Doc Rivers introduced Steve Ballmer by saying, “Today is not even about us. It’s about this other guy, that just happens to have 2 billion in his pocket.”
Ballmer was introduced off stage, walking through the throngs of fans and screaming as loud as he could. It was like a boxer being introduced before a big fight, with Eminem blasting through the speakers. Ballmer gave the players hugs, then stood on stage and yelled into the microphone. It was not speaking. It was yelling.
“I can’t be more honored, excited, or fired up to be here,” he said. “Everything is about looking forward from now on. We made lemonade out of lemons and still won 57 games last year.”
Ballmer said that he got cut from his high school basketball team as a freshman, but that he loves basketball and that he could beat some fans in a free-throw contest. He also made a point to mention that he wouldn’t be moving the team to Seattle, and guaranteed a win against the Thunder, Seattle’s former team, once the season starts.
“I really do love Los Angeles,” he said. “I look forward to spending some time down here.”
Ballmer, the multi-billionaire, played the role of jacked-up MC. The biggest cheers came when Ballmer said, “I love this team,” and encouraged the fans to stand up and scream. They were excited, but even they couldn’t match Ballmer’s enthusiasm and volume.
Ballmer said that he was going to defer to Rivers for basketball decisions, and that you can work hard, but you have to work hard at the right things.
“We’re going to be bold,” Ballmer said. “Bold doesn’t mean everything changes. Bold means you’re willing to take risks…if you’re not being bold, you’re being timid. And the L.A. Clippers are going to be bold.”
He also borrowed a phrase from Colin Powell, saying, “Optimism is a force multiplier.”
Ballmer told the crowd his e-mail address, and said to call him Steve. One of his last messages was that the Clippers are going to be hardcore. If there was any doubt, he said this by pumping his fist and screaming.
“The hardcore Clippers — that’s us!”
It’s a Monday in August, many students are back in school, and L.A. Live is, well, lively.
Outside Staples Center, the line to get into a Clippers rally stretched from the front door all the way to the end of the next block. Fans started cheers for TV cameras and took pictures with cheerleaders. The Clippers also handed out free drinks, food and T-shirts to fans around the main concourse. After fans picked up their freebies, they were met by a table with Clippers employees hawking season ticket sales. The setup, surely, was accidental.
Inside Staples, a wooden stage is set up around where mid-court will be once the NBA season actually starts. In the center is a glass podium where new owner Steve Ballmer, Coach Doc Rivers and players will talk once the rally starts.
Fans are still trickling in, so we’ll see what final attendance will be later on. Still, considering the timing, the turnout is already impressive.
The rally started with eight cheerleaders walking on the stage, setting the scene for Clippers announcer Ralph Lawler. “It’s a new day, in case you hadn’t noticed!” he said to a standing crowd.
He also said: "Bad things happened, but good things are on the horizon for this ballclub."
Next up was L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. The last time Garcetti was here, he cursed during an L.A. Kings championship rally. This time he started his speech off with: "After the last time I spoke here, I wasn't sure I'd be invited back."
Players then filed in, starting with C.J. Wilcox, the rookie from Washington. Reggie Bullock, Jordan Farmar, Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes, DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul then joined Wilcox on stage.
The comment that struck a chord, though, was when Lawler said: “The next time we have a rally in downtown L.A., it is going to be for a championship parade.”
The Clippers are having a fan festival today at 12:30 p.m. at Staples Center to get fans excited for the new season as the Clippers begin the Steve Ballmer era. Ballmer and Clippers Coach Doc Rivers will be at the festival, as will Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke, NBA reporter Ben Bolch and reporter Everett Cook. If you are stuck at work and can’t attend, you can follow all the highlights of the festival right here.