Kurt Helin

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Seven

Clippers’ owner Steve Ballmer says steps that led to $250,000 DeAndre Jordan fine were “inadvertent”

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There are times it’s clear that Steve Ballmer, though unquestionably passionate, still is on the NBA owner learning curve. There have been a few stumbles, to put it kindly.

The latest: Apparently offering DeAndre Jordan a $200,000 a year Lexus endorsement if he re-signed with the Clippers. A day after that, Jordan said he would sign with Dallas. Four days later he started to change his mind and shifted back to the Clippers, and while that likely had nothing to do with the Lexus deal, it still earned Ballmer and the Clippers a $250,000 fine.

Ballmer said this was not intentional, in a memo he sent to Clippers personnel and obtained by Dan Woike of the Orange County Register.

Today, the NBA announced it has fined the Team for violating NBA rules in our presentation to DeAndre Jordan on July 2. The League’s investigation concluded that the presentation of a potential thrid-party opportunity had no impact on DeAndre’s decision to re-sign, and having been a part of the process, I can attest to this fact.

As we, and the basketball world observed, DJ ultimately chose to stay with the Clippers because he felt it was his best opportunity to win a championship, and because of his desire to remain part of the Clippers family.

As I shared with everyone on day one of purchasing the Team, being part of the Clippers family means operating with the highest integrity. We believed we were doing this the right way, and any circumvention was inadvertent. In our effort to support our players in every way possible, we as an organization must be diligent in complying with the CBA.

Did he plan to break the rules and get fined? Obviously not, even though Ballmer probably has $250,000 in the folds of his couch. Did he just not know how to dance along that edge? Now we’re getting somewhere.

Large market teams try to use endorsement potential as a recruiting tool — the Lakers and Knicks have for years. It’s just clearly less effective now, in a world shrunk by social media. LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Monroe spurned LA and NYC this summer to sign in San Antonio and Milwaukee, because they could win there. You build your brand as a player on the game’s biggest stages — specifically the playoffs and Finals — and what stars want to see is how they get on that stage.

It’s what the Clippers should sell the hardest — they are title contenders.

Lakers’ coaches liked how D’Angelo Russell handled himself, pressure in Summer League

2015 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot
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Nobody was under the pressure D’Angelo Russell was in Las Vegas at the NBA Summer League. Not Karl-Anthony Towns, not Kristaps Porzingis, not anybody. It comes with being the highest Lakers’ draft pick since James Worthy — in Russell’s first game, they had to open the top level of the Thomas & Mack Center for the first time in Summer League history (the Lakers were playing Towns’ Timberwolves, but this was a Lakers’ crowd). The crowds for Lakers games were huge all through Summer League, plus camera crews were popping up around Russell off the court as well. Welcome to the Lakers’ spotlight.

Which made his struggles at Summer League seem more pronounced. He looked slow while the game was moving fast. He averaged 11.8 points per game on 37.7 percent shooting, 11.8 percent from three. He had 3.2 assists and 5.2 turnovers per game. The fact this is that Summer League should be about learning — you can’t read much into his numbers, it’s about development — seemed lost on people. Lakers’ nation is not known for its patience.

But the Lakers’ coaching staff liked the big picture things they saw, Holly McKenzie wrote for Complex Magazine.

The biggest positive that the Lakers coaching staff took from his experience in Vegas was watching how he reacted to adversity. Rather than getting flustered or frustrated with those around him, he paid attention to things he needed to improve on as well as the ways the NBA game is different than college. Russell was the same player to his teammates during practice sessions whether the team had won or lost its previous game.

“It is rare any time you have a rookie [with] so much confidence,” Madsen says. “Most rookies enter the league so timid, really nervous. They were ‘the man’ in college and now going to the NBA, you’re dealing with grown men, you’re dealing with superstars. You’re dealing with financial endorsements that are massive. The pressure is that much higher. D’Angelo’s confidence never wavered and his love of the game never wavered.”

