UPDATE 4/29: Donald T. Sterling banned for life from games, practices and from Clipper facilities, fined $2.5 million and the NBA will attempt to force a sale of the team. NBA commissioner Adam Silver though dodged questions about Sterling’s past racist practices, ESPN is reporting “widespread support” for Silver’s decision. A couple of thoughts:
- Silver did the right thing in responding to this latest incident. He went for the maximum fine and ban and initiating steps to force a sale. It’s unlikely that he’d move on that without a reasonable expectation of success in convincing the other owners. That’s a good thing.
- Donald T. Sterling is going to make out like a bandit if the sale happens. Forbes valued the Clippers at $575M, and will likely go for higher than that in an open market.
- This is a recognition, well known until David Stern gave the Clippers Chris Paul, that the franchise under Sterling is toxic and is the NBA’s dead end. There was some amnesia after the Gift of Paul, but this episode is just a reminder of Sterling’s awful history as an owner, and his consistently racist and paternalistic attitudes towards Clippers players. It’s no surprise he’s a “Slumlord Billionaire”. Players aren’t in LA to play for Sterling, they are there for the Clippers players and coaches. The recent success of the Clippers can be attributed to Sterling getting the heck out of the way and laying low.
- We’re here at this point 1) because Sterling’s comments were so bad that the other NBA owners couldn’t be caught defending Sterling, even if it were in their long-term interests to limit the commissioner’s powers and 2) NBA players past and present demonstrated, took to social media and the media to express their disgust and really considered major disruption to the NBA’s business as usual though boycotts. If the NBA failed to act in a way that the players would support, we could have seen players vote with their feet in free agency, top coaches refusing to sign the the Clippers, and more sponsors withdrawing from the Clippers. And that, the NBA cannot have for newly nationally popular franchise.
- You should really be following Dave Zirin (@edgeofsports), his coverage and blunt reality checks on the shortcomings of this process is a wakeup call.
- Oh and by the way, the settlement in Sterling’s housing discrimination suit was just $2.73M paid out by his Sterling’s insurance companies. Gives you a sense of where racial justice is at in the US when the difference between being a racist and acting racist is just $230k or 9.2%.
We here at PickedLastSports.com is all about experimentation. In the spirit of that, instead of writing about what an awful owner Donald T. Sterling we instead hosted a webchat on the same topic. With special guest and die-hard Clippers fan John de Leon we start with a recap of the controversy, delve deeper in to Sterling’s past racism/sexism/classism/being a slumlord, and response of the players, fans, and the league. Check it out:
The following is by a contributor from Sacramento. A lifelong Kings fan, Petey is writing to us about the difficulty in managing his love of the Kings, and the obvious connection between the new Sacramento stadium deal and the budget cuts/closure of public schools. Food for thought.
This Sacramento Kings mural (city approved) appears on 16th street, between Q and R streets and has so for years now. Well, a few months ago the “Schools Not Stadiums” message was seen in the same spot you see it here in the photo. Not long after that the artist touched up this mural and the message was no longer seen.
As quickly as the message disappeared from the center of the mural it reappeared in the same spot less then two weeks later.
There are clearly foes of the downtown arena that will not disappear, and will not be silent while schools are closing and the plans for the new downtown arena continue to move forward.
Earlier this year a vote passed to close seven schools in Sacramento, and during that time the city was making every effort to keep pro basketball in Sacramento through an arena subsidy plan. The words “Schools Not Stadiums” might just seem like graffiti on top of a mural, but these words are important to many of people in Sacramento that care about more then just basketball.
Being a smart fan and making that jump from being casual fan to a diehard is about knowing your team, warts and all. In that spirit, let’s take a critical look at the home team: the Warriors.
Oaklanders take their sports seriously, it’s what makes Warriors games such a loud and fun experience. Barring the occasional gaffe, like the awful sweet and sour pork on Asian Night 2013 (this theme food was an affront to sweet foods, sour foods, and Asians generally), the Warriors are built for bandwagon fandom. Since the tech boom, the Warriors is the one thing that Oakland’s melange of out of town transplants, growing young urban professional population (some would call gentrifiers), long-time residents, and radical organizers can get behind together. Being a perpetual underdog who has occasional highly improbable playoff runs on the backs of charismatic small guy ballers (Baron Davis, Stephen Curry) just adds to the charm.
