Trans. Sep 22 5:50 ET (Sep 22 5:50 ET ) When Donald Sterling's racism scandal grabbed national attention during the first round of the NBA playoffs last spring, it put the coaches and players of the Los Angeles Clippers in an awkward position. With Sterling disgraced and not yet banned from the league, the team itself was forced to represent the interests of a despicable man while simultaneously attempting to carry out a lifelong dream of winning a title. It was particularly tough for head coach Doc Rivers and stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, who were all expected to wrestle with their own uncertainty in public as often as media members required. In a new interview with GQ , Griffin speaks about the difficulties of that moment and the more general issues of playing for Sterling. He is quite forthcoming, and here's a sample: When the draft lottery came out and the Clippers said they were gonna draft me, I went to Google to find out more about the Clippers, because I didn't know a lot. And I was like, "Okay, team owned by Donald Sterling." So then I typed in "Donald Sterling" in Google, and the first thing that pops up is "Donald Sterling racist." And I was like, "Whoa!" So obviously I explored that, read a whole bunch of articles, read the deposition at one of his court cases. Which was awesome, if you ever have time to read some of the depositions. [laughs] [...] After you get drafted, and you're reading this stuff—is there any recourse for a player in your situation? No. Not at all. I mean, what was I gonna do? And for five years with the team, it was fine. Nothing came out. Nothing happened. I never really saw him that much. I saw him right when I first got drafted. I had to go to a couple of events that he does, which was awful. [...] Would you guys commiserate about working for someone like that? No, we really didn't. Guys would tell different stories about their interactions with him. And then when all this came out... We heard that it was gonna come out the day before it came out—our coach told us—and this is during the playoffs. We were up in San Francisco, in a team meeting. And because we didn't know exactly what was said, we were just kind of like, "Oh, okay, well, whatever." And then I remember waking up Saturday morning to, like, twenty texts. This is 7 a.m. And then, throughout the day, just bombarded with texts about it. I ended up turning my phone off, because we were trying to focus. [...] How did you feel, listening [to Sterling's rant]? It was unfortunate. I mean, for me, like I said, the first thing I ever Googled about the man, the first thing that popped up was "racist." So I was aware. I hate to say this, and it might sound ignorant, but I wasn't surprised that all this came up. Not necessarily the manner in which it was said, or the exact things, but like I said: This was my first impression of him. [...] It's doubly complicated. because some portion of that sale price is you. It's value that you imparted to that team. Yeah, but that's how it works. I'm more than blessed to be able to play a PE sport for money. [laughs] That's what it is, when you break it down. I get paid to go do something that I enjoy doing, and, I mean, yeah, [Sterling's] gonna make a lot of money, but I've been fortunate to make a good amount of money as well. It's not like I'm like, "Man, I should have been given a cut of that!" Again, these quotes are just a sample of Griffin's thoughts — he also speaks about the Clippers' internal meetings during this period and the extent to which it distracted them during the playoffs. Through it all, though, what comes across is that he didn't really consider Sterling's behavior to be out of the norm, because that's just who Sterling is. It's a nice reminder that what was notable about this scandal is that anyone actually acted on it — not that Sterling professed certain views. These issues were known for quite some time. Yet Griffin accepted his relationship with Sterling as a fact of playing in the NBA from the very beginning. This point isn't especially surprising, if only because the four-time All-Star doesn't seem like the most politically motivated person in the world, but it does say something about the reality of suiting up for a professional sports team. No matter how much Griffin and other stars make off the sport, owners will always eventually make much more from a sale of the team no matter how thoroughly they bungle things during a single scandal or in general (Sterling did both, of course). The fact that fans pay to see Griffin and other great players is immaterial to the issue at hand. It's really no wonder that he would not attempt to dig into this relationship too deeply, because it would probably make anyone question the sanity of the structure of the business. Of course, Griffin is doing just fine for himself, and the rest of this interview proves why . Visit GQ.com if you want to learn about his plans to pursue a career in comedy and various other aspects of his Hollywood lifestyle. In the grand scheme of things, it's hard to feel too bad for the guy. - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric
The Scoop:The Cavs open their training camp this week and LeBron appears to be ready. He and Thompson have been pretty close this offseason, but the two aren't likely going to be on the court together very often while the team is healthy. LeBron's durability makes him your best bet for the No. 2 pick in standard drafts.
