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Report: Donald Sterling almost blew up Bledsoe trade, Clippers summer

Oct 28, 2013, 11:13 PM EDT

Donald Sterling, Rochelle Sterling AP

Things are different around the Clippers organization now compared to even five years ago, let alone a decade. It’s not just the winning on the court, there is more professionalism around the entire organization.

But they are still owned by Donald Sterling, the man who is the reason for the decades of futility.

This summer the Clippers had one of the better summers of any team in the league. They got Doc Rivers to come and bring a new attitude, some motion to the offense and a more consistent defensive scheme to the team. With that they got Chris Paul to re-sign to a new five-year deal. They got J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley to be floor-spacing shooters as part of a trade of Eric Bledsoe. They made themselves into serious contenders.

Sterling almost blew the whole summer, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports in a stunning but not totally surprising story. It revolved around the three-team trade that sent Bledsoe and Caron Butler to Phoenix for Jared Dudley, with Redick getting a new contract to come to the Clippers (and the Bucks getting picks).

In the early afternoon hours of July 3, owner Donald Sterling called Los Angeles Clippers president Andy Roeser and informed him he had rescinded approval on moving Eric Bledsoe and acquiring free agent J.J. Redick in a sign-and-trade agreement. The three-team deal – delivered the owner’s blessing only two days earlier (and had been announced) – no longer interested Sterling….

What weighed hardest on Rivers, league sources in touch with the Clippers said, was how hard he had recruited Redick, how intensely he had sold him on a different day with this franchise. And now, on Rivers’ first major deal since coming from the Celtics, everything had blown up on him.

Rivers has real power in the organization — getting the Clippers to spend money to cover up the Lakers banners was a sign of this. It had been suggested before but had never come around until Rivers really worked to change the culture. His pedigree, is title ring as a coach and his $7 million contract give him that. Sterling’s move would have blown that whole thing up and it was up to Rivers to change the owner’s mind, according to the report.

For the first few hours, these arguments were slow to register with Sterling, sources told Yahoo Sports. Looking back, only the owner knows why he attempted to blow the deal up. Yes, Sterling had been fond of Bledsoe. He was young, explosive, impactful on the Clippers’ second unit. Some believed too, that Sterling stereotyped Redick and didn’t want to pay $27 million for a bench player.

With Sterling, rational thought and debate aren’t always part of the discussion. Whatever his reasons, everyone else awaited Rivers’ conversations with Sterling. Rivers contract gave him ultimate management authority on deals, and several sources dealing with the Clippers say that Rivers was beyond embarrassed and humiliated. He feared the unraveling of the deal would cost him his credibility and paralyze him in future trade and negotiation talks, sources said.

This could have gotten much more ugly. Remember that while Chris Paul had agreed to his new max deal he couldn’t sign it until the moratorium ended July 11 — and CP3 (and his people) had not been shy about using his free agency as leverage to get what he wanted. He could have threatened to move on.

It never got there. Whatever Rivers said, within three more days everything was back on. The Clippers had a summer that made them contenders.

But you need to remember that as long as Sterling owns the team, there will always be concerns around the league because of a history of incidents just like this.

  1. Wammy Giveaway - Oct 28, 2013 at 11:33 PM

    Every time Donald Sterling does something like this, he only ends up helping the Lakers. And here’s something that’s both ironic and a paradox: it was Donald Sterling who helped the late great Dr. Jerry Buss purchase the Lakers in the first place with a $2.7 million loan.

    In my opinion, Sterling does bad moves on purpose because he’s afraid to face the man he helped, who is also his best friend.

    • asimonetti88 - Oct 28, 2013 at 11:51 PM

      It wasn’t necessarily a loan. Buss sold him some buildings.

    • detectivejimmymcnulty - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:24 AM

      Afraid to face the man he helped..

      I hate to be the one to tell you this, but Dr. Buss died. Sad day the man is a self made legend.

    • antistratfordian - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:40 AM

      Well sure, but on the flip side it was Buss’s idea that Sterling buy the Clippers. They they were both involved in some way in their purchase deals. They’re sister teams.

    • casualcommenter - Oct 29, 2013 at 1:48 AM

      “In my opinion, Sterling does bad moves on purpose because he’s afraid to face the man he helped”

      …So your opinion is that Don Sterling does bad moves on purpose because he’s afraid to face a man who happened to pass away last year?

      To clarify, do you believe that because you believe Sterling doesn’t know that Dr. Buss passed away last year and is afraid of running into him while walking in a hallway?

      Or do you believe that Sterling thinks that making bad basketball moves will somehow prolong his life and delay “facing” Dr. Buss in the afterlife?

      • Wammy Giveaway - Oct 29, 2013 at 1:18 PM

        More likely the latter. But this is about the spirit of sports. In sports, there is no such thing as friends, only competitors. Sterling was supposed to treat every team the Clippers faced as if they were enemy. But when the enemy was the Lakers, he couldn’t do it. Sterling was afraid that if the Clippers beat the Lakers, Dr. Buss would get angry and decide to put an end to their friendship. But Buss was a clever, coy business owner who knew how to put on a charm and make Sterling feel remorse for the actions made by his team in a kinder, gentler matter.

        Bottom line: Sterling would do anything for Dr. Buss, even if it meant sabotaging his own team for the betterment of the Lakers.

  2. abchome - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:19 AM

    Always good to have someone who’s not afraid to say no with reasons.

  3. detectivejimmymcnulty - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:26 AM

    Yeah, uh, hands down worst owner in sports. I’m pretty sure it used to be unanimous, but CP3 changed that perception.

