Clippers owner Steve Ballmer throws T-shirts into the crowd during the team’s exhibition game at Staples Center last week against Phoenix. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
NBA: CLIPPERS at LAKERS
Details/TV: Staples Center, Friday at 7:30 p.m., ESPN, Prime Ticket, TWC SportsNet:
Adam Silver’s silver lining to swapping out Donald T. Sterling for Steve Ballmer in the NBA hierarchy is that everyone wants a piece of the new guy now in a good way. During an appearance on Jim Rome’s Showtime show recently, Ballmer tried to explain why he’s trying to get fans to commit to arriving early and helping the players get all geeked up before the game starts, even if there’s this tradition of arriving late because of difficult traffic around Staples Center:
“We’re comin’ baby – we’re committed, we’re focused, we’ve got one of the most outstanding teams and we have one of the most outstanding coaches, we’re gonna support this team, starting with me and through the fan base, we’ll be the best can be and we’re gonna get after it totally, 100, 200, 600 percent – boom – and we will have the best year we know how.”
There has been no rebuttal posted from the current Lakers ownership family – maybe only a subtle reminder that this is a Lakers’ home game, so not even Ballmer will get that customary courtside seat he’s been getting used to in the preseason. Ballmer’s $2 billion payoff may be personal – it’s allowed him to squeeze into a Clippers jersey (with a heavily bandaged right shoulder) and get on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek magazine under the headline “Basket Ballmer.” Get it? The 6-foot-5 Detroit native may not be ready to ask Doc Rivers for some playing time – at 58, he’s no doubt a little Microsoft on defense. So let’s see how many Clippers fans come to this one on Halloween night dressed up as him.
The rest of Staples Center is convinced they’ll see Kobe Bryant dressed as the Black Mamba. “I think Kobe is going to have an unbelievable year,” said TNT analyst Greg Anthony. “I don’t know if we’ve ever had a player whose skill set has evolved as well as his has. You go back before his injury and he had his most efficient season ever. He’s at a state in his career where he can match his intellectual talents with his athletic ability to compensate for what he’s lost individually. He is up there in years, but his skill set will offset what he has lost athletically.” So if the Lakers open against Dwight Howard and Houston on Tuesday (Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TNT), you’d guess Bryant would sit out the next night in Phoenix (Wednesday, 7 p.m., TWC SportsNet) before this first of four meetings with the Clippers during the regular season. This game turns out to be on the wrong end of a season-opening back-to-back scheduling trap for Ballmer’s ballers, after they start Thursday against Kevin Durant-deficient Oklahoma City (Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TNT).
Among the national opening night matchups of note:
Dallas at San Antonio: Tuesday at 4 p.m., TNT
Chicago at New York: Wednesday at 4 p.m., ESPN
Oklahoma City at Portland: Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., ESPN
New York at Cleveland: Thursday at 5 p.m., TNT
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE REST OF THE WEEK:
Even though both are 3-year-olds, California Chrome and Shared Belief have never raced against each other, but they will finally do so in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita (Saturday, 5:35 p.m., Channel 4) … UCLA matches up against Arizona at the Rose Bowl (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN) while USC goes to Washington State (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network), and then the first College Football Playoff committee Top 25 poll comes on (Tuesday, 4:30 p.m., ESPN) … The Kings start a nasty five-game road trip in Philadelphia (Tuesday, 4 p.m, FSW) that includes stops in Pittsburgh, Detroit and Carolina … UCLA is told it can use Pauley Pavilion finally for an exhibition basketball game (Friday, 7:30 p.m. vs. Azusa Pacific) … and its year three for the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix, in Austin, Tex.