Since Steve Ballmer bought the Clippers, he has wanted something his predecessor Donald Sterling never much cared about — getting out from under the shadow of the Los Angeles Lakers. (Well, Ballmer also cares more about winning than maximizing profits, another key difference.) As a marketing guy, Ballmer understands the challenge of the Clippers brand in a Lakers’ dominated market, and having a better team for a few years is not enough. Ballmer okayed putting up pictures of the Clippers in front of the Lakers’ championship banners and retired jerseys, but that’s just a band-aid.
What he needs, and what he’s wanted, is a new arena that is all Clippers. He is apparently closing in on that.
An “exclusive negotiating agreement” means the deal is not done, but the two sides see enough in common that they are not going to talk to anyone else (the Clippers with other locations for the arena, for example).
As noted, this is next to where Stan Kroenke bought up the land of the former Hollywood Park horse racing track and is now building his new home for the Los Angeles Rams. Kroenke’s plans call for retail and residential (and possibly some office space) around the stadium, and a new arena to house the Clippers and other events certainly would fit in with that model. This is all just down the street from the Inglewood Forum, where the Lakers played back in the Showtime era.
The Clippers have seven more years on their lease at Staples Center, through 2024 (Staples opened in 1999). Getting this deal done, a building designed, and then built would take up most, if not all, of that time.