    • asimonetti88 - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:39 AM

      It’s between Sterling and Jeffrey Loria.

      • spursareold - Oct 29, 2013 at 9:56 AM

        No it’s not. Sterling has snapped out of it, at least to some degree. Loria pretty much has an annual fire sale of anyone approaching free agency. He is the winner, and at this point, it isn’t even close.

      • asimonetti88 - Oct 29, 2013 at 10:51 AM

        I don’t know. At least Loria is only a sleazy art dealer, as opposed to the racist slumlord that is Sterling.

    • antistratfordian - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:42 AM

      Well he might be turning a corner.

      • detectivejimmymcnulty - Oct 29, 2013 at 1:47 AM

        Good call on Loria. Sterling is 2nd.

      • zerole00 - Oct 29, 2013 at 11:03 AM

        I don’t think it’s a matter of him turning a corner as much as the path is so obvious he’d literally have to be mentally retarded to throw away the pieces that the Clippers have assembled. It’s like someone offering you $1 or $5 for free.

        Still, if I was a Clippers fan I’d still be worried that Sterling finds a way to screw it up.

      • antistratfordian - Nov 4, 2013 at 2:46 AM

        I wouldn’t worry about that if I was a Clippers fan. They should just be grateful that they have a good team, and appreciate it while they have it – a lot of franchises never even get that far.

  4. unfly - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:28 AM

    ‘Phipps, half asleep, sat up on his bed and asked what went wrong. “Here’s this guy,” Massimino said, “and he has this blonde bimbo with him, they have a bottle of champagne, they’re tanked. And Don looks at me and he says, ‘I wanna know why you think you can coach these n_____s.’”

    Massimino told Phipps he began screaming at Sterling and swore he’d rather die than become coach of the Clippers. “That,” said Phipps, “was life with Donald Sterling.”’

  5. 00maltliquor - Oct 29, 2013 at 2:55 AM

    For the first time in life I think I’m with Sterling on this one. They shoulda started Bledsoe at the 2 like they are doing in PHX, I’ve been saying that for over a year now. Either that or they seriously could have gotten so much more value back in return.

    Yeah, it looks nice now, shooters in Redick and Dudley are most definitely going to help, and will help. But it’s Bledsoe! Coulda got back more or just kept him…IMO.

    • 00maltliquor - Oct 29, 2013 at 3:00 AM

      …And I know this is a comment that will get way more thumbs down then up, but let’s review this in 2-3 years.

      All it takes is for Redick to get injured and for Dudley to underwhelm, or visa versa whilst Bledsoe has a mini-Harden-like breakout season this year or next and everyone’s thinking would change drastically. Don’t get me wrong, I still like LAC’s pieces as is though. But lets just see where the perception on this trade is 2-3 years from now.

      • casualcommenter - Oct 29, 2013 at 9:18 AM

        Bledsoe is unlikely to have a breakout year because…

        1. He’s not nearly as gifted as a scorer or ball handler as Harden had become the season before he was traded. Bledsoe has always been good defensively, but when Chris Paul missed time, Bledsoe didn’t exactly keep things afloat on offense. In other words, the Clippers had recently seen – up close – what Bledsoe could do when given starters’ minutes and were unimpressed.

        2. Starting Bledsoe at the 2 would hurt the Clippers’ spacing. Nobody guards Deandre Jordan or Blake Griffin more than 10 feet from the basket. Eric Bledsoe can’t shoot, so when Chris Paul has the ball and wants to drive to the basket, he’d have no open driving lanes as the opposing defense could collapse into the paint with complete confidence NOBODY could hurt them with a 18+ foot jumper. Spacing helps Chris Paul with his drives and Blake Griffin (whom they need to get more out of) in the low-post.

      • casualcommenter - Oct 29, 2013 at 9:22 AM

        P.S. I wrote that Eric Bledsoe is a poor shooter, but don’t be fooled by his shooting percentage of 39.7%. He only attempted one 3-pointer per game, so that’s an artificially high shooting percentage due to a small sample size.

        Bledsoe only shot one 3-pointer per game (and only averaged one made 3-pointer once every 3 games) because he knows he can’t shoot, so he rarely takes that shot. Therefore, defenses don’t bother trying to defend a guy out to the three-point line if they know won’t take more than one 3-point shot attempt per game.

      • casualcommenter - Oct 29, 2013 at 9:24 AM

        Ugh, my first comment didn’t show up, only my “P.S.” comment did.

        Just ignore my comment that appears to randomly begin with “P.S.” . I have no idea how the filters on this site work, and I have no desire to re-type my original comment.

      • arrondior - Oct 29, 2013 at 3:34 PM

        Bledsoe is slightly above average at best. He is not another James Harden. The move is fine. Bledsoe has been improving every year but they want to contend for rings over the next 3 years. They want proven pieces and needed shooters. They didn’t want to wait for Bledsoe to MAYBE develop into what they need.

      • mackcarrington - Oct 29, 2013 at 8:53 PM

        @00maltliquor:
        Perhaps the X- factor here is Doc Rivers. He must have a sense that he can get something
        out of Dudley & Redick. And hypothetically, Bledsoe could get injured as a Clipper too.
        You never know about these kinds of things.

  6. lastdukestreetking - Oct 29, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    LAC fans are going to be very surprised how good a player Redick is. Smart, much more athletic than most realize, hard worker, good ball handler/passer, great teammate. Doc knows this which is why he pushed hard for this deal.

  7. lunaparker96 - Oct 30, 2013 at 1:04 AM

    Sterling is a jerk and a control freak. Thank God for. Doc Rivers maybe this genius can teach the idiot something this time around. Praise for a great coach who has principles

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