ANAHEIM – They were close, this close to getting it right.
That’s not an indictment, not when we’re talking about the Clippers, a franchise as historically well intentioned yet futile as non-alcoholic beer.
Coming close is a victory for this team, which, on the court, still never has been particularly close to everything of consequence.
When the Clippers were sold away from Donald Sterling on Tuesday, the news was greeted with uncorked joy.
Center DeAndre Jordan called it “a great day.” So did forward Blake Griffin. Coach Doc Rivers talked of being “inspired.”
One fan tweeted “NOW IT’S PARTY TIME!!!” and when Clipper Darrell goes all-caps you know he’s serious.
Triumphantly, the Clippers officially rid themselves of their racist former owner. But the noisy euphoria and happy chaos that followed helped muffle the fact the name Sterling isn’t going anywhere.
The mess has been cleaned up, but the stain left behind will remain, indelible, as obvious as an outline of red wine on white shag. They were close, this close.
Instead, Shelly Sterling will still be right there – sitting courtside, hanging in the fancy in-arena lounges and, if the Clippers ever do win an NBA title, receiving three championship rings.
I’ve seen Shelly Sterling several times, up close even, but somehow never noticed she had three ring fingers. That’s something you’d think would be obvious.
As part of this sale to Steve Ballmer, Shelly was given those perks and others, experts explaining that these kinds of bonuses occur all the time in big-money negotiations.
And here I foolishly thought that Shelly receiving a share of Ballmer’s $2 billion – a figure accepted as roughly four times what the Clippers actually are worth – would be payment enough.
Instead, Shelly and her own well-chronicled history of intolerance will be permitted to stay in the Clippers family, the matriarch of this madness sticking entirely too close to a situation that the NBA wants us to believe has been sanitized.
Remember, all this started because Donald Sterling’s well-chronicled history of intolerance finally became too seedy and sexy for the league to continue to ignore. Once exposed, Sterling was vilified by only all of America, the Clippers becoming the biggest story in the country.
No one believed he should be allowed to remain as owner. Sponsors pulled out. Fans boycotted. Players protested, even one of the Clippers’ opponents suggesting they were going to exit the court immediately before tipoff.