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Sterling Won’t Quite Play the Blame Game

Times Staff Writer

Perennial losers on the court, the Clippers are “probably one of the most successful teams in the world financially,” with “resources to do whatever we want in the L.A. market,” owner Donald T. Sterling said Sunday.

Sterling told radio station XTRA in a rare interview that the Clippers’ failures over more than two decades under his stewardship were because of poor decisions in the draft but stopped short of blaming General Manager Elgin Baylor.

“I don’t know if Elgin is really totally understood,” the billionaire owner said of the man who has presided over the Clippers’ basketball operations since 1986. “He is the most giving, most wonderful person you’ll ever meet in your life. He’s so committed. He works so hard. He tries to do his best. I mean, he and his wife are at every game, praying, hoping, giving all the talent they have to improve the team. ...

“I don’t think that it’s fair to say that it’s his responsibility totally. It’s an organization, and it’s probably more the owner’s fault than anybody else’s because the man at the top has to take the responsibility.”

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He said that he is committed to winning.

“It’s very important to me, very, very important,” he said, “and I’ve been trying for almost 25 years to get it right. And some people never get it right. ... It’s very hard. Everybody that owns a team and every organization is smart and they’re all trying so hard to win. It’s just very difficult. It’s not like other businesses.

“But we never give up, nor will we ever give up.” *

Bringing them more in line with their competition, the Clippers are expected to announce today that they have signed a multiyear deal to practice at an El Segundo health club, two stops south on the Green Line from where the Lakers practice, ending their five-year association with L.A. Southwest College. The Clippers continue to explore the feasibility of building their own practice site in the Playa Vista development near the San Diego and Marina freeways. Only a small number of NBA teams do not have their own practice facilities.


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