As newsworthy developments go, the introduction of Chuck the Condor as the new Clippers mascot Monday night felt like a distant second in a surreal halftime scene.
The condor featuring a pink head, a blue beak and a gray body covered by a Clippers jersey jumped off a trampoline for a dunk. Pretty standard stuff. Then he held up a sign toward Clippers owner Steve Ballmer reading, "Your turn!"
Never one to back down to a challenge, Ballmer was game.
"We do what Chuck tells us to do," Ballmer told fans at Staples Center, promising free Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers to everyone in attendance if he was successful. "I'll try."
Ballmer raced toward the trampoline, leaped and dunked with two hands, pumping his arms in celebration and earning a tight embrace from Chuck. Fans left with vouchers good for the free shoes.
The unveiling of the mascot was part of the Clippers' continued rebranding efforts. Chuck descended from the rafters via wires as spotlights sliced the darkened arena and the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey" played.
"I sort of wanted to sneak it out here to you tonight," Ballmer told fans.
Chuck represents the California condor, the largest North American land bird with a 9-foot-8 wingspan that dwarfs even that of Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. The real-life species can fly at speeds of 56 mph and travel more than 160 miles in a single flight. It remains critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Veteran Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler will be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at 1708 Vine St. Lawler has called more than 2,800 games in his 37 seasons with the team.
"He deserves to be on there along with Chick Hearn and a lot of other great people, so I'm looking forward to seeing him," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said before pausing and looking directly at Lawler, seated among the media members in the pregame new conference. "Is your speech going to be long?"
"About an hour and a half right now," Lawler joked.
Retorted Rivers: "On second thought, I'm not going to go."
Clippers games are remaining on KFWB-AM 980 for the time being despite the station's change to a foreign-language format, which takes effect Tuesday.
A team spokesman said the Clippers are comfortable with the arrangement because fans are used to tuning in to the station for games, though a search for a preferable alternative is ongoing. The Clippers have the option to remain on 980 for the rest of the season.
Rivers would not say whether he might start Jeff Green at small forward in the playoffs instead of Luc Mbah a Moute given the latter player's limitations on offense. Mbah a Moute is averaging 2.9 points per game. "I think we'll wait until the playoffs" to decide, Rivers said. … Rivers said reserve guard Austin Rivers "felt OK" in his first practice with the team since breaking his left hand Feb. 3, but the Clippers will wait until Tuesday to determine whether he can play Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. … Doc Rivers said the Clippers would decide whether to give forward Alex Stepheson a second 10-day contract after their game against the Nets. Stepheson's first contract expired Monday.
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