Stars, Sterling hurting NBA
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org | @ricktelander June 12, 2014 9:53PM
FILE - In this Dec. 19, 2011 file photo, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling watches the Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling responded to the NBA's attempt to oust him on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, arguing that there is no basis for stripping him of his team because his racist statements were illegally recorded "during an inflamed lovers' quarrel in which he was clearly distraught." (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok, File) ORG XMIT: NY115
Updated: June 13, 2014 11:34AM
Well, Adam Silver, how’s it rolling?
The new NBA commissioner came in calm and confident in February, taking over for his longtime boss, David Stern.
For a couple of months, life was good: The Heat and Spurs were heading toward another deserved championship series, and in his first test, Silver got all hairy-chested with disintegrating Clippers owner Donald Sterling and told the addled, apparently racist billionaire to sell his team and never show his face in the NBA again.
The Heat and Spurs continue onward to the crown, which is fine. But danger has popped up from below — quite simply, the danger that superstar players might be taking over the balance of the league.
That is, Knicks All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony is rumored to be thinking about joining the Heat’s super-trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to load the team with so much talent that another few NBA titles would be nearly guaranteed.
Back in December 2011, the NBA wouldn’t allow Chris Paul to be traded from the Hornets to the Lakers, saying it would be an unfair advantage for the Lakers. Funny, but Stern soon said it was OK for Paul to go to the Clippers, instead, who are now powerhouse contenders.
The league office can mess with the stuff owners try to do. But when players collude, the commissioner is hamstrung. Players have a union. There’s not much anybody can do if a rich veteran decides to take less pay to be with his buddies — who have maybe redone their deals to make room for said pal — and dominate the court.
You could say the two best teams in the league, the Spurs and Heat, already have done this nasty deed. The Spurs’ trio of stars — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili — have changed their deals to stick together and win, and we all know about the Heat’s Big Three and the way they recruited each other to form a dynasty in South Beach.
In truth, this is just the elite players doing what they always could’ve done — load up. Who can blame them? Heck, we want to load up even when it comes to picking guys for noon ball.
And the owners have been able to stack teams for years, when the commish wasn’t watching. What, you think the Celtics won 11 NBA titles from 1957 to 1969 just because of Red Auerbach’s cigar?
No, such manipulating is only unsettling when it’s a workers’ revolt, when the (millionaire) peons take over the building and declare themselves the best. And citizens scratch their heads and wonder.
It could be argued that a lot of talent doesn’t guarantee wins. True. But it sure as hell can be guaranteed that a lack of talent means you won’t win.
Stern always crowed, ‘‘It’s a players’ league.’’ He just didn’t mean like this.
Would such a thing as the Big Four in Miami be terrible for the league?
Depends. Who would come to the Bulls, for instance? Who would ever come, voluntarily, to the Cavaliers? The Pelicans?
Yet it would be great to root against a stacked team that already had the most vilified, non-criminal, under-7-foot star in NBA history, James. We need bad guys. I think a Miami guy named Tony Montana once said that.
But more pressing for Silver might be this Sterling guy. The 80-year-old says he’s suing the league, then he says he’s not. Then he is. Then he’ll allow the sale of the Clippers for $2 billion to Steve Ballmer. Then he won’t.
As of today, let’s see, the non-black-people-loving owner has decided to pursue a $1 billion federal lawsuit against the NBA and Silver for fining him $2.5 million and ordering him around. And he won’t sell.
Tomorrow, he may change his mind. Or not.
Sterling’s mind is a curious thing — my guess is the inside looks like a ball of string the cat has been playing with. He has always been a whack job, but now he’s even more so.
And for a reason. Mental tests given to him by psychiatrists have shown, among other things, that he was unable to spell the word ‘‘world’’ backward or put the correct numbers on a clock. He has ‘‘cognitive impairment secondary to primary dementia Alzheimer’s disease,’’ one shrink declared. He gets confused when he gets off an elevator, another said.
Can you take a brain-wounded man seriously? Must the courts?
Sterling always has loved to sue people and things. So, demented though he may be, he’s in his comfort zone.
The NBA? Not so much. Nobody wants depositions for other owners, with their own skeletons in storage.
Mr. Silver, enjoy.