--The Clippers are stealing all the local headlines today, as owner Donald Sterling and coach Mike Dunleavy are trading barbs through TJ Simers of the LA Times. Among the highlights:
Donald Sterling, in comments made to the Los Angeles Times, had expressed disappointment in his team's fortunes and made what sounded vaguely like an ultimatum, saying, "I want to make L.A. fans proud of this team, but if [Elgin Baylor and Mike Dunleavy] can't make it happen, then I have no choice but to make changes."[ESPN.com]
To which Dunleavy retorted: "It would be the biggest mistake you ever made. It's his team and he can do whatever he likes ... but look, you can find any coach you want, bring him in here and run the situation. But I don't think they are going to do as good a job as I do. And that's period."
"You give me the budget," Dunleavy said in the Times, "and I'm going to be OK with it. I'm not asking anyone to go to the luxury tax. But if we gather information and put deals in place that I think benefit the team and somebody who is not in basketball operations disagrees with it, sorry, you've just taken it out of my hands."
"That's why I'm paying [Dunleavy] the money I am," Sterling said. "I want to see him win. I don't want to tell him how to do it. I'm just interested in the conclusion. My whole philosophy is hire the best people and let them do their jobs.
"There is no alternative, you have to rely on them, and if it doesn't work out, either you're patient or make changes, right?"
As I've said before on here, Mike Dunleavy is an excellent NBA coach, and the Clippers are struggling because of injuries. It's not just Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston, but it seems as if every Clippers starter has missed some time this year. In a loaded Western Conference, a few setbacks can be magnified. That being said, it wouldn't hurt the Clippers to leverage some of their top assets (Corey Maggette, Cuttino Mobley, etc.) and explore some opportunities to reshape and improve their roster. It's possible that both Maggette and Brand will be gone after this season, so it would be wise to chart out the future of this team as best as they can.
In the meantime, Clipper fans should be excited by Sterling's comments. It's the most passion and urgency he's expressed since the Clippers played in San Diego 25 years ago. That's not to say he doesn't care, because Sterling has opened his checkbook in recent years (the Clippers are $10 million over the salary cap). But after these comments it's hard for a long suffering Clipper fan to claim that Donald Sterling doesn't care about winning at this point in his life.
--After injuries to both Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza, the big story with the Lakers right now is the fans' booing of Kwame Brown. Despite what Laker players might say, it's perfectly understandable that fans would boo a player who commits seven turnovers in limited action. Brown isn't quite as awful as some fans believe... after all Phil Jackson is in love with his defense. But Brown's past and reputation as a first pick bust are virtually inescapable, so there has to be some reasonable expectation of boos when he struggles.
In the meantime, the Lakers played exceptional team basketball in a 116-99 win over the Denver Nuggets, as Kobe Bryant had 11 assists and took only seven shots the entire game. The Lakers look to keep it up this week on a tough road swing through San Antonio and Dallas.
--USC freshman sensation OJ Mayo may have violated an NCAA rule when Carmelo Anthony gave him tickets to a Laker game. There are too many NCAA rules, and I have no idea if this is serious. That being said, Mayo should know better. UPDATE: USC Coach Tim Floyd now says he gave Mayo permission to take the tickets from Anthony. From the looks of this, it seems like the worst punishment that could result is Mayo donating $460 to charity and Tim Floyd possibly being suspended for a game.