With the Clippers Donald Sterling, it's not just the coaches you know who get screwed


Thumbnail image for dsterling.jpgWe’ve written before about Mike Dunleavy having to go to court to get the last year of his $6.5 million guaranteed contract paid (and getting sued back by the team. It’s a Donald Sterling Clipper tradition dating back to Bill Fitch — once you’re let go, the checks stop. Contracts be damned.

That applies to the people whose names you don’t know that work for the Clippers as well.

Scott Wissel and Jerry Holloway were the Clippers advanced scouts, who were hired on a verbal, season-to-season contract by the Clippers that ran October to October. While they didn’t have as much work once the season ended, they got paid through the summer.

Well, until this summer, according to a good story by Sam Amick at FanHouse. In mid-May, the checks just stopped. Holloway filed suit and has been paid, while Wissel is looking at his options. He likely will head to court, too.

Dunleavy and his seven-figure salary can afford the lawyers needed to get paid. But advanced scouts are not getting rich at their jobs, with the average scout making $65,000 a year or so. With the Clippers, it may well have been less (they notoriously do not pay well compared to other NBA teams). It’s not a job where you have extra money in the savings account to hire lawyers.

This is the Clippers official response, as emailed to FanHouse:

“We do not comment on internal personnel matters, but it would be totally inaccurate to say that there are any claims or disputes concerning either of those former employees,” the statement read. “Both were at-will employees. Neither were or are owed any additional compensation. Any suggestion to the contrary is unfounded and irresponsible.”

Advanced scouts have a tough job that involves a lot of planes and hotel rooms — they travel almost constantly during the season. The scout a team, draw up the key plays on a FastDraw computer program, write a report then send it off to the team and move on. It’s not glamorous, it’s a job of airports and bad food. It’s hard work.

The kind of work that should be rewarded, not work where at the end of the day you have to go to court to get paid.

The disconnect in Sterling’s mind between incidents like this — which are stories circulated in the basketball community — and the inability to lure top talent to the franchise is amazing. Sterling may fire you at any time and you have to fight to get paid what you are owed. He may just forget your name when he talks about you in public, showing you no respect.

It’s sad to watch an organization where people try their best to do good work, only to be undercut by the man at the top. Consistently.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at NBA.com.

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.