Ballmer’s imaginative and prescient for the brand new constructing is for it to be crafted with basketball expertise as the first focus. There have been scant public particulars in regards to the challenge, which might be constructed on 23 acres of largely vacant land. The positioning would come with not solely an 18-20,000 seat enviornment, but additionally a follow facility, crew workplaces, sports activities drugs clinic, parking amenities and extra.
“It’s in regards to the means to get it proper,” mentioned Ballmer, the billionaire and former Microsoft CEO who purchased the Clippers in 2014. “We’re not placing hockey within the constructing. I don’t suppose most individuals know simply how massive a distinction it could possibly make to not have hockey. You get all people nearer to the ground. The sightlines are so much higher. We’re speaking about how a lot leg room to provide individuals, how a lot width. I like vitality. I need individuals pumping and thumping within the seats. However you’ve nonetheless received to have some bars and golf equipment.
“We’re making an attempt to drag you again in. Some buildings, for my part, attempt to push you out a little bit bit to the bars and golf equipment. Then it’s extra of a unique sort of social expertise. We’re making an attempt to help each. However we wish individuals who actually love the sport within the constructing.”
The brand new enviornment would offer the Clippers with an identification they merely haven’t had, one thing that sharing area with the Lakers and their 16 championship banners has all the time overshadowed.
Ballmer took over a crew that had stars on the roster — Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan — and within the teaching and entrance workplace ranks with Doc Rivers. They had been profitable and going to the Western Convention playoffs whereas the Lakers had been on the draw back of the Kobe Bryant period and lacking from the postseason image.
And but the Clippers nonetheless needed to battle historical past and picture issues in a metropolis dominated for generations by the Lakers and their prevalent fan tradition, one that’s pervasive within the Southland and past.
Ballmer needs to solidify the Clippers’ identification exterior the Lakers’ shadow, which he says can solely be completed in “our personal home.”
“I believe we made some progress since Blake, DeAndre and Chris,” Ballmer mentioned of the crew’s former stars, every of whom have moved on in trades or free company. “We had a profitable crew principally since these guys got here to the Clippers. We modified the blokes, however we’ve by no means been the massive canine on the town. Now there’s just one different city in America the place you may have two NBA groups and that’s in New York. So for me, it was a complete different expertise in Los Angeles.”
Ballmer lives in Seattle, however found his love for the sport as an 11-year-old in suburban Detroit, watching the Pistons and witnessing the appreciation the hometown crew and its stars had been afforded from native followers.
“For me rising up in Detroit, it’s the Pistons. It’s all the time the Pistons,” Ballmer mentioned. “However in L.A., it’s important to give it some thought otherwise. Not solely will we play in the identical constructing, we don’t have the championship pedigree. So what, we’d like our personal home. We’re going to outline our personal identification, in our personal home.
“We’d prefer to construct a crew that’s robust, aggressive, hard-playing guys. I’m not saying each crew doesn’t have some side of that. However I need that to be our tone … robust, aggressive, gritty and resilient. And I believe it’s important to give individuals their very own home to go and do it. We’re doing all of it, the follow facility and every part. And in 2024, we’ll be the latest stadium on the market.”
That doesn’t imply Ballmer is ready on 2024 to subject a aggressive crew. The Clippers are 32-27 in possession of the eighth and closing playoff spot with 23 video games left of their season and Ballmer says, charging forward with plans to carry on to that postseason berth in any respect prices.
Even after buying and selling Tobias Harris to Philadelphia in a six-player deal on the commerce deadline, a deal that netted the Clippers property together with rookie guard Landry Shamet, the Sixers’ personal 2020 protected first-round Draft choose and an unprotected 2021 first-round choose from the Miami Warmth, Ballmer mentioned the aim stays the identical this season.
Ballmer loves the roster the Clippers have now and loves the method of continuous to construct the basketball aspect as a lot as he enjoys being immersed within the enterprise aspect.
“Can I exploit an analogy? And I don’t wish to take it too far,” Ballmer mentioned. “Placing collectively the roster is a little bit bit like product growth in every other enterprise. Yeah, you’re going to promote and also you’re going to promote it. However how do you get that proper product, the attractive product the Microsoft Floor or the X-Field and even to opponents to Microsoft, the iPhone. You actually wish to … and it’s not straightforward. You’ve actually received to suppose it by way of. All the particulars matter.
“It’s enjoyable. It’s a little bit tough. The opposite factor, I suppose I kind of knew, it’s not like you may have invite flexibility. Individuals prefer to say, ‘Simply go construct your roster.’ However it’s actually sort of intelligent. You must determine all of this out. How does the Draft work? How does free company work? How does the commerce course of work? Free brokers. Drafts. Trades. How are you going to use the instruments? It’s not like you possibly can commerce for anyone within the league. However earlier than you become involved [as an owner], it’s like ‘Commerce for anyone, rent whoever you need, signal no matter free agent you need. I’m all the time going to get an excellent draft choose.’ And that’s simply not the way in which it really works.”
Having fewer levels of freedom forces you to be much more insightful, Ballmer mentioned. It’s additionally what retains his kinetic vitality on full blast.
“I beloved it earlier than, I like it now and we’re most likely a little bit extra versatile now,” Ballmer mentioned, “however we’re in it now. We’re competing for the playoffs as a result of that’s who we’re. We’re by no means going to not compete. I do know another groups have taken some steps again. We purchased ourselves a little bit extra flexibility. I’m glad to see our guys doing properly now that they’ve moved on. However I really like the blokes on our crew. We have now 23 video games left and that’s 23 video games we’ve received to kick some [expletive] to make the playoffs.”
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Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You’ll be able to e-mail him right here, discover his archive right here and comply with him on Twitter.
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