Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Clippers

Seattle’s Jamal Crawford on Clippers owner Steve Ballmer: “He has always loved basketball”


Steve Ballmer was the energy guy at Microsoft — he was the recruiter, he was the guy who pumped up the crowd at events, he was the relentlessly positive force pushing the business forward.

The Clippers could certainly use some of that sunshine coming out from under the Donald Sterling cloud.

Ballmer formally purchased the Los Angeles Clippers from the Sterling Trust on Tuesday. Donald Sterling will try to be a nuisance (and likely succeed at that) but the days of him owning the Clippers are over.

So why does Ballmer want to own an NBA team in general and the Clippers specifically? Because he loves the game, according to Clipper player and fellow Seattle guy Jamal Crawford. In an interview with Sam Amick of the USA Today Crawford talked about seeing Ballmer at charity and other basketball events in Seattle all the time.

“At the root of everything he does and has done, he has always loved basketball,” Crawford, a Seattle native, told USA TODAY Sports by phone Tuesday after the sale to Ballmer was announced by the NBA. “I remember one time we went to Spokane (Wash.) for a game out there, a charity game, and he flew up there just to watch some pros play. He’s always somebody who’s very excited and very motivated, and I’m sure he’ll be like that (with the Clippers) times 10.

“Going back to the (Seattle Super)Sonics years, he was always a big supporter. And now having his own team, I’m sure he’ll be that much more enthused and motivated and excited to keep a championship level contender and be part of something special with him at the helm. I’m very excited for him, personally, since I’ve known how he feels about the game.”

Clippers fans should feel pretty good right now.

This was team on the cusp of contention last season, one that may have been the third or fourth best team in the NBA in the playoffs but when you combined the Sterling distraction with facing the Thunder the Clippers got bounced. Now they have an owner that will push them, they are back for a second year in the same system and Spencer Hawes was a quality, underrated pickup this summer (he is a huge improvement off the bench over Glen Davis).

Ballmer is going to give Doc Rivers and this team everything they need to win — and his energy and star power are going to help the Clippers make inroads in the Los Angeles market. They are never going to be the entrenched Lakers in Los Angeles (L.A. is a Lakers town) but there are casual fans that can be reached and in a city with a lot of people moving to it every year there are new fans to grab.

Like I said, Clippers fans should feel pretty good right now.

Timberwolves read mean tweets about themselves (video)

Flip Saunders, Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones
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The Timberwolves didn’t select the meanest tweets about these players, but credit Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones, Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine for being good sports.

LeBron James: I’m healthier than a year ago


LeBron James received an injection in his back before the season.

It’s working.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

LeBron James now says he feels better than he did even a year ago.

“I feel better in the mornings; I feel better throughout the games; I feel better throughout the day,” James said before a Cavs shootaround Wednesday in preparation for their game against the Toronto Raptors. “It was a rough start to the season for me last year and for our team. Obviously the way we’ve been playing, a lot is predicated on my health and being able to lead these guys out on the floor and not from the sidelines.”

LeBron certainly looks healthier than he did at this point last year. He’s moving much better and giving more effort.

But comparing November to November means very little for the Cavaliers, who hope to play deep into June.

The key question: Did LeBron properly time his injection? There’s a limit on the number he can have in a year, and it takes time to recover after one. Cleveland doesn’t want LeBron to peak to early.

It’s good for the Cavs that LeBron feels better now, but his health in the playoffs remains the priority.

Report: Suns signing Bryce Cotton

Bryce Cotton
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Eric Bledsoe missed the Suns’ loss to the Spurs on Monday with a knee injury.

So, Phoenix is bringing in a reinforcement – Bryce Cotton.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.

Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.

Phoenix will rely on Brandon Knight and Ronnie Price at point guard if Bledsoe is unavailable. The Suns can also use fewer two-point guard lineups – giving more minutes at shooting guard to Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and Sunny Weems.

Cotton provides insurance while Bledsoe is banged-up with what seems to be a minor injury. But he might have to show something to keep drawing an NBA paycheck once Bledsoe gets healthy.

Jimmy Butler wants Mason Plumlee to pay fine after scuffle (video)


Jimmy Butler and Mason Plumlee got into an altercation in the Bulls’ win over the Trail Blazers last night.

Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.

You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)

Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”

It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.

It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. Dukie@yahoo.com or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.

Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.

“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”

Is that MisterDukie@yahoo.com, MrDukie@yahoo.com or Mr.Dukie@yahoo.com. Or is it Dookie?

These are important questions – at least if you’re trying to turn the conversation away from your dirty play and toward your colorful quotes.