It is possible to turn a dysfunctional franchise around. It’s never a smooth road, and there is a learning curve for all owners — remember when Warriors’ fans booed Joe Lacob at a game? — but it can be done. Golden State is living proof.
That was the expected narrative when Donald Sterling was pushed aside and Steve Ballmer swooped in and overpaid for the Clippers. This team already had a great core of players, now the franchise would turn things around on and off the court and take a step forward. Some things instantly got better — for example, equipment the training staff long wanted was approved and purchased. But it hasn’t been a smooth ride and Bill Simmons said publicly what others around the league had whispered: Things may better with the Clippers, but they were not good.
Maybe it is new owner learning curve — every owner has one, some are steeper than others — but this franchise has made some silly mistakes in the past year:
• They hard-capped themselves with the Spencer Hawes signing, then had to surrender a first round pick to get out of that mess.
• They got caught this summer illegally offering a bonus (a Lexus sponsorship contract) to DeAndre Jordan as part of their formal pitch to the free agent, which got the team fined.
• Austin Rivers? The coach’s son? Really?
And the list goes on and on — have you read Jamal Crawford‘s tweets? — but in spite of it all Doc Rivers the GM had a good summer and the team looks poised to contend. It would be so easy to look past it.
However, TMZ kept digging and Monday wrote a story saying there is an internal struggle between the business side.
TMZ Sports spoke with multiple sources within the organization — including players — who tell us the drama all centers around Gillian Zucker, the team’s president of business operations.
Long story short … several players and key staffers feel she’s not just stepping on Doc Rivers’ toes, but she’s creating a divide … leaving many wondering who’s really calling the shots in Clipperland….
But we’re told Zucker has been increasingly more involved on the basketball side … inserting herself into things like player development and playing time decisions … and it’s leaving many people confused, since she’s often not on the same page as Doc.
Things that don’t happen with the Spurs include…
First rule of anonymous sources: They are telling you something for a reason. They have an agenda; they are spinning things to their advantage. Just keep that in mind as you read about someone saying Zucker is overstepping her bounds. She may be, she may not, but someone has an agenda.
Simmons, however, semi-confirmed this:
Whatever is going on falls to Ballmer to clear up. There should be a wall between basketball operations and business operations in an NBA organization. Of course, there should be a little cooperative bleed over — the two sides are still on the same team working toward the same goals — but basketball people should make the basketball decisions and the marketing people the marketing decisions and on down the line. Stay in your lane. If someone is getting out of their lane, that’s on the owner to fix.
Here’s my bigger question:
Does it even matter?
From Billy Martin managing the Yankees though the current San Francisco 49ers, throughout sports there have been dysfunctional organizations with ownership allowing odd choices that continue to win.
In the NBA, think of the Michael Jordan era Bulls — GM Jerry Krause and Phil Jackson were in a power struggle, Toni Kukoc and Jordan were in the thick of it all, the owner was oblivious and just counting the dollars, and that team won six rings.
The level of dysfunction within the Clippers and who or what is causing it is up for debate, but this organization has and continues to make some odd decisions. And it may not matter. The core of the team is together, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan apparently worked out whatever it was they needed to work out, and so long as CP3 and Blake Griffin stay healthy this team is a serious threat to win it all.
Whether Ballmer has built Spurs West or not.