Clippers extol roster talent to James
Clippers general manager Neil Olshey has known James since the player was a junior in high school, working with him at various camps on the AAU circuit before he jumped to the NBA.
That personal history shaped the team's pitch to James on Friday as Olshey and team president Andy Roeser sought to convince James that choosing to sign with the Clippers was the best basketball decision he could make.
"At the end of the day, all these bells and whistles are great, but these guys are basketball players," Olshey said Saturday, after he'd returned to Los Angeles feeling good about the presentation the club had made to James.
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"LeBron is a really smart guy. He's savvy. And he wants to win. All these elite free agents this year are like that. They want to know where they can win basketball games and that's why from Day 1 we've been selling our roster."
Olshey said he told James the Clippers had decided to make a simple pitch, not try to wow him with celebrities or promises of rich endorsement deals.
"We wanted to be the opposite of that," Olshey said. "It's like the Wizard of Oz, you know, where you just don't want to look behind the curtain. Well, in our case, we want him to look behind the curtain at our roster.
"I told LeBron, 'When doors close for practice, who do you want to play basketball with? Do you want to play with Baron Davis, an All-Star point guard, Chris Kaman, an All-Star center, Eric Gordon, one of the best young shooting guards in the league, and Blake Griffin, who we feel can be a transcendent player at the four-spot? At the end of the day this is about the roster behind the curtain. It's a basketball decision.'"
While Olshey sold the basketball side of the Clippers' pitch, Roeser talked financials, explaining the financial commitment Clippers owner Donald Sterling has made to the club in the last decade.
Specifically, Roeser told James that Sterling has spent $320 million in free-agent contracts since James entered the league and spent over $50 million building the team's new state-of-the-art practice facility.
"Look, these guys can live anywhere they want in the offseason," Olshey said. "They can pursue any business venture they want. As great as Los Angeles is, we don't have to sell that. They already know what's here. They already know all the best restaurants and clubs here.
"We wanted to sell our roster, which we think is the most competitive roster he can join."
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.