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Down and out in Beverly Hills

Donald T. Sterling

Sterling Plaza

Beverly Hills, Calif., 90210

Dear Donald,

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So much has gone on with the real teams, I’ve been too busy to write, but I just want to welcome you back.

Boy, have I missed you!

I mean the you who did everything right for four exemplary seasons before returning to form with a vengeance, torching Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy and threatening to “make changes.”

Of course, this would have meant more if you had the slightest intention whatsoever of firing Dunleavy.

Unfortunately, short of seeing Godzilla come out of the sea, march up Wilshire and squash every building you own, I know you can’t think of many things worse than paying off the last three years of Dunleavy’s four-year, $22-million deal.

Six weeks later, you haven’t talked to Dunleavy, refusing to accept his apology or even take his calls.

Of course, you’re still in a league by yourself, figuratively and literally, when it comes to posing as an NBA owner.

You didn’t just roast Dunleavy on a spit for The Times’ T.J. Simers, you had team President Andy Roeser and basketball VP Elgin Baylor sitting in, like Harpo and Chico Marx backing up Groucho.

It was like a royal proclamation: Dunleavy, whom you had given more power than any coach or general manager, was officially out of favor.

Dunleavy then publicly dared you to fire him, dropping him even further, to your seventh circle of hell, where he’s still being basted today.

How surprising was it that three days later, as Dunleavy tried to put the story to bed, Roeser gave him another official reprimand rather than back his story about talking to you personally or, at least, minimizing it.

(I don’t think Dunleavy’s story, which he recanted, amounts to breach of contract, but I’m sure you’ve researched that point.)

Now everything has gone back to the way it was, and we know who’s in charge . . .

Nobody!

For the maraschino cherry atop the sundae of this farce, you just blew a chance to make a trade that would have been like the Pau Gasol deal’s little brother.

With half the league trying to steal Mike Miller, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported the Grizzlies finally offered him to you for the expiring contracts of Sam Cassell and Aaron Williams and your No. 1 pick.

Unfortunately, it had to go through channels to be carried on a pillow into your office in Beverly Hills, so you with your vast expertise could turn it down.

Even for you, this confluence of events is breathtaking in its dysfunction.

Of course, you’re a busy man and wouldn’t know Mike Miller from a bottle of Miller Lite. That’s why you have underlings, to try to reach you and explain these things.

(I know you hate giving up draft picks, which embody such promise, not to mention four years of cheap labor, but they need a year or two to develop, assuming they do. Miller, the shooter you’ve needed for years, good enough to play on the U.S. team in last season’s Olympic qualifying tournament, is developed.)

I feel bad. In all our discussions, I must have forgotten to cover the injuries.

You don’t have Shaun Livingston and Elton Brand, who are injured. You must have noticed.

Appearances notwithstanding, your team isn’t even underachieving this season. You’re No. 12 in the West. The consensus of ESPN’s experts was No. 14.

Nevertheless, I do think you’re onto something.

You went through 11 coaches in 21 years before Dunleavy, which was as far as changes went. Everyone else steering the Good Ship Lollipop around in circles was OK as long as they didn’t insist on doing anything.

You always pulled their chairs out from under them. Who can forget the day you dropped by training camp in 1993 and, as long as you were there, killed Baylor’s deal sending upcoming free agent Danny Manning to Miami for Glen Rice?

The pecking order always changed according to your whim, leaving your people to skirmish with one another and any interlopers such as Dunleavy.

You couldn’t have missed Baylor, whose No. 22 is up on the far wall in Lakers gold, suddenly disappearing from his courtside seats, could you?

In a little internal sleight of hand, Baylor and his family were moved back on the other side of the aisle so you could sell their seats.

That was a couple of years ago, with Baylor in such eclipse, you were close to holding a retirement party for him, whether he wanted to retire or not.

Nothing ever changed until you handed Dunleavy the basketball operation in 2003 (while telling your front office nothing had changed, splitting it anew), and he wound up taking you past the first round, where you’d never been.

Now that you mention it, you guys really could use some changes!

Our NBA editor, Barry Stavro, had a good idea: How about trading your franchise, which was once swapped for the Boston Celtics, back to them?

Unfortunately, I don’t think the Celtics will go for it.

Selling the team? No, I guess not. We’ll keep brainstorming.

Still waiting for your call too,

Mark

mark.heisler@latimes.com


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