On Thursday, the LA Clippers unveiled mock-ups of their new Inglewood arena scheduled to begin construction in 2021 and be open by 2024. The announcement came on the heels of the team having a major offseason coup where they acquired both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and became one of several teams contending for the NBA Finals.
Despite the Clippers’ scheduled plans to move out of Staples Center after their lease runs out in 2024, however, it’s not a done deal that the Inglewood arena will be completed in time. The Clippers, and owner Steve Ballmer, are involved in a lawsuit created by Madison Square Garden, which owns the iconic Forum in the same area, over their plans to construct the new building and take away potential business from them.
That litigation has been connected to the Los Angeles Lakers as well. MSG tried to convince owner Jeanie Buss and her advisor Linda Rambis to move the Lakers back to the Forum to effectively block off the Clippers’ plans for the new privately-funded arena. The Lakers ultimately decided against that idea but e-mails between Buss, Rambis and MSG leadership were leaked in which the two Lakers’ representatives seemed to mock Ballmer and his ambitious plans.
After the unveiling of the new arena design, Ballmer told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk that Buss had personally contacted him to apologize and that there were no hard feelings regarding the matter:
Ballmer said Buss called him to follow up “apologetically,” which he said he appreciated. The Clippers owner also said he did not take things personally, opting to find humor in the situation.
“That email thing was weird,” Ballmer said. “Let me just say it was weird. I don’t know what they were trying to do precisely.
“First I’ll just say, Jeanie was very nice,” he continued. “She followed up apologetically about that. Actually my initial reaction was they misspelled it — with a ‘z.’ My initial reaction was, ‘Z?!’ With my last name, I won’t say I haven’t been called that before in my life. It is not the first time I have heard that.”
The Lakers clearly should be concerned about protecting their own business interests as the Clippers continue to undo years of incompetence since Ballmer bought the team and become more of a threat in Southern California – even if they likely never reach the fanbase that the Lakers have built over the years. That said, the e-mails were clearly an awful look for the purple and gold and something the NBA likely was concerned about, even if they have made no public comments about it.