Turns out Blake Griffin did more than just work on corner 3s this offseason. Yesterday he was added as a senior editor to Derek Jeter's staff at the fledgling Player's Tribune. He joins Danica Patrick and Russell Wilson as superstars who will contribute to the site, whose mission statement is to give athletes an unfiltered voice and give them more agency in connecting directly to fans.
After discussing the subject in his recent GQ interview, Blake used his new platform to expand on his relationship with Donald Sterling, and also proved that he's probably a better senior editor than our own Fearless Leader. There are a lot of interesting nuggets in his editorial, and I highly recommend you read the whole thing. Here are a few excerpts:
On his first impression of Donald Sterling:
When I knew the Clippers were drafting me, the first thing I did was type Donald Sterling's name into Google. The first hit that came up was "Donald Sterling is a racist." I read an article on how he didn't want minorities to live in his apartment buildings. My first thought was, Wow this guy is really, really a racist ... how is he an owner of an NBA team?
My second thought was, Wow, these articles are from 2003 and 2008. I guess everybody already knows about this stuff and just doesn't care.
As players, we're not supposed to really care about anything but basketball. We're just supposed to perform. To be honest, I didn't ever really think about bringing up Sterling's past. What was I supposed to do? Just picture me at the press conference my rookie year. "Uh ... hey, guys, before we talk about today's game, did you happen to see that investigative report on my owner?"
On Sterling heckling his own star, Baron Davis:
The incident didn't make SportsCenter. It didn't even make the local papers. If you're wondering how a known racist can own an NBA team without anyone batting an eye, first ask yourself how the owner of an NBA team can scream at his team's best player in front of thousands of people and hundreds of cameras without anyone even caring.
On the difference between Sterling and Steve Ballmer:
Donald Sterling didn't care if we won - at least if it meant he had to spend money. It wasn't just about spending money on players. For years, our training staff wanted to buy this sophisticated computer software that would let them scan our bodies and keep track of our progress throughout the season. Sterling wouldn't sign off on it.
When I walked into the training facility for the first time this summer, the entire vibe was different. People were smiling. From the security people to the game operations staff to the office staff, everybody seemed happy to be there. For the first time ever, they were on permanent contracts. Under Sterling, all the staff were on temporary contracts. Top to bottom, everybody just appreciates being appreciated now.
When I walked into the trainer's room, the staff was going crazy. They showed me the new body scanning software. Ballmer signed off on it Day 1.
And I would be remiss if I didn't include his killer conclusion (I need to ask him to do some ghostwriting for me):
It's little bit ironic to me that the media has tried to turn Ballmer into a meme when they turned a blind eye to Sterling for years. Steve is a good dude. He's like a cool dad who gives you candy. Donald was like a weird uncle.
Someone asked me the other day if I'm mad that he made out with $2 billion for selling the team. Maybe a little bit. But in the end, I'm just happy he's gone. I think about him pulling me around the White Party in Malibu, and a saying comes to mind: "Some people are so poor, all they have is their money."
To be fair, I have to include espnW's recent feature on fellow editor Danica Patrick, whose article was apparently mostly ghostwritten. I'm assuming Blake's was done the same way, where he got final editorial control and redid certain segments to better represent his voice. Deadspin also took the site to task yesterday, pointing out that while these may seem like groundbreaking pieces, they're actually not very substantive and more the product of marketing hype than a paradigm shift. The Player's Tribune is actually run by Excel Sports Management, with Jeter serving as the figurehead (Griffin and Patrick are both clients of the firm). So while it's a lovely website, we should remember that it likely won't live up to whatever expectations we might have set for it.
In more traditional journalism, new Clippers owner Steve Ballmer got his fair share of coverage too. He's on the cover of the most recent issue of BusinessWeek, discussing the transition period after he was let go by Microsoft and his previous attempts at breaking into the fraternity of NBA owners.