[As a side note, for an out-of-town team diehard like myself, the Warriors are a necessary evil (like capitalism for liberals!) to watch the team you’re actually rooting for. That’s why I don’t like buying discount group tickets with your non-profit fundraising group – it’s better to be heckled by strangers than by two dozen of your friends. Just kidding! Please keep me on your mailing list! End side note.]
So let’s look at the Warriors. There are worse owners in the NBA than the Warriors ownership group. That says something of the low bar of sports team owners and also something about the geographic location of the Warriors, being based in generally progressive Bay Area. Joe Lacob is the majority owner, and made his billions as a venture capitalist, making him your garden variety Bay Area billionaire. Your privileged first-world life was probably incrementally improved by something this man invested in. Early investments included medical supplies, clear/invisible orthodontics, and Autotrader.com.Other investments include biotech (Genenetch), online retail (Amazon), and pointless Facebook time sinks you’re nonetheless addicted to and can’t help but post your online gaming habits of (Zynga).
Political donations are nothing exciting or out of the ordinary for this type of Silicon Valley liberal techie, boatloads to Democrats. 70% of donations from people in the franchise went to Dems. Sorry, no disaggregated data on who, and if they’re the fake pro-business, pro-polluter Democrats that infest California.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. The Warriors, in all likelihood will not stay in Oakland. Joe Lacob has made a huge deal since buying the team in 2011 about moving the team back to San Francisco the original home of the Warriors after moving from Philadelphia. The team will probably drop the euphemism “Golden State,” which stands for “the city the Warriors play in that shall not be named because we’re afraid of it. We’re not racist. Really.”
Currently the move is in the colored-pencil drawings of happy urban people phase of development. Take a look, I’m not kidding. Based on the renderings, it’s going to be AWESOME, like if they played basketball in AT&T Park where the Giants play baseball (and whose concessions contractors short their workers). They’ve also given San Francisco elected officials great political cover by privately financing the construction of the project estimated at $975M. Nobody wants a repeat of the Jeffrey Loria-Marlins debacle in Miami where public financing sunk the city, right? So here’s a project with privately financed stadium at no additional tax payer expense!
Not so fast. The pier is currently unusable, and would require between $100-120M in repairs before construction would begin. The Warriors say it will cost $100M, but overall as much as $120M may be needed. The Warriors, in the generosity, are willing to front the costs but these repairs would be later reimbursed by the city through other giveaways according to the SF Chronicle:
The Warriors are proposing to put up all the costs in exchange for a long-term lease to the site. The team hopes to recoup the money eventually in the form of rent credits from the port or other givebacks, and from having sole access to the arena’s revenue stream.
I’m not a planner, but givebacks doesn’t sound like a good deal and basically giving away something (land in this case, through a long-term lease) seems suspect too. Oh, and did I mention it’s not just an arena? It’s luxury condos, retail space, and two hotels. One could make an argument that the Warriors is a public good, especially when the team is winning and as fun to watch now. But all this private development on public dime? That’s land the city could have sold and it’s a $120M reimbursement that’s going to have to come from some city budget line item when the Warriors do submit that check request. It all sounds like the LA Live development that now houses the Lakers/Clippers/Kings/Grammys – a development that also required big time fight to make sure the community got something out of that deal.
And what about Oakland? What about Oakland? Somehow, despite all these plans and the City and County of San Francisco already with a website of the project with fancy illustrations, the Warriors assure Oakland still has a chance to keep the team. Huh?
Fred Blackwell, Oakland’s assistant city administrator, said the Warriors met with city officials last week and assured them Oakland was still in the running for the team’s new home. “We asked them straight up whether or not we were still in the game, and they told us we were,” Blackwell said.
