Donald Sterling Had No Idea About Elgin Baylor’s Playing Career

We’ve been all over Donald Sterling watch here at LBS, so we weren’t about to let another fantastic story slip through the cracks. The lawsuit former Clippers GM Elgin Baylor has brought against the team alleging age discrimination is now being heard. On Tuesday, Sterling testified in court and gave some responses that should come as no shock to anyone who’s followed his story closely.

Asked about hiring Baylor initially, Sterling said he had no idea about the Hall of Famer’s legendary playing career and accomplishments. The LA Times’ Lance Pugmire described the exchange between Sterling and Baylor’s attorney:

“You didn’t know about his basketball career?” Baylor attorney Carl Douglas asked Sterling in his first day on the stand as Baylor’s wrongful termination civil lawsuit against the team continued at a Los Angeles courthouse. “His accomplishments? The Hall of Fame?”

“No,” Sterling answered. “… I didn’t know that. I hired him for $3,000 a month. I didn’t really know what his role was…. He was working in a mail-order company back then.”

Ordinarily I’d say there’s some legal strategy behind this denial from Sterling, but I actually wouldn’t be surprised if he’s telling the truth. He was on the stand when he said it, and as a businessman, it’s quite possible he wasn’t a sports fan. We’ve already talked about what a flake he is and how strange he is, so this shouldn’t even come as a shock.

The one area I will defend Sterling for is his patience with Baylor. Few GMs had a worse record than Elgin, yet he kept his job for 22 years. I find it hard to believe there was any discrimination going on — any other GM aside from Isiah Thomas would never have lasted 10 years with such poor performance. Baylor was lucky to be employed as a GM as long as he was, and if anyone should be examined it should be Sterling for leaving him in there so long.

(also via Matt Moore at CBS)

Blake Griffin Is Severely Underpaid by Nike in His Shoe Deal

When Blake Griffin was drafted number one overall in the 2009 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers, he signed a reported 2-year shoe endorsement deal with Nike for $400,000/year.

To the average person, that’s nearly 10 years worth of salary or one year’s worth of free Nike products. To us fans, that seems like an incredible deal, one that we would sign in a heartbeat. But in the world of NBA mega-endorsements and multi-million dollar deals, Blake Griffin is severely underpaid. With his hype and fame skyrocketing higher and higher with each and every dunk, Blake’s value-to-cost ratio is growing.

Looking at the last few draft classes, here are a few examples of shoe endorsement deals for top flight rookies:

Player, Company, Draft year, Position, Contract

Kevin Durant/Nike – 2007, #2 pick, 7-years, $60 million
O.J. Mayo/Nike - 2008, #3 pick, $400,000 per year
Derrick Rose/Adidas – 2008, #1 pick,  $1 million per year
Michael Beasley/Adidas – 2008, #2 pick, $650,000 per year
Blake Griffin/Nike – 2009, #1 pick, $400,000 per year
Brandon Jennings/UnderArmor – 2009, #10 pick, 2-years $2 million
John Wall/Reebok – 2009, #1 pick, 5-years, $25 million

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Clippers Owner Donald Sterling Heckles Baron Davis, Other Players

One of the main reasons the Los Angeles Clippers have been so terrible in recent years is that their rich, racist owner doesn’t care about winning.  We already told you how much it sucks to be a Clippers fan, but being a player is no picnic either.  Sure, losing is frustrating, but how would you feel if your boss was heckling you while you were trying to do your job?  Baron Davis and a few other Clippers know all about it.

According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been taunting his own players from his courtside seat since the middle of last season.  Among the things Sterling shouts are “Why are you in the game?” and “You’re out of shape!”  Davis, who inked a five-year deal worth $65 million two season ago, is said to be Sterling’s main target.

“There’s nothing I can say,” Davis said of Sterling’s taunts. “I have no comment on that. You just get to this point where it’s a fight every day. It’s a fight. You’re fighting unnecessary battles. I’m fighting unnecessary battles. It’s frustrating because I know and my teammates know I’m capable of getting it done, even dudes on the other team. It’s frustrating.”

Baron’s right — what can he do?  Sterling’s a notorious nut job that obviously has no desire to win.  If your boss harassed you on the job and you knew you were going to get paid anyway, why bother trying?  It’s only a matter of time before Blake Griffin figures it out and takes his freakish dunking abilities elsewhere.

UPDATE: Here’s a picture of Sterling appearing to heckle Baron via SI’s Vault.

Nothing Is Worse Than Being a Los Angeles Clippers Fan

There were a number of things you were told not to do as a kid: play with matches, throw food, imitate a teppanyaki chef by horsing around with the Ginsu, shoving burnt sienna and periwinkle crayons up your nose, and most of all,… cheer for the Clippers. It’s the team that time and, for that matter, wins forgot. The Los Angeles Clippers, the unlovable losers of the NBA. There are certainties in life. Among them are death, taxes, and a lottery spot for that other team in LA (ranked in order from most productive to least).

