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.