Clippers owner Steve Ballmer on pursuing an NBA championship: 'There’s just not much I can do'

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer on pursuing an NBA championship: 'There’s just not much I can do'
Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is said to be interested in building an arena for the Clippers near the stadium that is being built for the Rams. (Scott Halleran / Getty Images)

When the Clippers are in a tough situation, all Steve Ballmer can do is watch from the sideline and offer positive encouragement. 

He has a limited basketball pedigree, including team statistician at Harvard and lifelong hoops fan. He is not one to micromanage. His permanent residence, despite owning the Clippers, is in Seattle.


Sometimes, Ballmer said on the Vertical Podcast with J.J. Redick on Monday, an NBA owner can feel helpless. 

But when it comes to the pressure to win a championship, Ballmer feels it just like the Clippers' players and coaches do.

"It's just one of those things that there's just not much I can do," Ballmer, who's entering his third season since buying the team, said on Redick's weekly podcast. "You know, I think of the world as knobs and dials. You can turn knobs and hopefully the dials do good things. I have tiny little knobs that don't move the needle too much, but with the little knobs I have, I feel pressure."

Redick’s conversation with Ballmer was wide-ranging. The veteran shooting guard asked the team owner about his attempt to bring an NBA franchise back to Seattle, his time as Microsoft’s chief executive officer and how hard it was to learn the intricacies of the league’s collective bargaining agreement, among other topics. But the center of the podcast was filled with talks of a Clippers championship, and the team’s aging core only having so many shots to shake the “second-round curse.”

The Clippers’ nucleus of Chris Paul, Redick, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford has been together since before Ballmer owned the team. He’s hellbent on keeping them together, knowing championship-caliber teams can go as quickly as they come. 

"I feel the pressure because I know as an owner I was born on third base," Ballmer, 60, said. "Most people [who] buy a team, you don't buy a team that has a legitimate shot to win it all. And everybody tells me, 'If you think this shot is going to come to you every year for 30 years …'"

Ballmer then jumped into a story about Paul Allen, who owns the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks. Ballmer met Allen nearly 40 years ago while they were working for Microsoft, and it was Allen who always urged Ballmer to buy a professional sports franchise. 

Now Ballmer sees Allen as a portrait of reality. Allen purchased the Trail Blazers in 1988 and the Seahawks in 1996. He has one championship between the two teams, the Seahawks' Super Bowl win in 2014.

The path for these Clippers to win it all seems tougher than ever, with Kevin Durant joining Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to form a super team in Golden State. Undeterred, Ballmer thinks the best course of action is to keep his star-studded group together. 

The Clippers will play their first of six preseason games against the Warriors in Oakland on Tuesday night. When the ball tips, the clock will once again start ticking on their title window.

"You know how I talked about dials and knobs? What's the probability if you turn that knob that the dial is going to get better?" Ballmer said of hypothetically breaking up the Clippers' core. "This year, the next year, whatever, I think that's probably a low probability."

Follow Jesse on Twitter: @dougherty_jesse