Perhaps Oakland can counter with it’s own waterfront land giveaway, like the offer of the Jack London Square site that was thrown at the A’s. Too bad the A’s are still angling for San Jose. Another story for another day. Or the Coliseum City super development, which looks a lot like LA Live. Or Pier 30-23. Sorry these retail/luxury condo/hotel/arena developments all start looking the same after a while.
Seriously, don’t just take my word for it – not my team and I’m not ready to perform the cleansing rituals needed to jump on the Warriors bandwagon. But I thought this Warriors fan put some of the concerns best:
“I think it will change the crowd,” Oakland’s Mark Mendez said. “If they move to San Francisco, they’re not going to have the same kind of fans that they have here in Oakland.”
Mendez, who has attended Warriors games since his childhood, said he fears being priced out if the team moves across the Bay Bridge.
“It will be more expensive, no doubt about that,” he said. “I’m already struggling to buy tickets to this place.”
I’m not a Warriors fan but I do live in this city; this city that I love. If Oakland plans to match or exceed SF’s $120M reimbursement offer to the Warriors out of Oakland’s already tapped general fund, then it IS my problem. Never mind. It’s still my problem if this deal rolls through SF. You’d have to be a jerk to want to see your neighbor fleeced. I’m a sports fan, not an ass.
Rooting for an NBA team is like rooting for a Fortune 500 company. At the end of the day, it’s still all about one boss against another, capitalist vs. capitalist. A cynic might say that this entire enterprise is nothing but an opiate of the masses. I’d argue that sports, like politics, has gradations of foulness and even as fan-people in the “belly of the beast,” our choices and actions make a difference.
Which brings us back to the question, how evil is your NBA team? Let’s start with some of the remaining playoff teams. This is by no means an exhaustive or comprehensive list, I’d love feedback in the comments about additions or differences of opinion. And if you haven’t already, check out Dave Zirin’s treatise on the subject of bad owners, Bad Sports, How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love.
There’s been much written on this topic from last season, so I’ll refer back to excellent articles on why you’d root for the Heat (players used free agency to their maximum benefit, OKC is even more evil – more on that later) and why you wouldn’t include rooting for the owner Mickey Arison (tax evasion, owing Miami millions). Arison’s political donations roughly split between the D-‘s and R-‘s, no doubt a sign of the shifting politics of South Florida.
Being the favorites this season by far makes it easy to root against LeBron James and Co. Even so, Heat players led the way in the NBA protesting the murder of Trayvon Martin by posing their own hoodie photo. Moments like these don’t make or break a movement, but it is an important boost to the visibility of a fight and there’s something greatly validating to see your sports heroes (and villains!) as people with politics too.
Oklahoma City Thunder
OKC owner Clay Bennett hates Seattle. I can’t imagine why anybody would hate the home of fifty-cent oyster happy hours, but there it is. Prior to moving to OKC, Bennett tried and failed to extort the the city and state of Washington to fund a new arena (voters decided no) and lied about their intentions on keeping the team in Seattle. All this is well documented by angry Sonics fans.
Bennett also donated $7,500 to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012 and since 2009, players and execs on OKC gave at least 70% of their donations to Republican candidates. In total, OKC owners gave $15,000 to Romney. The TrueHoop blog has an great (and fun) video on the Republican and Christian leanings of the organization, which include a pre-game prayer before each home game – something only one other team in the league does.
San Antonio Spurs
Spurs ownership is not progressive (or even liberal) leaning. Owner Peter Holt gave nearly $250k in political contributions, 98% of which went to Republican candidates since 2009. He’s given over $500k to the gubernatorial campaigns of Rick Perry (yuck!). Holt also made his fortune in selling Caterpillar construction equipment, the same equipment weaponized by the Israeli army and then used to demolish Palestinian homes in the West Bank. There are active campaigns for colleges to divest from Caterpillar, to remove the company from socially-conscious investment portfolios and to demand corporate accountability.