By Larry Fine NEW YORK (Reuters) - A spate of late withdrawals, a serious injury to Paul George and several marquee names missing appeared to put Team USA under a cloud for the 2014 Basketball World Cup and for future international competition. Instead, a group of sharp-shooting NBA regulars were unbeaten in Spain and produced a 129-92 victory over Serbia in the final to underline the depth the U.S. Stalwarts LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul were missing from the initial training camp, with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin bowing out late in the process before Indiana forward George broke his leg in training and could now miss the NBA season.
The NBA regular season schedule came out Wednesday, all 1,230 games. Even with live streaming and an empty DVR ready to be filled up, I’m not going to watch all of them. Nobody will watch all of them. That said, there are some great games coming up. Homecomings and rivalries, plus just matchups of great basketball teams. You can’t watch them all but there are some you can’t miss. Here are my 10 can’t miss games of the NBA season. Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers, Oct. 28 There are sub-plots to watch here, Jeremy Lin playing against his old team and Dwight Howard getting booed again by Lakers fans… but that’s not why any of us will be watching. Kobe Bryant will be back on the court for the Los Angeles Lakers and any time he steps on the court we watch. Right now we will be watching because we’re not sure what Kobe we will see, how much he has left in the tank, but we will watch. He is one of the all-time greats. Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls, Oct. 31 You could argue that the first games for these teams are bigger — LeBron James ’ first game at home in Cleveland, Derrick Rose ’s return to the NBA comes in Madison Square Garden — but this is the first of four meetings between the two best teams in the Eastern Conference (on paper) and that is worth seeing. Cleveland has more talent but the Bulls have an identity and players that fit it. To be fair, this game will not mean much if/when these two teams meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, but it’s our first glimpse into what could be one of the best rivalries of the next five years in the NBA. Cleveland Cavaliers at San Antonio Spurs, Nov. 19 LeBron’s last team got smoked by Tim Duncan , Tony Parker , Kawhi Leonard and the gang in San Antonio, so LeBron went out and got some new teammates like Kyrie Irving and soon Kevin Love . This should be interesting, although the Spurs will play their same system and know exactly how to execute it while it’s going to take the Cavaliers some time to figure it out. Milwaukee Bucks at Minnesota Timberwolves, Nov. 26 Once the Kevin Love trade goes down (and it will), this game becomes the first between No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins and No. 2 pick Jabari Parker . Both rookies are in situations where they should get a lot of minutes and plenty of touches. Both are going to get the chance to grow in the spotlight Cavaliers at Thunder at Oklahoma City, Dec. 11 LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant . The two best players on the planet go head-to-head and the best part about these match ups is they often guard each other. It is a true head-to-head matchup. Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami Heat, Dec. 25 LeBron returns to Miami for the first time in a Cavs uniform (this time around, anyway). You can expect he will get a warmer reception than the vitriol thrown at him four years ago when LeBron in a Heat uniform came to play the Cavaliers. Now all of that is forgotten. Miami is going to be a pretty good team and one that wants to keep playing the space and pace offense. We’ll see how LeBron does against it. Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers, December 25 This is the game to watch on your new 60-inch smart TV you just got for Christmas. This if the final of five games on the Christmas Day slate and it should be a very entertaining one. There will be lobs, dunks and rainbow threes. Stephen Curry vs Chris Paul . David Lee vs. Blake Griffin . Klay Thompson vs. J.J. Redick . This is the game Santa is bringing die hard NBA fans. Cleveland Cavaliers at Minnesota Timberwolves, Jan. 31 Kevin Love returns home to Minnesota. It will be interesting to see how he is received — it won’t be exactly with open arms and a dozen roses, but I doubt the booing will last all game, either. Also in this game, Andrew Wiggins gets a shot at LeBron. Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs, March 25 Well done by the schedule makers putting these two teams against each other a couple times late in the season (they also face off April 7). These might be your two favorites to win the NBA title (not what the bookmakers say, the actual favorites), they were the two best teams in basketball at the end of last season. The interesting question is who Gregg Popovich sits for both of these games. Los Angeles Lakers at Toronto Raptors, March 27 I just hope Steve Nash can play one last game in Canada. Nash is one of the great point guards of all time and the best Canadian player ever, I hope his body lets him play one last game in his home country. -- Kurt Helin, ProBasketballTalk.com
