A judge has ruled that Shelly Sterling can sell the Los Angeles Clippers, presumably to Steve Ballmer, but no matter, whoever ends up owning the Clips will be a big improvement over Donald Sterling.
Meanwhile, Jerry Buss is still dead.
Which means the seismic shift of Los Angeles basketball continues. The Lakers once had one of the league’s best owners, while the Clippers clearly had the worst. Now the Lakers have one of the league’s worst owners, while the Clippers are freed from those shackles.
And ownership is a mighty important thing.
Ownership has proven to be more valuable than geography in the NBA, and that has played out in Los Angeles. The Lakers long have eclipsed the Clippers. One was the NBA’s greatest franchise. The other the NBA’s worst. Despite playing in the same city, with the same resources, same building, same weather. But vastly different results.
Primarily because Sterling was a doofus and Buss was a sharp businessman who knew how to leverage his advantages.
Even when the Clippers lucked into being good — the No. 1 overall pick in Blake Griffin, who has become a superstar, and a trade for Chris Paul, available only because David Stern nixed a CP3 trade to the Clippers — they couldn’t stand prosperity. The Clippers the last three years have won just two playoff series and were burdened last spring by the scandal of Sterling’s racist comments.
But as the Sterling era ends in LA, his one shining legacy is that his franchise finally overtook the Lakers. The death of Buss 17 months ago has left the Lakers rudderless. Buss’ son, Jimmy Buss, has run the franchise aground. The Lakers are saddled with a terrible contract for Kobe Bryant — two years, $48 million — with no other prime pieces. The Lakers figure to rank somewhere around 13th in the 15-team West.
Meanwhile, the Clippers at least are a West contender, and while no one knows what kind of owner Ballmer might make, anything is better than Sterling. The Clippers are equipped to contend for the foreseeable future, and we can quit hearing the hollow threats from the likes of Paul and Doc Rivers, saying they didn’t know if they could continue working for Sterling, even though both signed on with Sterling when there was nothing veiled about the caliber of his character.
Now the Clippers can focus on being the kings of Los Angeles, a thought that once was absurd but now is reality.