The Lakers get the plaudits, the penthouse suite, the best looking starlets, and the biggest names in Hollywood. The Clippers get a newspaper recap smaller than an obituary write-up for someone’s pet gerbil. They have the keys to the Staples Center tool shed, while Billy Crystal may make a once-a-decade appearance and something called a Penny Marshall wanders into the arena sometimes when the Clippers are playing, looking confused, presumably because of a schedule mix-up. Luminaries who wore the purple and gold like Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Magic Johnson are given iconic status by basketball fans and are bronzed. If they ever make a statue of Michael Olowokandi in downtown LA, the caption should read, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses who can’t afford Lakers tickets.”

But that’s just the thing about the Clippers. Either they have the most humble marketing department known to man, or they believe that Al-Farouq Aminu would cause too much of an alphabet soup of an advertisement. Regardless, for the last decade their promotional campaign has centered on the other teams that are playing the Clip Show. “Come see Deron Williams, Chris Paul, and Dwyane Wade take on 12 guys in basketball jerseys who are above average in height.” Or, “Don’t forget fans, LeBron James is playing the Clippers this season. And you thought he would never take his talents to LA.”

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Clippers Fans Making Pitch for LeBron

Fans need to come to the realization that begging a superstar to play for their team doesn’t work.  Not only that — it couldn’t be more unoriginal.  As millions of basketball fans sit back and wonder what uniform LeBron will wear next season, I find myself growing extremely tired of listening to writers and fans beg The King to sign with their team.  LeBron James is probably the best basketball player on the planet.  What do fans do when their team signs the best basketball player on the planet?  They cheer — loudly.

LeBron’s going to go wherever the money is (to a certain degree since he might have to leave money on the table if he leaves Cleveland) and wherever his agent, his family, and his “people” decide he should go — and the city he settles in will give him as warm a welcome as any of the others on his list of possible destinations would have.  Rest assured, he’s aware of that.  He’s not going to be wearing the colors of the team whose fans stayed on their knees and begged for the longest amount of time.  Apparently the fan base of one of the NBA’s perennial bottom-feeders — the LA Clippers — would disagree with my opinion.  They’ve decided to join the writers and fans of cities like New York and Chicago in pleading with King James to help bring their team to the Promised Land.

According to Arash Markazi’s twitter feed, via Sports by Brooks, Clippers fans have scheduled a LeBron Parade that will take place at 3PM on May 27th across from the Staples Center, before Game 5 of the Lakers-Suns series.  I wonder if they’ll reschedule in the event of a sweep or just accept that it’s not meant to be.  We’ll see.

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How Can the Clippers Screw This Up?

When I heard that the Clippers had won the NBA draft lottery, the first question that entered my head was pretty simple: why? With all the needy franchises out there, those desperate to pull themselves out of the depths of suckdom, why were the Clippers the lucky team to get the first pick in the draft? Having an owner who cares about the success of the team should be like a prerequisite to getting the top pick — that would have automatically disqualified the critters.

It actually wasn’t too long ago when I was raving about the Clippers signing Baron Davis and talking about how good the team would be, assuming they re-signed Elton Brand. Right. So much for that one. They’re probably better off now getting Blake Griffin and not dealing with the achilles-less Brand. While I know some people might already be forming the hypothetical Clippers roster, I’m going to temper my excitement. Sure, a starting five of Baron, Eric Gordon, Al Thornton, Blake Griffin, and then Chris Kaman or Marcus Camby at center looks promising. But it’s the Clippers — they’re like the Murphy’s Law of the NBA — whatever can go wrong will go wrong. Book it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Griffin dropped a weight on his big toe at the gym and were out for the season. Tell me you can’t see that coming.

Thanks to Ball Don’t Lie for the shot of Andy Roesler’s cool jacket. And dude, next time you’re on national TV, go with a different hairstyle, please.

Clipper Fans Counter Sue Elgin Baylor for Drafting Michael Olowokandi

Sorry, I would have added more but then the title would have been longer than the actual post. The real list would have also included taking the likes of Shaun Livingston, Darius Miles, Danny Ferry, Danny Manning, and Reggie Williams with top five picks in the NBA draft over the years. Come to think of it, most people’s lists would have ended at Ferry, because after screwing up that many drafts in a row, they would no longer have been employed. The Clippers have always been a joke of a franchise, known primarily for being the second team in LA that nobody cared about because they had one of the cheapest owners in all of sports. It’s common knowledge that Donald Sterling never thought twice about winning otherwise he would have bought more free agents and actually fired a GM that proved to be as bad as Elgin Baylor was a long time ago.

16 teams make the playoffs each season. That’s like half the league, more than half, actually. Elgin’s teams made it three times in 22 years. They had one winning season in Elgin’s last 16 years and only two under his watch. Baylor’s effing lucky he had a job for 22 years and even luckier if anyone around the office listened to his decision. Screw it, he should have been paying them to rent an office at Staples Center — getting paid six figures was highway robbery. Sure, I’ll listen to arguments that Sterling may have some racial tendencies, but to say he was anything other than generous to Elgin for employing him for 22 years and paying him several hundred thousand dollars a season would be maddening. For Baylor to be suing Sterling under charges of racial and age discrimination is even more maddening. And if things were so bad around the environment and Sterling were a racist, then why would Baylor stick around for so long? Why would he continue to be employed by Sterling for 22 years? That doesn’t sit well with me. As they said at Fark, Baylor better be praying he can find 12 jurors that can’t compute winning percentages otherwise he’s toast. What a joke.