SBD/May 5, 2014/Franchises

NBA To Appoint CEO For Clippers; Rivers Widely Praised For Leadership During Scandal

Andy Roeser's future with the Clippers organization is uncertain
The NBA on Saturday announced that it would soon appoint a CEO to "oversee operations" of the Clippers in an attempt to "create stability" in the wake of the scandal surrounding banned Owner Donald Sterling, according to Billy Witz of the N.Y. TIMES. NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum "briefly addressed Clippers employees on Saturday afternoon, about four hours before" the team's Game 7 against the Warriors. The meeting was "meant to soothe the organization’s rank and file," and sources said that Tatum "encouraged them to continue to run things as they had before the league barred Sterling." Although Clippers President Andy Roeser was "present at the meeting Saturday, his future is uncertain." A source said that when Tatum was "asked at the meeting who was in charge of the Clippers’ organization, he told the group that 'you all are.'” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before the game that he had "not had any input" on who the new CEO would be (N.Y. TIMES, 5/4). In L.A., Ben Bolch noted Clippers co-Owner Rochelle Sterling released a statement before Game 7 saying that she "supported the NBA's move" to appoint a CEO (L.A. TIMES, 5/4).

IN A PICKLE: ESPN L.A.'s Arash Markazi noted Roeser "had been in charge of the team" since Commissioner Adam Silver's announcement to ban Sterling, but he "drew the ire of many in the organization after he released a statement initially giving Sterling the benefit of the doubt." Sources said that once appointed, the CEO will "supersede Roeser, and be given the power to decide if Roeser remains with the organization." The decision to appoint a CEO was "made in concert with the Clippers organization." No timetable for the appointment "was given except to say that it would be made 'quickly.'" Rivers, who also is Senior VP/Basketball Operations, will "continue to run the basketball side" with VP/Basketball Operations Gary Sacks. Meanwhile, Sterling's awards were "removed from the team's training facility this week and the 'Sterling Drive' sign above the driveway entering the facility also was removed" (ESPNLA.com, 5/3). ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne wrote Roeser "was in an impossible position," as he has worked for Sterling "for over 30 years." On the "one hand, his job was to serve and counsel his boss," but on the "other, he knew what his boss had done and said was deplorable." Roeser "hired an outside consultant to help craft a statement to respond to the tapes on Saturday." They "went with defiance, and they stuck Roeser's name on it." It was "profoundly tone-deaf and widely decried." It served as a "breaking point," as over the next 24 hours, all the people who "worked for the Clippers began to distance themselves from Sterling" (ESPN.com, 5/2).

RIVERS RUNS THROUGH IT: Rivers said that he had an "emotional meeting Friday with Clippers employees" who work in downtown L.A. to "try to help them deal" with the scandal. Rivers said that the employees, who came from ticketing, marketing, group sales, sponsorship, finance, HR and fan relations, were “sitting there crying." Rivers said, “Our players thought about not working. So did our employees. And they still felt that way. They needed somebody to ask them to continue to work and support here" (L.A. TIMES, 5/3). In L.A., Bill Plaschke wrote the "biggest winner in the Clippers' locker room" was Rivers, who could be "named coach of the year simply for his performance of the last two weeks." His $7M contract and "accompanying hype now seem justified after he kept his team from collapsing under the weight of all the stress placed upon them by the Sterling scandal" (L.A. TIMES, 5/4). In Boston, Gary Washburn wrote Rivers in the wake of Sterling's comments "decided to speak for the team, shielding his players from the media onslaught" so they could concentrate on their series with the Warriors. Rivers "became the voice of reason for the organization, attempting damage control while not allowing Sterling any space for remorse." Rivers: "I'm really not trying to be the face of this franchise. ... I think the players should always be the face of it, in my opinion. If my voice is part of the franchise, that's fine but I don't want it to be my face" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/4). In California, Dan Woike writes a "master communicator, Rivers, speaking in meetings, film sessions and practices, helped the Clippers navigate their way through a series unlike any other ever played in NBA history." As the country "relentlessly asked questions," Rivers "moved to the front line." Whether it was "questions from gossip shows or national news networks, Rivers carried the burden of being the team’s voice -- a role he pushed on himself" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 5/5). The L.A. TIMES' Bolch writes Rivers "constantly gauged the emotional temperature of his team, giving players days off before Games 5 and 6 because he felt they needed to decompress even after the specter of Sterling had been removed." He then "sent his players home 30 minutes into a practice the day before Game 7 after realizing they were still spent" (L.A. TIMES, 5/5).

TOUGH ON PLAYERS: Clippers F Blake Griffin said of the scandal, "There’s not really a team that’s gone through this. I remember Saturday morning when everything hit, and you could see certain guys that were really emotional about the situation. ... It wore on guys -- just the mental strength we had was unbelievable" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/5). USA TODAY's Sam Amick writes Clippers G J.J. Redick's "surreal first season with the Clippers" captures the Sterling experience "as well as" anything. Redick was "exposed to the Sterling dysfunction from the start" when his sign-and-trade deal to come to L.A. "nearly fell apart" after his four-year, $27M deal had been agreed upon. Redick said, "I've been told both ways: One, that he didn't want to pay me because I was white, and that he didn't want to pay me because I was a bench player." But Redick's "lasting memory" of Sterling will be the "day his eyes were opened to racism as never before." Redick said, "It probably won't go away as long as we continue to advance. It'll still be part of the story, but it gets easier" (USATODAY.com, 5/5).

STILL SLEEPLESS: In Seattle, Geoff Baker writes "yet another NBA franchise is out there" for Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and hedge fund manager Chris Hansen to pursue for Seattle, and Ballmer’s appearance at a Clippers playoff game last week was "enough to jumpstart the rumor mill that he’s interested in bidding." But the Clippers "extended their lease" at Staples Center through the '23-24 season. Breaking that lease "won’t be easy," and the Clippers sharing the building with the Lakers and NHL Kings has "kept arena costs relatively low and enabled Sterling to turn yearly profits on limited revenue." Baker: "Want to blow this happy ending? Allow the Clippers to be sold to a pair of relative unknowns, then let them move the team to Seattle for two seasons at KeyArena before a Sodo venue is built." Just "think about how Sonics fans feel about [Thunder Owner] Clay Bennett, then multiply it by a thousand." Baker: "No, the NBA will never let that happen." But a Clippers bid could "actually help Ballmer and Hansen on that Sonics front." First, it would "show the NBA and Seattle fans that they’re still interested in a team, even if they privately know they have zero chance of moving the Clippers." Baker: "Regardless, the Clippers aren’t coming here" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/5).
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