That is a good sign. When I spoke about Russell’s play with someone who saw a lot of him in college, he talked about how Russell took a little bit to adjust to the speed of the collegiate game as well. But once he got his mind around it, he played well enough to get drafted No. 2 — the lesson was to give him time.

The Lakers will do just that. They will sell the Kobe Bryant farewell tour (maybe) this season as the young potential future core — Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle — start to adapt to the NBA game. They will have good veteran mentors like Kobe, Brandon Bass, and Lou Williams.

What should matter more Lakers fans is how Russell looks next summer in Las Vegas — has he improved dramatically, has his mind and body caught up with the speed of the game? If Russell is still struggling a year from now, then there should be concern. Right now, he looks like a player learning, sometimes the hard way.

Report: NBA says Michael Jordan can’t decide who gets Air Jordan shoe deal

Michael Jordan
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This ties into why Clippers offering DeAndre Jordan a $200,000 a year sponsorship with Lexus led to a $250,000 fine

Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan shoe brand through Nike dominates the market — 58 percent of basketball shoes sold last year were Jordans. That 13 times more than LeBron James, who has the best selling shoe among active players. Nike owns 95.5 percent of the basketball shoe market (according to Forbes).

One of the NBA’s concerns with Michael Jordan as the owner of the Charlotte Hornets is that he could supplement players’ salaries with shoe deals. So the NBA cut that option off, reports Darren Rovell of ESPN.

This isn’t just a Jordan rule, pretty much any NBA owner could pull off something similar (at least Ballmer didn’t offer a Microsoft endorsement). The rule is there for a reason.

The Jordan brand is well managed and not hurting in the least. It still has deals with Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony and nearly two dozen more current and former NBA players. There are Hornets — Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller — on that list.

In fact, Kidd-Gilchrist just took what could be seen as a below-market $52 million contract extension to stay in Charlotte. Not that there was any quid pro quo here, but the NBA wants to avoid that appearance.

It’s easy to understand the NBA’s concern — if Jordan could say “I’ll pay you a couple hundred thousand extra to wear my shoes” it would be an unfair recruiting advantage. So they are trying to tie his hands.

Not that it is impacting shoe sales, or how much Jordan rakes in from Nike.

Latest NBA 2K16 promo video: #WINNING

NBA_2K16_cover_art-1
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The fine folks at 2K sports have a killer property in the NBA 2K series. It’s iconic.

They also know how to market it. Brilliantly.

Playing to the wheelhouse of gamers and NBA fans, here is the latest promo video for NBA 2K16. I expect one of the features this year is Stephen Curry can hit shots from roughly the Bay Bridge.

Chris “Birdman” Andersen on trade rumors: “It doesn’t bother me one bit”

Chris Andersen
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Heat owner Micky Arison is potentially staring at the repeater tax — just tack an extra dollar on every dollar already taxed. For example, with the lowest tax rate (less than $5 million over the tax line of $84.7 million) the bill jumps from $1.50 per dollar to $2.50. To paraphrase Ron Burgundy, this escalates quickly.

The Heat are currently at $90.3 million in guaranteed salary, they just need to trim $5 million or so to get below the line. If you’re a contender well over the line (think Cleveland) you just bite the bullet as an owner, but if you’re just over the line why pay the extra?

Enter the Chris Andersen rumors — the Birdman makes $5 million a year. Throw in the emergence of Hassan Whiteside plus the return of Josh McRoberts, and the Heat could solve a lot of problems by moving Andersen. He has been linked to the Clippers for Jamal Crawford and other teams in deals that would lessen the Heat’s payroll (the Clippers trade is highly unlikely).

Do these rumors bother him?

The better question is, does anything bother him? Andersen sounded like a veteran who has been down the road before speaking to Ira Winderman at the Sun Sentinel.

“It’s a business, man,” Andersen, 37, said. “It doesn’t bother me one bit.”

Miami is going to do something to cut payroll and moving Andersen may be that thing. It likely doesn’t happen until camps open, teams get a look at their rosters, and one of them realizes they need to pay for a backup center. That’s when Pat Riley calls.

But whatever happens, it’s not going to bother Andersen. He’s good.