Clippers relieved, euphoric to have Steve Ballmer as new owner
They were four words that conveyed the sentiment of a franchise yearning for a new beginning.
"Thank You!" Clippers center DeAndre Jordan tweeted. "And welcome …"
The message was presumably intended for Steve Ballmer, who became the owner of the Clippers on Tuesday morning after a probate court judge affirmed the right of Shelly Sterling to sell the team for a record $2 billion to the former Microsoft chief executive.
The transfer of ownership from Shelly and Donald Sterling to Ballmer will allow the Clippers to extricate themselves from the most fractious period in franchise history, nearly four months of lawsuits and backbiting triggered by the NBA's lifetime ban of Donald Sterling over his derogatory comments about African Americans. On Tuesday afternoon, though, Sterling petitioned an appeals court to halt the sale.
"Finally, it's done," Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said in a phone interview from his off-season home in Seattle. "And Steve is a great guy too. I know him from Seattle. I'm glad he's the owner. He's a good man and I'm sure Clippers fans will love him."
Ballmer will introduce himself to some of those followers at a fan festival scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Monday inside Staples Center. Longtime Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler tweeted that he was flying back from a vacation in Oregon to attend the event, which is free to the public.
Among those already celebrating Ballmer's arrival was super fan Darrell Bailey, a.k.a. Clipper Darrell.
It's official: Steve Ballmer owns the Los Angeles Clippers
"BREAKING NEWS!!!" Bailey tweeted after the NBA confirmed Ballmer's ownership Tuesday morning. "IT'S OFFICIAL!!! and NOW IT'S PARTY TIME!!!"
There was relief mixed with the euphoria among players.
"Honestly, I'm just glad everything is over," Jordan said in a telephone interview. "Now we can focus on playing basketball. I think everybody else is happy too. We didn't want all that negative attention this season. We just want to focus on basketball and focus on [our] job, and that's it.
"The West is tough enough as it is. We expect a lot out of ourselves. We don't want all that negative stuff."
Fans expressed a similar sentiment.
Victor Arana, a 34-year-old paralegal and a Clippers fan for the last decade, said he was happy the team was sold. "I think Donald Sterling was all around a bad guy for many reasons other than the alleged racism," Arana said in an interview across the street from Staples Center. "There were many instances of him being a slumlord and this can only be a good thing for the Clippers."
The Clippers still must contend with the specter of Shelly Sterling, who will retain courtside seats, parking spaces and titles of "Clippers' Number 1 Fan" and "Owner Emeritus" under terms of the sale agreement. Her presence could keep some away from Staples Center.
"Clips sale but Shelly Sterling stays," Jalen Rose, a former NBA player and current ABC/ESPN analyst, tweeted. "I can't………..#keepgettindemchecks"
The Clippers' website unveiled a new design with a smiling Ballmer in a red sweater standing above Coach Doc Rivers and players Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Jordan. Rivers, who has two years left on his contract, could stay in the picture considerably longer because his representatives have engaged the Clippers in discussions about a multi-year contract extension, according to an NBA official.
Rivers helped guide the franchise through the tumultuous end of the Sterling era, serving as team spokesman and girding team employees besieged by angry fans.
Those employees had reason to celebrate Tuesday.
"Today is a great day for the Clipper organization and fans everywhere," Griffin said in a statement. "I look forward to having Mr. Ballmer as an owner and continuing our pursuit of a championship."