Mark Heisler: Farewell, Donald Sterling; Good Luck Steve Ballmer, you’ll need it

first_imgEditor’s note: This is the first weekly NBA column by Mark Heisler for the Los Angeles News Group. Heisler has covered the NBA for more than 30 years and is among a select few writers honored by the Basketball Hall of Fame with the Curt Gowdy award.Donald T. SterlingSterling World Plaza Beverly Hills, Calif. 90210Dear Donald,Forgive me for being out of touch. As you know, a lot can happen for someone over the course of an offseason.So, how are you? What do you mean, “I’ll be back?”Back where? To the Clippers? You sold them?How in the name of ‑ I’m trying to think of the worst sports owner of all time but let’s face it, it was you ‑ Donald T. Sterling could that happen?Oh, it was all a big misunderstanding?Well, I’ll bet they brought a pretty penny. …Two billion dollars?That’s two hundred billion pennies. You’re telling me someone came up with five times what Forbes said they were worth, and $500 million more than the Lakers were worth?(Of course, the Laker price has gone up by $1-2 billion. A consortium of Laker fans might get up $10 billion to get them out of the Buss kids’ hands.)Wait, I’ll get a pencil: B-A-L-M-Y. … Oh, OK, B-A-L-L-M-E-R.What can I say? Parting is such sweet sorrow with someone who’s meant as much ‑ two easy columns a year since my first piece in 1988 when I sat courtside next to you and your guests, Roseanne Barr with then-husband Tom Arnold, who was yelling back and forth at some fan.To drop the schtick for a moment, last spring’s fall from what little grace you had prompted enough stories to suggest that your life wasn’t just an amusing pratfall but a tragedy all around. Worse, if there was one common theme, you were as help-proof in life as in the NBA.I’ve got it! How about buying joining the ownership group seeking a team in Seattle? There could be a hole in their financing with Balmy … err, Ballmer out of the picture.Where else can they find an owner with your NBA experience and billions?Always,Mark HeislerSteve BallmerLos Angeles Clippers1111 S Figueroa St.Los Angeles, CA 90015As the greatest Owner Upgrade in sports history, you must be up to here with people fawning all over you, so I just want to say one thing:I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!I can’t tell you what it means to have someone with your intelligence, your resources, your gravitas. …Oh, oh.That’s not you in that Youtube video titled “Steve Ballmer going crazy,” running back and forth at a Microsoft presentation, hopping up and down and uttering blood-curdling cries, is it?Clipper fans haven’t seen anything like that since Stanley Roberts tried to run the court on a fast break.But, hey, this is a time of hope and new beginnings. You just bought the greatest fixer-upper of all time.This is like a vacant lot at Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive … except it’s better. Given the miracles that built the present team in Donald’s last years ‑ even as he continued running off or losing the people who did it from Mike Dunleavy to Neil Olshey to Vinny Del Negro ‑ it’s like a stunning new high rise at Wilshire and Rodeo!There’s just one hereditary problem. … Almost no one knows you’re here.The media covers you thoroughly, although not as maniacally as the Lakers. You have signature fans ‑ Billy Crystal, Penny Marshall, James Brooks, Clipper Darrell ‑ just not very many. There are enough fans to fill Staples Center, if courtside seats are $700, or $1,800 less than the Lakers.Aside from that … crickets.Pathetic as they are with enraged fans base alternating between scapegoats ‑ Jim Buss (old faithful), Kobe Bryant (selfish, get him out of here), Carlos Boozer (play Ed Davis), Jeremy Lin (remember the good old days with Steve Nash?), Mike D’Antoni (oh, right, he’s gone) ‑ the Lakers are the elephant in the room of local sports.Hits on Lakers stories outnumber those on Clipper stories 8-1 on local news sites. Lakers game radio broadcasts outdraw Clipper broadcasts by 9-1.It’s not just your problem but an “everyone else in town” problem. A Lakers exhibition story last month got more hits than that day’s Dodger-Cardinals playoff game.Finishing ahead of the Lakers (by 11 and 30 games the last two seasons) is easy, as is kicking them around on the floor. You can put up a shining, functional organization in place of the old haunted house but that won’t do it either.You have to win titles. That’s how the Lakers got where they are, by winning 10 since 1980, which is why nothing but No. 11 will ever satisfy their fans.Everyone needs a challenge. You remember when you guys turned the pre-Microsoft world on its head?That was nothing.Yours, like it or not,Mark [email protected] on twittercenter_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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