The news that former Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer won a bidding war to buy the Clippers for $2 billion, pending approval from the NBA and Donald Sterling, triggered immediate positive reaction throughout Los Angeles and the basketball world.
Ballmer reached the agreement with Donald Sterling’s wife, Shelly, who with her husband owns the Clippers through a family trust. If the sale goes through it would establish a record price for an NBA team.
Several Clippers spoke with The Times Thursday after the tentative deal was announced and they hoped this deal would put the whole Donald Sterling saga behind them.
“I think it’s a great move for us,” Blake Griffin said in a telephone interview. “I think it’s putting the final piece to the puzzle together.
“It kind of allows everybody to go back to focusing on the real goal, and that’s putting 100% of everything into winning a championship for Los Angeles from our side.”
Clippers forward Jared Dudley said he’d been following the reports about the NBA trying to oust the Sterlings and force a sale.
Dudley said he wasn’t surprised at the $2-billion price, almost four times higher than the $550 million the Milwaukee Bucks sold for this month, because the other bids were so high.
“I think it’s what everybody in the NBA wanted to happen, for the Clippers to be sold,” Dudley said in phone interview. “They wanted to get Sterling out and move forward and in the right direction.”
“Ballmer, huh?” Clippers center DeAndre Jordan responded in a text. “Nice.”
NBA Hall of Famer and former Lakers great Magic Johnson went on Twitter to express his approval.
“Steve Ballmer owning the Clippers is a big win for the City of LA and all the people who live in the City of Angels!” Johnson tweeted.
Johnson was in the middle of the firestorm when an audio recording surfaced on TMZ in which Donald Sterling told a friend he didn’t want her posting pictures of herself on Instagram with black people, including Johnson. The NBA then banned Sterling for life, fined him $2.5 million and sought a vote by team owners to force him to sell the team.
Los Angeles leaders also cheered the news that a sale appeared close.
“I know all L.A. fans will join me in putting the past behind us and looking forward to a new and winning era for the Clippers,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.”
City Council President Herb Wesson said it would be “kind of a downer” if Donald and Shelly Sterling made a considerable profit from the sale. But, he said, “Our main goal was to send a message to the league that it shouldn’t tolerate this type of behavior.”
The Clippers were in the first round of the playoffs when the Sterling controversy started.
They won that series in seven games against the Golden State Warriors. But the Oklahoma City Thunder eliminated the Clippers from the postseason in six games in the second round.
“During the playoffs, I didn’t want to use any of that as an excuse or a cop-out,” Griffin said. “I don’t want to ever do that.
“I think even trying to not think about it was wasting mental energy. I couldn’t tell you how much of a burden it was. I think everybody is different. That’s not why we won or lost. But it’s now back to what it was, or what we thought it was — and that’s just playing basketball.”