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Clippers officially transferred ownership from Donald and Shelly Sterling (against the former's wishes, of course) to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Under normal circumstances, the sale would have won headlines for the record $2 billion purchase price. Instead, the focus is mostly on the fact that Sterling, finally an NBA pariah after years of mismanagement and bad behavior, has been removed from ownership following the racist comments that surfaced this April . Months of court cases and vague agreements are now over — the Clippers, at long last, have a new owner. The mood of the day is understandably one of relief. Soon, however, Ballmer will have to distinguish himself for something other than his non-Sterlingness and set a new course and tone for the franchise. To that end, he and the franchise sent an email to fans on Tuesday announcing the beginning of a new era. Take a look at the full message below: To the Clippers Family - You may now have heard that this morning I officially became the owner of your Los Angeles Clippers. So as my first official communication, let me say thank you for continuing to support the Clipper organization. We are now looking forward to an exciting new season and I can't wait to experience the opening tip off with you. Today marks the beginning of a new era in the life of our franchise. It also is the culmination of a dream that I have harbored for many years. To Coach Rivers, to our fantastic players, and most importantly to you, the dedicated fans that make this all possible, I pledge this: I will be hard core in my commitment to give the team the support it needs to be its best on and off the court. And I will do whatever is necessary to provide you, your family and friends with the best game-night experience in the NBA. The Clippers franchise is a true public trust, and my goal is that the Clippers will play an ever-increasing role in the life of our community. We will achieve this goal the same way we will succeed on the court: By waking up every day and figuring out how we can be better - how we can do more - how we can ensure that the Clippers organization is not only winning on the court but also making a real difference in the community. That is the challenge I set not only for myself but the entire Clippers organization. Please join me for our Fan Festival , on Monday, August 18th at the STAPLES Center at 12:30 p.m. to celebrate what promises to be a bright future! Sincerely, Steve A. Ballmer In many ways, this message is a fairly standard reach-out to fans, even if announcing a Monday afternoon fan fest with six days notice could only have been dreamed up by a retired multibillionaire. The difference, of course, is that Ballmer's situation is pretty much unprecedented. On an obvious level, he must inspire faith in the franchise's management after a years of disreputable ownership and more recent controversy. Additionally, most new owners don't take over contending teams. It would make little sense for Ballmer to announce his commitment to building a winning team, because the Clippers already have that squad in place. Instead, he makes it clear that he will turn the Clippers into an organization worth supporting, not just the employer of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. In Ballmer's eyes, he will not have succeeded if the franchise does not represent the community in a respectable fashion. The final verdict on that goal will come in several years, but there's already reason to suspect that achieving it will be difficult. As part of the sale agreement, the Clippers have afforded Mrs. Sterling a number of amenities and luxuries, including two courtside tickets for every home game, "owner emeritus" status and an official designation as "Clippers No. 1 Fan." Aside from the fact that the Sterling-owned Clippers tried to cut ties with the man who was actually their No. 1 fan , the fact is that keeping Mrs. Sterling close to the franchise does little to suggest that the team has turned an ethical corner. While the last few months have cast Shelly Sterling as an acceptable party if only because she was sane enough to want to sell the franchise, she has her own deplorable history of racial discrimination and has enough remaining ties to her husband to raise questions about the suitability of having her sit courtside for any game she chooses. It's nearly certain that Sterling would not have agreed to sell to Ballmer without these concessions, but it's a shame that she has kept any association with the franchise. It's possible that Ballmer himself sees Sterling's involvement as a necessary evil and will create an environment so toxic to her presence that even this notoriously shameless family wouldn't dare show up. Yet the mere existence of this issue indicates just how much work Ballmer has to do to win the public trust. The Sterlings have done enough damage that merely replacing them won't be enough — Ballmer can't expect a hero's welcome just because he's the new guy. As his email says, there's a lot of work to do to make the Clippers a respectable part of the community. We must wait to find out if Ballmer will make the hard decisions required to make that happen. - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! 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