In 2010 though, when their then-playoff opponent Phoenix Suns decided to take a stand against the racist and anti-immigrant Arizona legislation SB 1070 that legalized racial profiling (among other ugly, ugly things) the Spurs did support the Suns. The Suns decided to wear their “Los Suns” jerseys and their stars spoke out against the legislation. Spurs coach Greg Popovich had this to say in support of the gesture:
It’s kind of like 9-11 comes and all of a sudden there’s a Patriot Act, just a kneejerk sort of thing that changes our country and what we stand for. This law smacks of that to some degree, so I think what he’s doing tomorrow night is very wise and very correct.
Not surprisingly, Popovich donated $5,000 to the Obama campaign in 2012. Not bad for the former Air Force Academy cadet and coach – a school not known as a bastion of liberal thought. Perhaps it was his short time coaching the Pomona-Pitzer college squad. Pitzer has a reputation for being both the “social justice” and “4:20” Claremont College.
We’ll look at some other teams later this week, but it’s important to note that this isn’t about an “evil Olympics” of any sort. If you dig enough, every team’s got their skeletons and sometimes, things worth cheering for. There’s also the whole “playing ball well” thing too. Bottom-line is that as fans, we ought to know who we’re rooting for, warts and all. Better that than buying the fantasy narratives the NBA and these teams foist on us. I can mix my own Kool-Aid, thank you very much.
8 teams left in the NBA Playoffs and we help you pick the right bandwagon for you. Picked Last brought you the bandwagon breakdown for the Eastern Conference. Today we’re looking at the West, and with so many good teams, this is going to be a tough one if this double-overtime thriller from San Antonio is any indication:
Golden State Warriors: The Warriors are as bandwagon friendly as a team can get, and convenient since both Harjit and I live in the bay. They have a superstar in Stephen Curry whose sharpshooting makes him always worth watching, exciting SportsCenter-friendly young wings, and a bunch of low-maintenance vets who do what they do well. Another bonus is the classy gold and blue “The City” jerseys and logo. Remember the fun 2007 “We Believe” team that knocked out top seeded Dallas? Like that team, expectations were low this season, making the conditions perfect for another underdog run. One area of concern is All-star David Lee’s injury, but if Game 1 against the Spurs was any indication, they might be better without him. Recommendation: JUMP! But really, you probably already BELIEVE.
San Antonio Spurs: Oh the Spurs. Commenting on the age of their “Big 3” Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker is pretty old in itself. It hardly matters this season given their solid play night-in, night-out. Barring the same type of freak injury that derailed the team in the last several seasons, the Spurs are the clear frontrunners in the West. Ginobli’s good health and outstanding performance in Monday’s double-OT game should seal that, as should Kawhi Lenoard’s exciting two-way play. The Spurs don’t need bandwagon fans because odds are, you’ll see them against the Heat in the Finals and you’d be rooting for them eventually unless you’re already at Heat fan. Root for the Warriors this round then jump again in the Finals (or earlier). And really, do you want to be associated with the Screaming Spurs Lady? Recommendation: HOLD
— ScreamingSpursLady (@SAScreamingLady) May 7, 2013
Oklahoma City Thunder: OKC was the previous conference favorite until guard Russell Westbrook went down for the season. Kevin Durant and Westbrook was a deadly one-two punch on the wings, but now OKC is just Kevin Durant and a bunch of stiffs that KD plays with. Kevin Martin can’t be trusted to show up on defense or even on offense regularly (see his 2 for 11 stinkbomb last night). Serge Ibaka, for all his talent and athleticism has dominated fewer games this playoffs than Dwight Howard; ouch, but true. This team reminds me of a mortgage-backed security circa 2008 (stay with me). Sure it had some outstanding assets with Durant and Westbrook. But look more closely: this team starts a shooting guard who largely can’t shoot (Sefolosha), no real power forward to speak of (there’s Perkins, but if he were a player in NBA Jam his signature move would be a scowl), and their backup point guard Derek Fisher is so old I suspect he is cryogenically frozen during the offseason to maintain freshness. This package is toxic, and if you’re holding on to it, you’re gonna need a bailout. Recommendation: BAIL, Rockets draft pick Royce White is still right:
