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

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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.

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.