Clippers make quick pitch to LeBron
LOS ANGELES -- The Clippers kept their pitch to LeBron James simple and to the point, displaying a rare air of confidence for a franchise so often regarded as Los Angeles' other NBA team.
When the Clippers met with James on Friday afternoon in Cleveland, they told him they didn't need to wow him with celebrity chefs or videos of all the hotspots in Los Angeles. Because while they may not have a championship history, they believe they have the best team, the best resources and the best chance to win of any of the six teams currently running in the stakes to land the two-time league MVP.
"It was our goal to present tangible and very obvious reasons as to why we think LeBron choosing our organization is his best option," Clippers general manager Neil Olshey said in a statement. "We clearly have the best team already in place for him to join, we have the best city, the best arena, the best practice facility -- overall the best situation."
In contrast to the three other clubs who'd met with James over the past two days, the Clippers' pitch meeting was the shortest and least involved. Only Olshey and team president Andy Roeser made the trip. The team has not yet hired a coach to replace interim coach Kim Hughes, though sources indicated the team will move on that front over the weekend, or by early next week at the latest. The team interviewed Dallas assistant Dwane Casey and former Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro earlier this week.
Owner Donald Sterling stayed home, sources indicated, because the Clippers wanted to keep the focus of their pitch on basketball, what they believe is their strongest attribute in this race.
The Clippers said they thought bringing a small contingent was bold and confident. Olshey told James that unlike his other suitors, he didn't need to recruit another superstar because he already had one in last year's No. 1 overall pick, Blake Griffin.
Roeser even went so far as to tell ESPN's Shelley Smith that if Plan A is landing LeBron, Plan B is "going back and asking him to reconsider."
David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at USC's Marshall School of Business, said that merely pursuing James as aggressively as the Clippers have is an important signal to the team's fans.
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"Even though it is a longshot, the Clippers are signaling to their fans that they are engaged," Carter said. "Should they sign him, LeBron will prove to be a trophy in his own right, as his signing would be an endorsement of Clippers basketball.
"The credibility he would bring would instantaneously allow the franchise to generate millions more in revenue, quite literally overnight. This would also allow the team to gain some serious traction in a star-driven market where teams that lack superstar players or coaches struggle for attention."
While most consider the Clippers to be a longshot to land James, the team itself has never let on that it sees itself in that light.
Olshey has said he believes James will make a "basketball decision" in the end, but admitted after Friday's meeting it was hard to get a read on how well the Clippers message was received.
"If this basketball thing doesn't work out, he'll be great on the World Poker Tour because he's playing cards pretty close to his vest," Olshey told Smith. "LeBron's an incredibly bright guy, he knows exactly what he wants. He's going to take the information and be receptive and then he and [agent] Leon [Rose] and Mav (longtime friend Maverick Carter) will get together as a team, then LeBron will make his decision."
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com. ESPN's Shelley Smith contributed to this report from Cleveland.
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