The Los Angeles Clippers officially turned over a new leaf Tuesday afternoon as the league reported that Steve Ballmer’s $2 billion bid to buy the team finally closed.
NBA announces Clippers’ sale has officially closed, Steve Ballmer takes over control of team. pic.twitter.com/aiax9kwZQ3
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) August 12, 2014
The NBA, not entirely satisfied with simply pushing Donald Sterling out of the league, went on the offensive on Monday by throwing down a countersuit of its own.
NBA files counterclaim against Donald Sterling, saying he caused devastating harm to the league http://t.co/cnpYy3gvsE
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) August 12, 2014
The announcement had been forthcoming since Judge Michael Levanas made the verbal ruling on July 28 in favor of Shelly Sterling completing the sale. All that was needed to make the sale final was Judge Levanas’ ruling submitted in writing, which he apparently did at midnight.
While the only bullet left in Sterling’s chamber is going after damages, this move shows that the league expects the money to be flowing in the other direction. The filing says the former Clippers owner caused the NBA “devastating and incalculable harm”. The league wants the court to enforce the indemnification afforded by the NBA’s constitution and granted by Shelly Sterling in May. Part and parcel of the indemnification is reimbursement by Mr. Sterling for everything from investigating the original comments made to V Stiviano on the original TMZ tapes to the lawsuit that ended in July.
With the shadow Sterling cast over the NBA the last five months, it’s no surprise people are co-basking in the feel-good of his absence like a crowd at a music festival. The Clippers sparked it all with the hashtag “#ItsANewDay”.
From there, a wave of euphoric dominos began falling. Ballmer himself finally got to speak publicly for the first time as the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. From the official team press release:
“I am humbled and honored to be the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers,” Mr. Ballmer said. “Clipper fans are so amazing. They have remained fiercely loyal to our franchise through some extraordinary times. I will be hard core in giving the team, our great coach, staff and players the support they need to do their best work on the court. And we will do whatever necessary to provide our fans and their families with the best game-night experience in the NBA.”
As if the last few months never happened, reports that Doc Rivers would begin working with the team on a contract extension surfaced within hours of the news.
Yahoo Sources: Steve Ballmer, Clippers president/coach Doc Rivers will engage soon on contract extension talks. http://t.co/MBAJHT7SnR
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) August 12, 2014
This is huge for Clippers fans. The man who led the team–and the organization, really–through the initial chaos wants to lock down his future weeks after the media painted him as having one foot out the door. You get the feeling that the potential for where he and Ballmer can take the resurgent franchise is unlimited.
“This is an amazing new day in Clippers history,” Clippers President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Doc Rivers said. “I couldn’t be more excited to work together with Steve as we continue to build a first-class, championship organization. I am already inspired by Steve’s passion for the game, his love of competition and desire to win the right way and I know our players and fans are going to be inspired as well.”
Chris Paul: “I am very excited about Mr. Ballmer’s purchase of the Clippers. I’ve had a chance to meet him and his excitement for the game of basketball and our team is going to be great for the league, the city of Los Angeles and Clipper fans everywhere.
Blake Griffin: “Today is a great day for the Clipper organization and fans everywhere. I look forward to having Mr. Ballmer as an owner and continuing our pursuit of a championship.”
Still, knowing that the team’s coach stars will be mentally at ease entering the season only fuels the expectation to improve on a second-round playoffs exit. Especially when taking into account that they–Rivers and Paul in particular–were unfairly saddled with the responsibility of putting their faces on the whole mess, as CBS Sports’ Ken Berger points out.
The countersuit is a wonderfully aggressive move by the NBA. If it were up to Donald Sterling he’d stick around to suck every dollar he thinks he deserves from the league. Instead, the new Adam Silver regime wants to firmly expunge his name from the record after the league allowed him to linger for far too long. And they want him to go out from the lowest low. Sure, the idea of Shelly Sterling sticking around as a pretty significant part of the franchise removes an exclamation point or two. Bomani Jones summed it up well in a pair of tweets:
shelly sterling negotiated championship rings AND THE TITLE “CLIPPERS NO. 1 FAN.” they gotta introduce her like joe dimaggio, too???
— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) August 12, 2014
i’d much rather the nba be stuck with the shame of the monster it enabled than watch them make a hero of shelly sterling. but that’s me.
— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) August 12, 2014
Jones overlooks how much the league needed Shelly Sterling on its side to have Donald Sterling removed in an orderly fashion. It was a classic “lesser of two evils” scenario, and while championship rings and “Clippers No. 1 fan” may be a bit overboard, the NBA rightly and happily used her to its advantage.
Most importantly, as the NBA takes over the legal battle with Sterling, the Clippers organization can finally focus solely on basketball and ESPN predicting them to finish third in the West.