Clippers owner Steve Ballmer on Thursday reiterated his expectation to win in the coming years, both on the court and in courtrooms.
Hours before the Clippers opened their preseason schedule against the Houston Rockets at Honolulu’s Stan Sheriff Center, Ballmer said he will gauge the success of the upcoming season, one of the most anticipated in franchise history following the offseason additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, by the postseason success that has eluded the franchise for so long.
Ballmer also reiterated that legal opposition, backed by New York Knicks owner James Dolan, will not deter his efforts to build the Clippers a new arena in Inglewood.
Dolan is chairman and chief executive of Madison Square Garden Co., which owns and operates an arena, the Forum, that sits less than a mile from the site of the proposed Clippers arena complex and has brought lawsuits seeking to block its construction.
“We’re on a path where we think we can build the arena, whatever happens in the litigation,” Ballmer said. “We’re moving along. Certainly, suffice it to say, I think the other side is just trying to slow us down a little bit. But it’s another thing where we’re grinders. We’re long-term players, and we’re grinders. You want to hit us in the nose? OK! We’ll keep moving. You can’t knock us down.
“I’m not sure they understand what they’ve gotten themselves into, from my perspective, in the sense that we’ll just keep going.”
He later added that the Clippers “are going to open that arena one way or another.”
Speaking at June’s NBA Finals, Commissioner Adam Silver called the legal fight between owners “not something you like to see between partners in the NBA.”
Said Ballmer: “It’s a weird form of partnership.”
As litigation continues, the Clippers have continued efforts to build support within Inglewood. A “community benefits package” valued by the team at $100 million was proposed to city officials last month. The Clippers say it represents the largest benefit plan connected to the construction or renovation of a stadium or entertainment venue in the state.
“We were willing to put up more money than would be kind of natural because we are going to be there, we are going to be members of the community,” Ballmer said.
Construction must begin by mid-2021 for the arena to open on time before the 2024-25 season, arena backers say. An environmental impact report on the proposed project has yet to be released.
Should the arena project proceed as Ballmer expects, he hopes a championship banner will hang in the rafters on its opening night.
Following their July free-agent signing of Leonard, a two-time MVP of the NBA Finals, and trade for George, a six-time All-Star, the Clippers enter the season among the betting favorites to win what would be the team’s first NBA title.
“We’re not at the top of the mountain,” Ballmer said. “… As [coach Doc Rivers] has reminded all of us many times, you don’t win any games as it turns out during the months of July, August, September. So whatever people say about you, you’re not winning any basketball games during those months. So as we get into October, we want to win a lot of games. But again, planning and working, the No. 1 goal is to win a lot of games in April, May and June.”