Basketball is back tomorrow night, but Clippers fans will have to wait a little longer to see Matt Barnes bricks once more. In the meantime, let's link.
Steve Ballmer was profiled by the Los Angeles Times yesterday, and we have some choice passages ripe for the reading:
While his record $2-billion acquisition of the franchise last May understandably has occupied much of his time recently, the post-corporate Ballmer has other imperatives as well. Prime among them: deciding how he can best apply some of his fortune — estimated at $22.5 billion, making him 21st on Forbes' list of wealthiest Americans — to the myriad problems facing the nation and, not coincidentally, his newly adopted city.
Ballmer also has refocused on fitness (targeting a dozen-pound reduction from his nearly 6-foot, 232-pound frame), crowded his calendar with golf (in "burst modes" of up to 36 holes a day) and returned to long-lapsed Hebrew studies. A decades-delayed bar mitzvah party seems more certain, at least for now, than an NBA championship fete.
Although he's as vocal and outspoken as you can get on the court, Ballmer has stayed out of basketball ops off the floor.
Though he's a long-time NBA fan, and is knowledgeable about many players, he hasn't pushed personnel moves, and talks to Rivers just once a week for about an hour. In fact, Rivers said he would welcome more opinions from his new boss, a man who paid more than three times the previous record price for an NBA team.
The one unusual request Ballmer has made was that his coach help write a series of principles. The resulting one-page "Clippers Credo" preaches the sort of "HARD CORE" devotion Ballmer and Gates had espoused since Harvard. A sample offering on "Toughness": "We play all-out, committed, competitive basketball. Nothing will be easy for our opponents." Others might hear platitudes, but Ballmer argues "optimism can be a force multiplier."
And you can expect him to turn it up (Big Baby style?) Thursday night, since he's got some bad blood with the Thunder too. You know what they say — the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
The owner is thrilled the Clippers' first opponent this season will be the Thunder, the team that abandoned Seattle for Oklahoma City. He knows it's just one game. But he wouldn't mind a little payback.
"There is some juice that comes with that," Ballmer said, beaming. "There definitely is some JUICE!"
#Juice will probably be trending at some point this season. And speaking of juice, Ballmer's going to be saving a lot of it in the coming years. I'm not talking about the new lights, but rather the tax writeoffs he might have available to him in the coming years.
Billionaire Steve Ballmer bought the Los Angeles Clippers in August for $2 billion, but he could write off as much as half of that amount in taxes by 2030, according to an analysis by the Financial Times.
A tax break for owners of sports franchises would let the ex-Microsoft CEO claim about $1 billion of the team's purchase price from the taxable income he makes over the next 15 years, said the report, published Sunday in the London newspaper.
The difference between the value of the company's assets and what the purchaser paid for it is the key to the tax breaks Ballmer may be able to take: "Under an exception in US law, buyers of sports franchises can use an accounting treatment known as goodwill against their other taxable income. This feature is commonly used by tax specialists to structure deals for sports teams. Goodwill is the difference between the purchase price of an asset and the actual cash and other fixed assets belonging to the team."
Most corporations can't charge for goodwill, but sports franchises are an exception.
Meanwhile, Beckley Mason previewed the Western Conference for the New York Times, and he gives the Clippers a vote of confidence as a challenger to the incumbent heavyweights:
Unseating the Thunder and the Spurs means overcoming incomparable talent or surpassing a culture and a system 15 seasons in the making. Getting ahead of either team can be compared to running a marathon at a full sprint.
The Clippers appear best suited to challenge for the top spot. In terms of talent, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, now in their third season together, are the best one-two punch this side of Durant and Westbrook. The Clippers should also enjoy a measure of continuity. With the disgraced former owner Donald Sterling gone and Coach Doc Rivers in his second season, the Clippers have established an identity but have sputtered in the playoffs, when the stress and intensity of the postseason can cause even the most talented teams to crack.
He also offered this interesting nugget when referring to the Warriors and Grizzlies:
Each of these teams faces major questions and must be careful that efforts to address weaknesses do not backfire. Improving at the margins is difficult because a roster that can win 50 or more games usually has no glaring weaknesses.
