The Los Angeles Clippers could be moving out of Staples Center, where they are renters, and building their own arena. The team's lease doesn't expire until June 2024, but if the Clippers are serious, now is the time to start nailing down a site.
"Last time I checked with any of my friends who are in the real-estate business, you'd better have an option than just going back to your current landlord hat in hand and saying, 'Please, please, please, sir, please give me the chance to play in your building again,'" owner Steve Ballmer said Wednesday at the NeuLion Sports Media & Technology Conference in Manhattan Beach, California.
"So, yeah, we're going to have real options. We're out sort of putting together those options today. Staples is a great building, but if you look around the NBA today, there are other great buildings too that were really optimized for basketball. The new arena -- I haven't been there yet -- in Sacramento, people tell me, is great. Oklahoma City, great. These were buildings that were purposely built for basketball."
The Clippers and Lakers are the only NBA teams with the same home arena. Of the other 13 teams in the NBA's Western Conference, just two -- Denver and Dallas -- share their building with an NHL club. The Clippers are third in the pecking order at Staples behind the Lakers and the Kings. This hurts them with scheduling priority as well as their percentage of revenue being a tenant.
"Staples is great. Staples is the last of an older generation of arena designs at '99," Ballmer said. "Particularly in basketball, if you look at the arenas today, especially when they're not designed to also host hockey, they're closer, they feel more intimate. The noise gets louder. The sight lines get better. The amount of areas for amenities for folks who are willing to pay for them grows. The accessibility of the building increases. It's just like any other technology: The technology of arena design advances too. It's not just building and materials, but it's also concepts of how to serve the modern fan."
The Clippers moved to Staples Center when it opened in 1999. Their previous home, the Los Angeles Sports Arena, was just demolished last month. A soccer stadium to house MLS expansion team Los Angeles Football Club will be built in its place.
** Lots of athletes are following the lead of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick with some sort of protest during the national anthem. What if that happens with any of the Clippers this season? Ballmer said players are individuals who have a right to express themselves.
"These are extraordinary times," Ballmer said. "Where that will all play out? It certainly won't play out with Steve Ballmer and Doc Rivers sitting in a room and telling everybody what to do. That isn't going to happen.
"I'm not going to tell people to think X or think Y. I'm not going to tell our players they should be more, or less, outraged. I don't tell people any of that. I want our guys to come together. My great hope is our guys will decide as a team what to do, and I hope that's well-informed by thoughts and opinions from the players' association and the league."
In 2014 when Donald Sterling still owned the team, Clippers players staged a protest against him after an audio recording in which he made racist comments became public. Before a playoff game against the Warriors, the Clippers dropped their warmup jackets at halfcourt while wearing long-sleeved shirts turned inside out as a way of not displaying the team name or logo.