Watching the Lebron/Wade/Bosh press conference, you hear the word "family" referred to about 100 times. And it's not in reference to their families or their hometowns (especially for Lebron) but in reference to the organization. You have Lebron talking about Riley and Mickey Arison as family, as welcoming, and as a close knit bunch. Makes you realize how important that sort of feeling is to an organization, and to attracting free agents. It truly does start from the top.
Now we all came into this from a basketball perspective, seeing the talent we had, and the gaping hole at SF. But what really did in this pitch from the first place? The organization.
Miami, Los Angeles, Boston, New York, these are vibrant cities that attract free agents. Cleveland was very much hurt in their pitch to Lebron James because they couldn't bring players to Cleveland, in part because Cleveland isn't a very desirable city. Bosh wanted no part of it despite the fact they had pieces. (I also think this trio was decided long before July, but Cleveland as a city did detract many stars from going there to play, so the organization had to rely on a good players on bad teams like Jamison & Williams.)
But one thing Cleveland does have is an organization. Dan Gilbert just recently took over that town but has shown a willingness to spend despite the city's drawbacks. Many people see Gilbert's letter as immature and with little thought. While that is true, what stands out to me, and most Clipper fans, is the passion. Gilbert is so passionate about winning, that even when the chips lined up sending Lebron out of town, it made him nuts when it actually happened because he wants to win so bad. In that regard, I am not so worried about Cleveland, and I do think they will bounce back, though not to the contender status they once were. Why?
Because it all starts at the top. Gilbert is establishing a winning atmosphere, and that will spread to the entire organization, just like Riley established it in Miami, and it spread to the entire organization. Arison owns the Heat, but he's smart, and let's the basketball side of the franchise run the show. In effect Arison, by enabling Riley, has spread that winning atmosphere. Jerry Buss has established it here in Los Angeles, mainly backed by a brilliant basketball mind in Jerry West that constantly built winners, and now Kupchak, who operates under West's blueprint and knowing that he has his owner's confidence. And I have no doubt Prokorov will also establish this winning atmosphere. Once this atmosphere sticks for so long, it forms a bond that the entire organization cherishes, and makes it a family organization.
I look at the talent the Clippers have. I have no doubt the team will start winning more games. I have that sense that Blake Griffin is a winner, even VDN feels like a scrappy guy to me. Gordon, our kids, a lot of them are winners that are use to winning. The main reason our 06 run was so successful? We brought in Cat Mobley and Sam Cassell. Winners. They temporarily gave the team that feeling.
But. It all starts at the top, and the feeling dried up because of the overwhelming patriarch of the organization. Sterling has opened his pocket book and given fans fake claims of winning, but do we believe him? This guy who just had a dispute paying mdsr? This guy who, in our latest coach's selection, may have interfered with what the basketball side of our organization wanted? (Even if he didn't, the fact that so many of us believe that or that it's been written and we believe it, speaks for itself.) I'm very optimistic about Neil Olshey, but has Sterling already extended his hand over him in terms of what he wants to build? And how can any major free agent want to come to this team after the Sterling Stench has permeated it for so long?
We all know the only answer to get out of this rut: start at square one. Build talent through the draft, win despite Sterling, and convince players that we can win. This is a winning situation. We want you to win with us. Come to sunny Los Angeles and start something new.
The pitch all sounds great, and I do think we will get to a point of winning. But that winning atmosphere? That sense of family? It needs to start at the top.
And for decades, despite flashes of hope, Sterling has shown how much the top trickles down.