Although the path forward is fraught with potential perils, these teams are far from being in a bad position. An analysis of teams that won 55 or more games from 1976 to 2011 by the economist David Berri showed that 83 percent of them had won at least 50 the season before. That is why all these teams can credibly claim to have a shot at the conference finals this season. The only thing more difficult than making the leap is getting in position to jump.
The Clippers also need to improve a little at the margins right now. One of their glaring weaknesses that was exposed in the preseason is their horrific rebounding — something that needs to change if they want to have a successful regular season.
"I don’t know what they are, other than rebounding," Rivers said when asked his areas of concern. "That was it coming into the year, that’s still it. I thought it was a miracle, personally, that we did what we did last year with the way we rebounded. I was worried about it all year, worried about it going into the playoffs. It’s hard to win games when the other team keeps getting the extra shots.
Rivers said two of the issues are dribble penetration and guards leaking out and not staying around to help on the defensive boards.
"I think we kind of pass off the responsibility sometimes and try to take it for granted, like, ‘I might not box out here, someone else is going to get it,’ " [Hawes] said. "You want to be in the situation where we’re fighting each other over rebounds, and that’s how aggressive everyone is going at it.
On the other hand, coaching is an area where the team is already making major strides, improving chemistry and communication.
"It’s not football." Jamal Crawford wasn’t just stating the obvious for a group of reporters before Friday’s 99-89 loss to Portland in the Clippers’ exhibition finale.
No, Crawford was talking about the Clippers’ assistant coaches, and their willingness to collaborate. Sure, the offensive stuff is mostly Mike Woodson’s responsibility. The defense? That’s Lawrence Frank’s baby. Sam Cassell mostly works with the guards. But because "it’s not football," the Clippers’ assistant coaches are free to pitch in whenever they see something.
"I honestly think it’s the best collection of coaches I’ve been around – or even in the league. I think we have a great staff," Crawford said. "… It’s great because none of them have egos. You can see them talk about things. It’s good dialogue to watch."
Meanwhile, there's also a nice little piece on Hedo from last week by Dan Woike.
Rivers saw an opportunity, and Turkoglu, on the fringes of the league at 35 years old, had plenty of motivation to get healthy over the summer.
"We made a deal this summer. I told him at the end of the year he’s back if he’s in shape. That was my deal," Rivers said. "He came back in great shape, put some muscle on – you know, for Hedo. A muscle. It’s all relative. He looks great. I’m really happy."
Turkoglu probably can’t help the Clippers at small forward. "He’s kind of aged into a four," Rivers said. But the Clippers have started using the veteran at his natural position at times in practice, preparing for the off chance they need him there.
FlyByKnight will have a preview of the upcoming season out tomorrow, but Doc Rivers already touched on his main point: the West is gonna be hella tough, man.
"Every night, I think every team in the West knows one loss could be the difference between a three seed and a six seed," Rivers said. "You've got to be mentally prepared for this year and I expect it to be historically hard."
Also from the article:
The Clippers did not practice Sunday but were scheduled to hold what Rivers described as a one-hour shoot-around. The coach said he wanted his team to have intense practices Monday and Tuesday before backing off a bit Wednesday in an effort to stay fresh for its opener against the Thunder.
Rivers said practicing too much during long layoffs between games can have its drawbacks.
We'll end today with something to stir up the warm fuzzies. The Clippers went out over the weekend and did some team community service, starting a grassroots movement and building a base of support for the primaries next... whoops, wrong spectator sport.
"We know everyone’s not doing great. You can lend a helping hand with your name, with your money, with food, with clothes and with support," Coach Doc Rivers said. "It’s important. It brings up the morale in a family, and a confident, happy family does that. This is just a feel-good thing. When players come out, they feel better than the people who are actually receiving things. They feel better. They feel more enriched when they leave."
Rivers said forming a stronger bond with the community they call home has been a priority in the early stretch of Steve Ballmer’s ownership.
"That’s something we want to do better. It’s something Steve Ballmer, from the day he took over, talked about," Rivers said. "We don’t just want to play for the community; we want to be a part of it. We want to join and do what we can to help him."
Anyways, there's only one day left, so be strong, citizens. It's almost time.