Baylor: Clippers didn't reward success
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Elgin Baylor is taking his game to a different court.
One day after filing a discrimination suit against the Los Angeles Clippers and the NBA, Baylor provided insight into his action against the team for whom he served as general manager for 22 years and the league in which he excelled as a player for 14 seasons.
"The way I was treated by the NBA and the Clippers was unfair and in many ways discriminatory. It was wrong," said Baylor, reading from a prepared statement at a news conference at the office of his lawyer Carl Douglas.
"We are forced to take this action because our effort to resolve this dispute quietly were ignored. So I look forward to having my day in court."
Clippers attorney Robert H. Platt said Baylor's claims "carry no weight and have no credibility."
"Now that they have staged their press conference, it has become even more apparent that the decision to bring the suit was driven by publicity-seeking attorneys hoping to draw attention to themselves," Platt said in a statement issued Thursday.
Flanked by a four-person legal team and his wife Elaine, the 74-year-old Baylor -- a member of basketball's Hall of Fame -- suggested he had endured a bizarre working arrangement with the Clippers and owner Donald Sterling that turned sour in recent years with the team trying to force him out.
"I worked with the Clipper organization on a contract for only my first six years, until 1993, after that it was if I had passed the smell test," said Baylor, the team's GM until last October. "For the remainder of the time I was told I did not need a formal written agreement. Donald Sterling always informed me whenever I asked about my contract situation and my salary, that I was a 'lifer', that I would remain with the Clipper family until I decided to retire."
Baylor claims that although coach Mike Dunleavy was rewarded with a lucrative contract following the Clippers run to the playoffs in 2006, Sterling did not provide any economic reward to Baylor for his efforts as GM.
"The team I pushed Donald Sterling to assemble made it to the second round of the playoffs exceeding everyone's expectations," said Baylor, who was named NBA executive of the year that season.
"The team's coach was acknowledged and rewarded with a long-term contract worth over $20 million. When I asked [Sterling] if he was going to take care of me, he said nothing, he offered me nothing, he did nothing, no salary increase, no bonus, nothing."
Platt denied Baylor's claims about pay, saying, "He received numerous salary increases and was always treated well."
Baylor further claims to have discovered last year that Dunleavy had been secretly assigned many of his duties and the team was trying to force him to retire.
"This past August I was handed an agreement and told to 'take it or leave it.' Given that I had invested so much to the Clippers and the NBA I was traumatized by this situation and today I remain mentally and emotionally devastated," Baylor said. "I did not retire. I have so much more to give."
Baylor filed his 22-page complaint Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. The action alleges race and age discrimination against the Clippers, Sterling, club president Andy Roeser and the NBA.
Sterling expressed surprise and disappointment when informed of the lawsuit after the Clippers beat the New York Knicks on Wednesday night.
"I can't imagine because Elgin has always been very, very close to me," the owner said in the team's locker room. "He's a fabulous person. I think there's some mistake."
Baylor's counsel Alvin Pittman explained why the league was added.
"The NBA is akin to an individual to whom much is given, the NBA regulates the entirety of professional basketball, yet we expect or ask little of it when it comes to the issue of employment of minorities in executive positions," he said.
"The NBA will fine people for speech and conduct but on a significant issue such as discrimination in employment within the executive ranks, minorities can play the game but the NBA is deaf, blind and mute when it comes to the issue of employment discrimination within the executive ranks."
Baylor became vice president of basketball operations with the Clippers in 1986 after a 14-year playing career with the Lakers and a brief stint as coach of the New Orleans Jazz.
He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976, chosen as one of the NBA's 50 greatest players during the league's 50th anniversary celebration in 1997, and selected NBA executive of the year following the 2005-06 season.
The Clippers have been one of the NBA's least successful franchises over the years and last made the playoffs in 2005-06, when they lost in the second round.
"During Elgin's tenure, the other NBA teams employed over 125 general managers with an average tenure of less than five years," Platt said. "In fact, despite the team's poor draft history and record, Elgin was the NBA's longest-serving general manager when he chose to resign."
Dunleavy, now in his sixth season in Los Angeles, added Baylor's GM duties after the Hall of Famer's departure three weeks before the season began. At the time, Dunleavy said Baylor had resigned.
"Elgin rejected the opportunity to continue with the organization as a paid consultant or stay in his current job," Platt said. "People can judge for themselves the results of his performance during his 22 years on the job. We stand by our assertion that Elgin was always treated fairly and honorably."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press