When Microsoft finally settled on company veteran Satya Nadella as the next CEO, Ballmer was free to stop watching TV and get on with his life. He went to golf school. He took Hebrew lessons at a synagogue. He started teaching at Stanford. And he received an e-mail from an Allen & Co. banker, giving him a heads-up that the Milwaukee Bucks were for sale.
The Bucks didn't seem like much of a prize, until Ballmer realized that Milwaukee was closer to Seattle than all but seven other NBA cities. He flew there and took a six-hour chauffeured tour of the city. "I can tell you the suburbs and where they are," he says. "I can tell you where the malls are. I can tell you who's good in high school basketball. I can tell you where I would have lived. I went to a game, flew home, and figured out what it was going to feel like to fly home after a game that ended at 10, 10:30 at night."
He's apparently also worked with Doc Rivers on a new 'Clippers Credo':
It's a one-page document full of corporate-inspirational language about teamwork and integrity. "It doesn't say we're going to win," Ballmer says. "At the end it says, ‘We will not disappoint.' " In typical Microsoft fashion, the Clippers polled 1,000 people in Los Angeles about the Credo, which may get released at some point. "It polled well, as authentic and important with the audience," Ballmer says. "We've got to walk that walk. We've got to walk it on the court. We've got to walk it off the court. We've got to walk it in community."
ESPN's Ramona Shelburne also profiled Ballmer, and she also uncovered a lot of interesting quirks about our new owner.
A math whiz at Harvard, where he lived down the hall from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Ballmer seems to process the world as a problem set.
He made a seven-point plan to deal with retirement. He keeps a copy of a 14-point plan that his friend Stanton gave him on his tablet, which is of course, a Microsoft Surface. He begins, as if he were presenting a PowerPoint:
• "You aren't going to save the world, but it doesn't hurt to try a little bit.
• "It's easier to invest in an existing not-for-profit than start a new one because most of them are small businesses that fail.
• "Most sports teams are poorly run small businesses."
Both interviewers bring up the other Los Angeles team, although Ballmer doesn't seem to think that trying to usurp them is an important or even necessary goal: "We want to be the best team, not just around here but in all of the NBA." But the truth is that the Clippers' brand is growing rapidly while the Lakers' stock is waning to some extent. Depending on how the next decade or so plays out, the Clippers could absolutely take over as the dominant NBA franchise in Southern California. That's the gist of the latest gem of an article from Clippers blogger emeritus Kevin Arnovitz:
Fifty-two percent of NBA fans in Los Angeles call the Lakers their favorite team. The Clippers draw only 12 percent. Kobe Bryant is the favorite of 55 percent of those fans, while Griffin checks in at 4 percent. Those numbers will move in the coming years -- and they already are. The Clippers clocked in at only 2 percent to 3 percent just three seasons ago, while the Lakers have tumbled considerably from 70 percent. But turning Los Angeles into a Clippers town still might not occur in Ballmer's lifetime.
What will that take? Aside from hanging some fabric alongside the sleek new LED fixtures at Staples Center, Griffin evolving into an iconic star. As the old trope goes, the NBA is a superstar league and the Lakers' dominance is as much an expression of Magic and Kobe as it is the rings. Bryant will soon retire, and when he does that 55 percent will come off the board and it's Griffin's for the taking if he can parlay his crossover appeal into broad approval.
Meanwhile, Clips Nation favorite Joe Ingles might not be getting a lot of shine on the hardwood, but rest assured that our Jingles is blending in just fine off the floor:
"They don't really understand anything I say," Ingles joked. "DJ and Blake are probably the worst at mimicking everything I say. They enjoy making fun of Australian accents." Griffin even admitted to a poor imitation of Ingles.
Doc Rivers joked about communication issues with Ingles as well, but it was all in fun. "There are times. It's English, I think. Right?" Rivers said with a laugh. "It's English spoken from Australia. I guarantee you there are things I say that he doesn't understand. It's a two-way street. I would think that's to his advantage. If he doesn't understand everything I say it would make him a better person."
