Ballz vs. Buss

Who ya got?

Jim Rome
July 26, 2019 - 10:47 am
Steve Ballmer and Jeanie Buss

USA Today

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It’s been one helluva 48 hours for the Los Angeles Clippers. A truly historic 48 hours, really. On Wednesday, Steve Ballmer was losing his damn mind introducing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to the media. And yesterday, the team surprised everyone when they dropped a hype video with the first-ever publicly viewed rendering of a new arena they plan to build in Inglewood—about 15 miles south of downtown LA.

And after seeing the video, I have to say: It’s pretty cool. It’s pretty damn cool. Woo!

And I don’t say that because of how a computer animated arena looks on screen. Honestly—you see one of these blueprints, you’ve seen them all. And I’m sure as hell not about to verbally describe what a drawing looks like on the radio to a national audience—especially when most of you don’t live here.

I say it’s pretty damn cool not because of what it looks like, but what it represents. And what it represents is a departure from being the snot-nosed ginger little bro of the Lakers—who pay rent in big brother’s building and look up at a ceiling-sized tapestry of reminders that this a Lakers town and STAPLES is a Lakers house. 16 championship banners. 11 retired numbers. All of them purple and gold. Freaking Taylor Swift has a banner in the rafters. A banner that Kobe Bryant presented her. You wouldn’t even know the Clippers played at STAPLES if they didn’t put a giant ass logo on the court 41 times a year.

So in 48 hours—a team that once held DeAndre Jordan hostage just to get him to come back to lose in the second round of the playoffs—is now introducing Kawhi and PG-13. And they didn’t have to lock either of them in their living rooms to get them to sign on the line which is dotted. Two LA guys signed with the Clippers—not the Lakers. And a day later, it’s the Clippers showing off their blueprints to get the hell out of the Lakers house and, more importantly, get the hell out of the Lakers shadow once and for all.

And don’t think the Lakers don’t know it. And don’t think the Lakers are happy about it. Four months ago, the LA Times unearthed some e-mails between Jeanie Buss, Linda Rambis, and Irving Azoff—who is a businessman with a close relationship to the Lakers and James Dolan who runs the Madison Square Garden Company. The Madison Square Garden Company owns and operates the Forum—which is also in Inglewood and was home to Lakers for 32 years.

In an email from 2017, Irving Azoff wrote to Jeanie Buss and Linda Rambis, “Tomorrow morning there will be a press conference in Inglewood. They will announce that Ballz and the Clippers have optioned land on Century Boulevard to build a new arena. We were blindsided and not involved in the process. It’s a long way to fruition but we should talk about how it impacts the Lakers and the Forum.”

That e-mail was from two years ago. It’s become public recently because it was produced during discovery in a lawsuit Madison Square Garden has since filed against the City of Inglewood in regards to the Clippers building a new arena there.

The legal matters at hand between the Clippers and MSG and Inglewood are complicated and boring. Irving Azoff referring to Steve Ballmer as “Ballz” and spelling it with a “z” is not complicated and not boring. It’s hilariously juvenile.

And the only thing that makes it better is that Jeanie Buss ran with the gloss.

Later in the email chain, Linda Rambis wrote, “We are hearing Jerry West is going, too. Have you heard that?”

Azoff responded, “We were totally blindsided. Does West work for Ballz now?”

Jeanie Buss then jumped in and wrote: “They are all crazy. This is a joke. Why would Adam Silver let this happen?”

Azoff wrote back, “He has no vote, unfortunately. It will be a long legal fight. Ballz has the LA Times site and Mayor Eric Garcetti offered him something by City Hall.”

Jeanie responded, “Didn’t Ballz see what we did to my brother? He will have nothing but Clippers basketball. Whoopee.”

This is an all-time e-mail chain. And it tells you all you need to know about the Lakers.  And now you know why they’re so jacked up: why they’re so dysfunctional. They have no idea what their rival is doing right down the hall, and just sit back, talking crap and continuing to mock them, while little brother is doing the work, gearing and getting ready to knock them the hell out and take over this town. Could Laker mgmt... And ownership be any more out of touch, or ripe for getting their asses kicked?

Three super high level executives freaking out that Clippers might leave STAPLES—not knowing that Jerry West worked for the team—constantly referring to Steve Ballmer as "Ballz" with a z—and invoking the ousting of Jim Buss as a warning for what might happen to “Ballz” if he messes with them.

You can’t make this stuff up.

The email chain continued and at one point Azoff wrote, “Here’s my dream. Rebuild the Forum from scratch. Lakers plus music. Boom.”

Jeanie wrote, “…I believe you can do anything.”

Linda Rambis said, “That’s an incredible dream. Count me in.”

Near the end of the e-mail thread, Azoff wrote, in part, “James Dolan loves the idea, too. We are fine either way. Our experts say there is zero chance Ballz can build on the other side site... We are positive it’s a non-starter.”

Two years ago, Azoff was dreaming of tearing down the Forum and rebuilding it for the Lakers and calling the Clippers plans a non-starter. Yesterday Steve Ballmer was dropping a video of the new building and telling ESPN about his new arena, “This is really going to happen.”

So who you got? Steve Ballmer and his bottomless pockets? Or James Dolan and the Madison Square Company?

In regards to the Jeanie Buss referring to Ballmer as “Ballz” with a z—ESPN asked Ballmer about that yesterday. He said, “That email thing was weird. Let me just it was weird. I don’t know what they were trying to do precisely. First I’ll just say, Jeanie was very nice. She followed up apologetically about that. Actually my initial response was they misspelled it. My initial reaction was, ‘Z?!’ With my last name, I won’t say I haven’t been called that before. It’s not the first time I have heard that.”

Freaking Ballz. Doesn’t care. Why would he? He’s Steve Freaking Ballmer. And he’s running the hell out of Jeanie’s town right now. Lakers ownership is wasting its time on some high school text thread, and Ballmer is doing work, snatching souls and snatching this freaking town from the Lakers. 

What a weird year it's been for Jeanie Buss. Magic Johnson quits on her without telling her--7 fans protest her ownership--and at one point she had to apologize to Steve Ballmer for calling him Ballz. With a z.

Just when you think it can't get weirder for the Lakers and any better for the Clippers--it does.