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Dolan vs. Ballmer: L.A. Forum owner sues Inglewood over new Clipper building

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Steve Ballmer wants to get his Los Angeles Clippers out of the dominating shadow of the Lakers. The Clippers play in the Staples Center, a building built thanks to the Kobe/Shaq era Lakers that has become synonymous with purple and gold. The Clippers can cover up the Lakers’ championship banners with images of their players, it still doesn’t change the perception in Los Angles and around the nation.

So owner Ballmer wants to build a new arena to house his Clippers, in Inglewood — just a couple blocks from The Forum where the Showtime Lakers played.

Problem is the Forum is owned by — and was not long ago completely renovated by — the Madison Square Garden company. MSG is owned by Knicks owner James Dolan. The Forum has become a popular concert and event destination in the city again, and MSG does not want competition in the form of a shiny new building a couple of blocks away. It contracts with the city was supposed to keep direct competition nearby away.

That has led to MSG suing the City of Inglewood over alleged secret negotiations. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN doubled as a court reporter on this one.

The owner of the Inglewood Forum filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court on Monday against the City of Inglewood and its mayor, James T. Butts, alleging that they held secret negotiations with the LA Clippers about building a new arena adjacent to the Forum and the site of the Los Angeles Rams’ future home.

The Forum has been owned and operated by Madison Square Garden since 2011. The company invested some $100 million in redeveloping the property in cooperation with the city, with a contractual agreement that the city would not attempt to attract another concert venue that would damage the Forum’s core business.

The suit alleges that Inglewood and its mayor breached their contract with the Forum when it entered into secret negotiations with the Clippers regarding 15 acres of property — which had been leased by the Forum for overflow parking — in January 2017.

The Clippers and Inglewood are moving fast down the path to build on those 15 acres. The city has already released the Environmental Impact Report on the proposed Clippers, and votes for its approval are coming soon. MSG says in the suit it was told the city was going to build an office part there, not a direct competitor to its business. MSG has also tried to stoke local opposition to the project from residents (there are always grassroots groups opposed to development in Southern California, some with legitimate complaints and some just NIMBY issues).

The lawsuit is not Dolan vs. Ballmer directly, but their business interests collide on this one. We’ll see how messy it gets.

Joel Embiid out with left knee soreness for Game 3 vs. Nets

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The Philadelphia 76ers will be without Joel Embiid on Thursday night as they take on the Brooklyn Nets in Game 3 of their first round series.

Embiid is battling left knee soreness and although he had a statistically-important performance as the Sixers took Game 2, it was obvious he was in some kind of reduced state of ability.

Veteran center Greg Monroe will start in Embiid’s place, but it will be hard for the Sixers to match Embiid’s production. The Cameroonian star is Philadelphia’s best player, and the 76ers are a hot and cold team.

Not having Embiid on the floor will seriously alter how they respond to the spunky Nets, who already took Game 1 from the higher-seeded Sixers.

The fact that Embiid needs to rest is also drawing some ire from folks on social media. The question is why Embiid did not rest earlier in the series — or even the end of the regular season when he was in and out of the lineup — and prepare for the coming playoff run?

However things go on Thursday, folks around the league will have their eyes glued to the injury report to see updates on Embiid’s status.

Grizzlies’ Kyle Anderson undergoes thoracic outlet decompression surgery

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Kyle Anderson was playing a solid role off the bench for the Grizzlies this season, 8 points and 5.8 rebounds a game, serving as a secondary ball handler and shot creator. Slo-mo was doing his thing.

However, by the end of January, the pain radiating from his shoulder — something he now says he had been playing through for a couple of years — got to be too much. He never played another game after Jan. 30.

Thursday he had thoracic outlet decompression surgery to relieve the problem. Anderson is expected to make a full recovery and be ready to go next training camp.

For comparison, this is the same surgery the Lakers’ Brandon Ingram had.

Anderson is on a very reasonable contract, three years and $28 million remaining. He can be part of what is going to be built in Memphis going forward, but if they are tearing down and rebuilding — meaning a summer trade of Mike Conley — he could bring back assets in a trade.

Either way, he should be healthy and ready to go next summer.

Jerry West on NBA draft: ‘I don’t know how you could pass Zion Williamson’

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A rumor started buzzing around NBA Twitter last week, a second-hand report that NBA legend and Clippers’ consultant Jerry West was praising Murray State guard Ja Morant, saying he would take him in front of the presumptive No. 1 pick Zion Williamson.

The source of that rumor: comedian Jeff Garlin, saying it on the Dan Patrick Show.

Jerry West himself went on the Dan Patrick show Thursday and shot that down saying “it Would Be Like Passing Jordan in the draft.”

Two players were picked in front Jordan in the 1984 Draft. The Houston Rockets took Hakeem Olajuwon, and while Jordan went on to be Jordan nobody can fault the Rockets for how this picked turned out — two titles and a Hall of Fame big man in your organization is an amazing draft.

The one everyone talks about was Portland at No. 2, when executive Stu Inman and coach Jack Ramsey decided they were set on the wing in Clyde Drexler and needed a big man, so they selected Sam Bowie out of Kentucky. Bowie might have had an excellent NBA career if injuries had not plagued him, but he was no Jordan. It’s the ultimate NBA cautionary tale — draft the best player on the board, not according to need.

Williamson is projected by teams as the best player on the board. By far. Even the Morant fans have him a clear second. Plus, Williamson comes in hugely popular and a brand unto himself — he will sell tickets and sponsorships. Not drafting him would be a stupid business decision, not to mention a basketball one.

Whoever lands second in next month’s draft lottery will do well with Morant. Whoever is third will likely get R.J. Barrett out of Duke and… let’s just say that’s where it gets interesting.

Likely top-10 pick Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech declares for NBA draft

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We all knew this was coming, but on Thursday he made it official:

Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver is declaring for the NBA Draft, where he is expected to be a top-10 pick. He made the announcement at a rally on the Tech campus Thursday, then took his message to social media.

Culver, a 6’6” wing player, passes the eye test for an NBA wing, he can shoot from the outside (he only hit 30.4 percent from three this season, but it was 38 percent the season before and his stroke looks good), he can put the ball on the floor and get inside, and he may have the best feel for the game of any wing prospect in this draft. The only question is athleticism — he’s not a classically explosive, and the NBA is loaded with freak athletes on the wing.

Still, Culvert looks like a rotation wing player with the potential to be more, and that should land him comfortably in the top 10 in this draft (likely 5-8).