NEW YORK — Being that I like to consider myself a public-spirited citizen, every so often I feel duty-bound to call out some of those in the same virtuous vocation as yours truly.
Let’s begin by mocking and defrocking writers who make a living out of spreading misinformation about my beloved Los Angeles Clippers . . . the NBA’s easiest target and most often targeted franchise.
Just because the born-again Buffalo Braves have difficulty staying out of the lottery (the 36-46 1996-97 squad was the last to get a dose of bad, 0-3, playoff experience) and don’t always exercise the most sound judgment (Bo Kimble and Randy Woods immediately come to mind) the media is fond of portraying Donald Sterling as being the stingiest owner in professional sports for habitually failing to re-sign his players.
That’s what reporters and columnists tell you.
Irrefutable information, I must admit, albeit scandalously selective.
They also tell you Sterling should have invested $150 million or so on Michael Olowokandi and Elton Brand last summer, thus proving to detractors, doubters and agent David Falk he was committed to winning.
Because Sterling knows he can make a huge annual profit despite the everlasting losing, they tell you, he purposely does basketball business on the cheap . . . so there’s no way he’ll pay fair market value for L.A.’s many unrestricted and restricted free agents-in-waiting. This presumption, of course, gave the fragile players the excuse they needed to play mindlessly selfish and get coach Alvin Gentry fired.
What no one ever mentions is that none of the free agents who left the Clippers in a huff became instantly great for another team.
Ron Harper, whom L.A. got from the Cavaliers with a pair of No. 1 draft choices for Danny Ferry, is the only one in the cluster who achieved something noteworthy . . . because he was smart enough to adhere to Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal, playing a vital role for the championship Bulls and Lakers.
Meanwhile, he was well paid ($4 million per) by L.A. and played on two playoff teams (1991-92 and 1992-93, both coached by Larry Brown) that nearly beat the Jazz and Rockets (who won it all the following season) in first-round engagements.
All the rest — Danny Manning, Dominique Wilkins, Lamond Murray, Maurice Taylor, Jeff McInnis, Lorenzen Wright, Brent Barry and Derek Anderson may have gotten big money elsewhere but never produced numbers remotely big enough to make a case that the Clips royally screwed up by not re-signing them.
For some strange reason, what no one ever mentions, either, is that Olowokandi was, indeed, offered a sizable contract . . . $50 million over seven years with $10 million in bonuses — playoffs, home court advantage and All-Star team — but took the one-year, $6 million qualifier instead.
Agent Bill Duffy demanded $85 million over seven years for his client . . . based on Mike Bibby getting $80 million from the Kings . . . ahem, for almost leading his team to an upset of the Lakers in the Western Conference finals. Olowokandi’s teams have never even made the playoffs.
At the same time, those same journalists have never acknowledged Brand was offered a $60 million, six-year extension (Falk demanded $75 million). That’s $10 million per year for one of the hardest working guys in show business, someone my Clips are thrilled to call their own and no doubt want to re-sign this summer for the right price.
What’s the right price? Keep in mind, Brand’s Bulls and current cast have yet to crash the playoff party and will never do it until they surround him with better players. Meaning they’re not about to tie up their cap by maxing out fake franchise players.
Which does not mean my Paper Clips are planning to let their core free agents (Eric Piatkowski is extraneous because Quentin Richardson is so good) sell their services elsewhere, yet another unfair media misconception.
While Sterling, VP Andy Roeser and GM Elgin Baylor aren’t about to be held hostage by Falk or Duffy or the representatives of Lamar Odom, Andre Miller and Corey Maggette (there’s no Shaq or Kobe in that group), they’re not going to make any of their free agents-to-be (well, maybe, Olowokandi) “insulting” offers.
What constitutes insulting? The players have to understand, just because they’re on the end of their contracts and ask for large salaries, it doesn’t mean my Clips have to over pay them. They can just as easily pay another free agent from other another team; it’s a buyer’s market, which will become especially evident once one-third of the NBA has to write significant luxury tax checks this summer . . . for the first time.
Sterling has roughly $30 million ($12.5 million under the cap) to spend after July 1, more than any other team. It’s all a matter of allocating where it’ s going to go, depending on whether the current Clips have a grip on reality, or an inflated opinion of themselves.
On second thought, my Roach Clips actually did allow one valuable free agent to get away — Larry Brown.
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