— Royce White (@Highway_30) May 2, 2013
Memphis Grizzlies: Despite getting shocked by Durant in Game 1, this team has looked balanced in the last two games and seriously took care of business in the last series against the Clippers. Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are a terrific combination and showed in this series and the last that this team can score as well as play stingy, physical defense. In other words, championship ball. And I would argue that Z-Bo and Gasol are the best big man combination left in these playoffs; Memphis can ride them a long way. They’ll need to get more consistent play from the rest of their team to live up to Harjit’s finals prediction, but this is a team to watch for. Don’t be surprised when they’re jumping all over the Spurs in the conference finals. Recommendation: JUMP
With eight teams left in the NBA Playoffs, what’s a bandwagon fan to do? If your team’s been eliminated – and with 73% of the league knocked out, odds are that you’re team’s been knocked out, here’s a handy guide for all of us bandwagon fans. Let’s be real, the NBA playoffs doesn’t really get interesting until the second round as the weaker teams who just squeaked into playoffs get knocked out (Lakers, Rockets, Milwaukee), and the contenders get separated from the pretenders (Clippers, Nuggets, Nets, Celtics, Hawks). All this means we have a lot more exciting ball like this Bulls-Heat stunner from tonight:
Miami Heat: Jumping on the Heat bandwagon is probably the easiest and most socially awkward thing you can do. LeBron James didn’t get a near unanimous MVP vote for nothing, love or hate the man can ball. And the Heat have played championship ball all season with stifling defense and spectacular 3-point shooting. With the Rockets knocked out too, the Heat have an “Asian Pride” claim with Filipino head coach Erik Spoelstra. Expect a sharp drop in popularity amongst your friends and coworkers should you join the Heat bandwagon. Recommendation: JUMP! Jerk.
Chicago Bulls: The Bulls jumped on the Heat early, taking a 1-0 on the series with inspired play by Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson despite being wracked by injuries and illness. It may be worth rooting for the Bulls just for the chance to see Derrick Rose return from injury if the Bulls can last deep into the playoffs. You’re probably already on this bandwagon since you’re a Heat hater anyway. Consistently entertaining for (seemingly annual) improbable playoff runs with crazy double- and triple-overtime games, Chicago’s worth watching for their scrappy defense and Nate Robinson’s small-guy playground ball and swagger. Recommendation: JUMP!
New York Knicks: A gunner’s dream, pick the Knicks if you’re a fan of jacking up low-percentage jump shots or of the early 2000 New Jersey Nets (Jason Kidd! Kenyon Martin!). When they’re hot, Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith can really light it up so that’s pretty fun. However, hard to say if this bandwagon is worth it since Amar’e Stoudemire won’t return ’till game 3 and it’s unlikely they’ll go on a deep playoff run without the whole team healthy. Recommendation: HOLD until Conference Finals if they make it.
Indiana Pacers: Somehow, the Pacers and Hawks are the two teams who find themselves on NBA TV purgatory every year in the first round (that is, the series no one cares about). This year the Pacers survived. You probably didn’t even know the Pacers were in the playoffs until the second round. It’s all good, no judgement here. Watch the Pacers to see Roy Hibbert be an absolute beast on defense, and Paul George show his all around game (Granger who?). David West ain’t shabby too, his elbow jumper is pretty much automatic and is a joy to watch if you’re into solid, fundamental basketball. Watch out for bench gunner Lance Stephenson too, he’s sneaky good. Recommendation: JUMP! But you’ll probably root for this team the next round vs. the Heat anyway, so you might as well start early. It’s the hipster-y thing to do.
Check back tomorrow for the Western Conference!
Given what’s left, who are folks going for? Obviously it’s an ‘anybody but El Heat’ situation, but is that all? After all 81 games, is all we have left to pull for a simple Lebron-hate?
I’m making a bold call here.
It’s going down, Indiana vs. Memphis. Going 7 games with Marc Gasol as MVP.
This is all conjecture and guessing/wishing, but if Pau is out, I’m going for any Gasol at this point.