Ingles said he's received help from nearly everyone. Teammates will pull him aside in practice and help him. J.J. Redick has offered dining advice. And, of course, there are Griffin and Jordan, who do their best to sound like him.
"We normally understand everything he's saying," Griffin said. "We definitely make fun of his accent. I might've been the first one to break through that barrier. It's not a very good accent, but it's fun to joke (around)."
And joking aside, Griffin likes what he's seen from Ingles on the court. "I love his game. He has a lot of experience and just knows the games, the ins and outs," Griffin said. "He's crafty. He uses his size and experience well."
Hopefully Ingles can give back to the rest of the team too, maybe by helping a certain big man put a little touch on his free throws? It seems like DeAndre's already doing what it takes to improve; he told the Los Angeles Times that he's taking a 100 free throws after every practice.
But Doc Rivers is a lot less concerned about that than about the Clippers' rebounding struggles, a crucial component if they want to improve defensively:
Rivers suggested that Jordan's dominance in that department might actually work against the Clippers. "Sometimes I think they assume that DJ's going to get it," he surmised. "You can see that on film. A shot goes up, and everybody's gone except for DJ. Like, 'DJ will get it.' Well, he can't get them all, so we have to be a better rebounding team, clearly."
The team isn't overly concerned about their lackluster preseason performance, but that could be because they don't agree on how to fix the problem...
When asked what the Clippers can do to tighten up their defense ahead of the 2014-15 campaign, Chris Paul said, "Get better."
Matt Barnes' advice? "Relax."
I'm sensing a few locker room tensions here... keep an eye on this, folks!
We'll round up today's Clipper with a few broader notes. Sheridan Hoops recently got the chance to interview the new head of the NBPA, Michele Roberts. She's already got some strong opinions, it seems:
CS: "Your thoughts on the max salary?"
MR: "I have difficulty with rules that suggest that for some reason, in this space, we are not going to allow you to do what is ordinarily allowed in every other aspect of American life - you can work and get compensated at the level that someone thinks you're worth being compensated at. And for all the reasons that it might be reasonable, it still - as a base - the premise offends me. So for me, there needs to be a justification that is substantial. And I'm told that in large part it's because there's an inability on the part of some owners to control their check-writing habits."
CS: "Are you going to opt out?"
MR: "We are preparing to opt out. I mean it's not my call, because unlike Billy [Hunter] I don't think I run the union. This union is run by the executive committee, I serve at their pleasure, and I do what they command I do. I advise, and I will recommend. But at the end of the day, it's not Michele Roberts saying to the executive committee: ‘Look, guys, get ready. We're opting out.' It doesn't work that way. So it's not my call, but in the event the call is made, we will be ready. And we are preparing to opt out."
I'd also like to recommend anyone with a lot of time on their hands to check out this incredibly comprehensive report on the history of racial tensions and discrimination in Ferguson, Missouri, and how those created the polarized climate we're seeing there today.
But of course I couldn't end a Daily Clipper without a Goat of the Week (Zach Lowe, you're off the shit list now). Today we've got columnist and sports editor Matt Anderson from the Journal Review out of Crawfordsville, Indiana. He's got a weekly column which he decided to use today to preview the upcoming season.
It starts out alright, apart from his suggestion that Paul George is currently a top-5 player. I can let that one slide, I'm sure he's got some homer bias there. The real issue is when he starts to preview the other side of the country, whose basketball teams he doesn't seem to be as familiar with...
So, the Spurs will win the Southeast and the Thunder will win the Northwest. The Pacific goes to Golden State. Golden State really doesn't have much competition with Phoenix, both Los Angeles teams and Sacramento. That division will be a better race for second place than anything. The Lakers, Clippers or Suns could wind up second.
So, from top to bottom, the seeds will be San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Golden State, Portland, Houston, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix and Los Angeles Lakers.
-.- ... -_- ...
sigh... That'll be it for today.