Everyone who studies the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA) know the Los Angeles Clippers has been the model of futility ever since the franchise was founded in Buffalo back in 1970. There was even a time, back in 2000, when the Clippers were known as the “the worst franchise in sports history,” according to the cover of a Sports Illustrated issue. Donald Sterling, who has been the team’s owner since 1981, has sat and watch the organization produce bad team after bad team, making people wonder how this man can still hold the position of an owner. Playing in the same city, and arena (the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles), as the highly successful Lakers doesn’t help matters. With all of that said, it appears the Clippers are turning the corner and are even on the verge of becoming a team that can contend for a title for years to come, if the last two seasons are any indication. Players such as power forward Blake Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan have turned out to be good draft picks to build around. The biggest addition came when the Clippers were able to acquire point guard Chris Paul before the start of the 2011-12 season in a trade with the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans). In the two years after Paul got there, the Clippers have experienced success that included winning their first Pacific Division title in franchise history this season. We’re about to enter the summer, where Paul is expected to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. This season ended in a disappointing fashion for the Clippers, who were bounced out of the first round in six games by the Memphis Grizzlies. That, more than anything else, probably led to the firing of head coach Vinny Del Negro, but Sterling pretty much said otherwise when asked about Del Negro’s departure. Sterling, in so many words said it’s a player’s league and players have to be made happy if teams want to win. Whether or not that was a shot at Paul can be interpreted either way, but Paul was reported to be less than pleased with Sterling’s statements. It remains to be seen whether or not this causes Paul to leave the Clippers, but it certainly didn’t help matters. Sterling hasn’t been known to be the best, or smartest, of owners since he’s been in charge of the Clippers, but I don’t think he was saying anything that would be considered alarming. Conventional wisdom would say whatever the front office does stays in the front office, and the players have to adjust to whatever happens, but I don’t think the general public is that naive to think it goes down that way. The players are the employees, and if they’re the ones who directly deal with the working conditions put forth by the people in the suits. Therefore, you would have to ask your employees how they feel about certain situations. I do agree with Sterling the NBA has become a league for the players, but hasn’t it been always about the players? I guess the only thing Sterling could have done better was keep whatever conversations that may have happened between Paul or the other players and himself more private. If that’s what Paul is upset about, I can understand it because a person wants to keep some things private. With that said, it’s no secret Paul and Del Negro wasn’t always on the same page, and the franchise player probably will get asked for input on decisions, such as who he wants as the coach. I would like to believe Paul had nothing to do with Del Negro getting fired, but we just never know these days. As for Sterling, you can’t blame the man for being honest, but maybe this is one of those occasions where saying nothing could have been the best policy.
By Charles Taylor