It’s June. Summer begins this week. It’s time for fun in the sun. But for some reason, June in Los Angeles means talk about the NBA teams.
Not because either the Lakers or the Clippers have been in the NBA Finals. Heavens, no. Not because of that. It’s because of outlandish, soap opera-type happenings surrounding each team.
It used to be only the Lakers who stooped into this kind of craziness. The Clippers weren’t good enough for anyone to notice them during the season, much less after. But now the Clippers have proven they are just as good as anybody when it comes to offseason things that make no sense.
But let’s start with the Lakers; they’re still the senior team in L.A., even if they are now the lesser. The Lakers may not be as good on the floor, but they are the champs off the floor.
A lot of the time, it’s not even the Lakers who are making Lakers news. Sometimes other parties do it for them. That’s just how awesome the Lakers are in the offseason.
Of course, a lot of attention is being paid to who the Lakers might take in the first round of the NBA draft. They have the No. 2 pick, their reward for being so awesomely awful.
The team itself really hasn’t said very much about who they might want to choose. That, frankly, is a little surprising, given what blabbermouths they often are in these types of things. But others have done the blabbing for them, particularly an eccentric, peculiar man named LaVar Ball.
Ball has taken the role of pushy dad trying to program his kids into being basketball stars to a new extreme. Ball and his wife Tina have three sons, Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo, three names guaranteed to make your spellcheck go wonky.
Lonzo is the oldest, having finished his one-and-done freshman season at UCLA. When UCLA was heading toward the postseason, LaVar said Lonzo was better than Stephen Curry and later that he was better than LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.
Now since Lonzo, 19, has shed his UCLA coil, LaVar made it known that the only team Lonzo would work out for would be the Lakers and that all the Lakers need to make it back into the postseason is Lonzo.
“The Lakers make the playoffs as soon as my boy gets there,” Ball told the Lakers Nation blog.
The Lakers must be grateful to have someone take over their scouting and personnel departments for free like that.
But Ball isn’t the only thing happening to the Lakers. Suddenly on Sunday, Paul George of the Indiana Pacers told the team he plans to leave when he becomes a free agent after the end of next season and — wait for it — that his preference in free agency is to join the Lakers.
Whoa. The Lakers?! Someone with talent wants to play for the Lakers? Has that even happened in this decade?
George is from Palmdale and at age 27, can still remember when his hometown team was still good (and by “hometown,” I do not mean his Knight High School Hawks in Palmdale, I’m stretching the concept to include his hometown L.A. Lakers), and he’d presumably like to fulfill a childhood dream and be on it.
To the Lakers’ credit (a phrase anyone seldom uses anymore), they haven’t said a word either about Lonzo Ball or about Paul George. They also haven’t said anything about John Ringo.
I was thinking it must be killing the Lakers to keep quiet about these things, but nearly all the people who used to be so gabby — Phil Jackson, Mitch Kupchak, Jim Buss, Mike D’Antonio, John Black, Metta World Peace, Dancing Barry — are gone. Somehow, Jeanie Buss and Magic Johnson have been unable to pry the duct tape from their mouths and have scarcely anything about anything.
CLIPPERS BEING CLIPPERS
Then you have the Clippers. I know the Clippers are just a little short of sensational these days, but I still — and may always — have trouble forgetting their sorry, sordid past, the days when it was all they could do to win 20 games in a season.
The Clippers are making tons of news, both good and bad, both smart and dumb, and we’ll just have to see how it all shakes out.
First the smart: The Clippers have wooed Jerry West away from his post as executive board member for the Golden State Warriors. He worked wonders in his time there, starting in 2011, and the Clippers are hoping he can help coach Doc Rivers and his staff get over the playoff hump they’ve been stuck on for so long now.
Of course, West’s hiring by the Clippers is nearly a slap in the face to the Lakers, for whom West played and guided for decades. But West has been gone for a long time now. He left to be general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2002. But to have him actually come back to Los Angeles and for it not to be to the Lakers is a depressing fact for the purple and gold.
West should help the Clipper immensely. It’s happened with every team he’s been a part and there’s no reason it shouldn’t happen again. West is excited by the next challenge and by being able to work with Rivers and owner Steve Ballmer.
Speaking of Ballmer, we move on to the dumb thing. Ballmer announced last week the Clippers have entered into an agreement with the city of Inglewood to explore building a new arena there. There’s no need to get excited right now, however. The Clippers are committed to playing at Staples Center through 2024 when their lease expires.
But why build a new arena? It seems ridiculous to me that the Clippers, who have never had a good arena deal since they moved to L.A. from San Diego, would all of a sudden think now (or rather 2024) is the time to move.
Anaheim’s Honda Center has practically begged and pleaded with them to move there ever since it opened in 1993. To be perfectly blunt about it, the Clippers would have been much more popular much sooner if they had moved to Anaheim.
And why Inglewood? Just because the Rams and Chargers will eventually be playing football there? The Forum, recently upgraded into a top-notch concert venue, has already accused the Clippers and the city of “backroom dealing,” saying there must be “a real public process that is done in the full light of day with the participation of Inglewood’s residents and many other stakeholders.”
It’s not that the Forum — which for decades was the home of the Lakers and NHL Kings — necessarily wants the Clippers for its own; so far it looks like boxing is about as sporty as the new Forum wishes to be. But any new arena is going to be putting on concerts of its own only about two miles away from the Forum.
If there is anything refreshing about the new arena, it’s that Ballmer plans to pay for the whole thing himself, without any public funds. However, that could make it easier to move the whole thing along without holding it up to public scrutiny.
It’s understandable that the Clippers would like to move out of Staples Center, where they’ve been No. 3 in scheduling priority. But hopping on the Inglewood bandwagon doesn’t seem right.