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Ball Don't Lie

Donald Sterling celebrates Clippers’ franchise-best-tying winning streak by making things weird

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

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Donald Sterling requests three cheers for iced drinks! (Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports)

The Los Angeles Clippers are rolling, y'all. After scoring a 93-77 win over the New Orleans Hornets at Staples Center on Wednesday night, Vinny Del Negro's team ranks fourth in the league in points scored and allowed per 100 possessions (the only NBA squad with top-five units on both sides of the ball) and has won 11 straight games. That's the longest stretch without a loss since the team moved to California and became the Clippers, and it matches Dr. Jack Ramsay's 1974-75 Buffalo Braves' mark for the best streak in the history of the franchise. It's also the NBA's second-longest current string of victories, trailing only the 11 straight ripped off by Kevin Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder, and it's got the Clips tied with Tyson Chandler's New York Knicks for the NBA's second-best record at 19-6. Life, for Clippers fans, is good.

Life, for Clippers owner Donald Sterling, is not so much. As BDL Editor Kelly Dwyer discussed earlier this week, the Clips' longtime boss and L.A. real estate magnate just lost a case in Los Angeles Superior Court stemming from claims of negligence before and after a 2009 fire at one of the apartment complexes he owns. As a result, Sterling has been ordered to pay a whopping $17.3 million in penalties and punitive damages. So yeah: Not the best week ever for Mr. Sterling.

So after Wednesday night's win perked up his mood a bit, he felt like celebrating ... in the Clipper locker room. From Arash Markazi at ESPNLosAngeles.com:

As the Clippers celebrated a franchise-best-tying 11th straight win, Clippers owner Donald Sterling walked into the room with an entourage of about 10 friends who normally occupy the center courtside seats at home games.

It was the first time Sterling has entered the Clippers' locker room this season and the first time many of the new players on the team had even met him. As Jamal Crawford tied his shoes, Sterling walked up to him and said, "I love watching you shoot. When you shoot, everyone is quiet. I love it."

As Crawford shook his hand, Sterling said, "You're going to stay here forever, right? I love having you here. Thank you so much." [...]

Sterling even led the team in a "Hip, hip, hooray!" chant in the middle of the locker room that was as corny as it sounds and caused a couple of players to roll their eyes about it afterward.

The lede from Associated Press writer Beth Harris' gamer is likewise sub-comfortable:

The Los Angeles Clippers' franchise record-tying 11th consecutive victory had owner Donald Sterling leading a ''hip, hip hooray'' chant in the locker room.

Sterling grabbed the hand of coach Vinny Del Negro and held it up, exhorting his team, ''Let's hear it for the coach.'' Then he told Del Negro, ''Vinny, give me a hug'' and the two men embraced.

Just imagine your 69-year-old boss walking up to you and, firmly and in no uncertain terms, calling for an embrace. That would be a bit untoward even if he wasn't a famously reputed lech with arguably the worst reputations of any owner in sports, what with the alleged overt intra-organizational racism, the $2.73 million settlement paid in a case alleging he refused to rent apartments to "African Americans, Hispanics and families with children," the player-personnel advice from escorts and all.

Also, if you love Crawford enough to want to keep him in Clipper red, white and blue forever — and it's easy to understand why you would, considering he's kicking in nearly 17 points per game off the bench, hitting better than 37 percent of his 3-pointers and helping turn your second unit into the most fearsome reserve unit in the game — guaranteeing the final two years of the contract you just gave him would be a good start. Then again, money might be a bit tight these days.

The Clippers have got a great thing going, thanks to balanced scoring (five Clips were in double-figures on Wednesday) and an amplified commitment to defense (they held New Orleans to 38.7 percent shooting and a 2-for-19 mark from long range, and forced 20 Hornet turnovers). After many years of watching deplorable teams that neither gave maximum effort nor produced optimal results, their fans deserve to enjoy the energetic, executing, legitimately professional team the Clippers now field on a nightly basis, led by one of the truly great offensive orchestrators in recent memory and featuring several of the game's most breathtaking athletes. So maybe don't ruin it by running into the locker room and chanting "hip, hip hooray," Mr. Sterling. Whenever you're around, it's harder to avoid thinking about all the bad stuff you've been involved with and just focus on how cool Eric Bledsoe is.

I guess we should thank heaven for small mercies that Sterling's locker-room celebration was limited mostly to VDN hugs and olde-tyme cheers. Given some of the dressing-room-related allegations that have circulated about him in the past, things could've gotten much weirder.

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