach's the next. Most of those knuckleheads lose what they "earned" however. Sterling didn't lose it, he grew it.
Say what you want about Sterling, but he is a good businessman. Scoreboard.
Recently Sterling sat down for one of his very rare interviews with T.J. Simers of the L.A. Times. He opened some eyes when he said, "How long am I going to live? Forever? I will do whatever it takes. I think the Clippers can pay more than any team in America. We have unlimited resources. I'd be thrilled to pay [$121 million as the Lakers will do this season] and do it tomorrow, if I could only sign quality players who warranted it."
Coming from a man who at least was categorized as a penny-pincher in the past, this was a revelation.
Over the last few years, however, it seems that Sterling has in deed been putting his money where his mouth is.
For years the Clippers didn't have a dedicated practice facility. Now, they have a $50 million dollar state-of-the-art two story building to work out in. Shockingly, Sterling opted not sell naming rights to the property.
It's not the "Church's Fried Chicken Clippers Practice Facility" or even worse the "Vagisil Clipper Training Facility". Don't laugh, could have happened.
Instead, all we see on the facade of the impressive building is a huge Clippers logo. Classy.
The Clippers began to spend money on free agents as well. First Cuttino Mobley in 2005 and most recently Baron Davis.
Most shocking of all, the Clippers actually had a shot at Kobe Bryant. Sterling says that Kobe told him it was a done deal, he was going to be a Clipper. A day later Jerry Buss saved his franchise by convincing Bryant to stay in Purple and Gold.
Clearly, there was a shift in Clipper-land.
Results were immediate with a run to within one game of the Western Conference Finals in 2006. Sadly, doom and gloom followed.
Thankfully, however, we are now faced with a new reality Clipper fan.
We no longer have an aloof un-interested owner. We have one who has publicly gone on record as saying, "I can visualize a Clippers parade, I'm telling you, I will win. I promise you that. I will find the combination."
Add to that a G.M. apparently freed to spend money and sign the right players and a core group of young quality players and you have the makings for an L.A. revitalization.
Which brings me to the most important thing the team has going for them. Location.
Los Angeles is a draw. We have the beach, the movie stars, the mountains a short drive away and Hollywood an even shorter drive away. Movie stars want to be athletes and athletes want to be movie stars.
L.A. is the place to be.
Dwight Howard recently said “L.A. is a fun place to play, except when you play the Lakers.”
Remove the anti-Clipper dig in the statement and the team has its calling-card when the free agent signing period begins.
The truth is that L.A. loves a winner. Staples was jumping in 2006—not for the Lakers but for the Clippers. Bring a stud to this team to join a great supporting cast and you will have the city behind you!
Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, heck even Mike Miller—LA is a fun place to play!!
With the Clippers one of only a few teams with enough money to lure one of these stars (or a few Mike Miller types) it's time to prepare their plan of attack. Sure we have the aforementioned owner who wants to win, G.M. with money to spend, a core group of quality players along with a coach who has coached in the NBA Finals before, but that's not why you need to sign here 2010 free agent.
Sign because L.A. is the place!