New NBA owner Steve Ballmer looked enthusiastically insane in his Clippers introductory speech. His uncanny Jim “Mad Money” Cramer imitation at a Clippers fan rally had Clippers players chuckling and whispering among themselves. DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul–sitting next to each other–kept smiling and shaking their heads all the way through Ballmer’s Booyah! performance, which included a strained bit about how much he loves LA despite his Seattle residency. He almost lived in LA after college, he said, but doesn’t regret Seattle–that decision “worked out all right.” No one doubts the former Microsoft chief is happy with his professional decisions. He paid $2 billion for the team.
Ballmer admits he was just a statistician for his college hoops team and “can’t play a lick.” But if Ballmer demands as much from his team as he did from the crowd–which had to be goaded into enthusiasm that matched the new owner’s–the players will either wilt under the pressure or win multiple championships. By the end of the speech the players all looked like they’d just had a really, really hard practice. This is going to be one seriously “involved” owner was the unmistakeable message. Like Steinbrenner? Coach Doc Rivers looked like he’d rather be anywhere else, and apparently told Ballmer beforehand: “We don’t live for fan rallies. We live for parades.” Doc loves basketball–this was show business. Ballmer promised the Clippers would be “bold.” And he said “don’t read too much into this” but we’re gonna be “hard core.” He screamed “hard core” seven times in twenty seconds. Real basketball players don’t like to hear that stuff from the statistician. It’s a fact.