Steve Ballmer: Just Your Average, Everyday Billionaire Who Saved the Clippers

BELLEVUE, Wash. — One of the ways Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer connects the dots from his old world to his new one is how deeply both sets of people are into their stuff.   

“Tech’s a little weird,” Ballmer said. “If we made sofa covers at Microsoft, I wouldn’t know about passionate customers. But tech guys are a little more similar to sports guys. They have their religious biases and their camps and their traditions.”

Precious few of the fanatical folks—whether software engineers immersed in code or face-painting fans at the arenas—take a normal conversation, however, and break suddenly out mid-sentence and TALK LIKE THIS!

Ballmer describes himself as an “effervescent, positive guy.” That’s like saying he isn’t low on cash.

When Ballmer gets himself revved up, as the tech sector knows and the sports world is learning, he bursts into a cross between Mark Cuban and John Madden. (For the record, Ballmer’s description of Cuban? “Quite energetic.”)   

“He is the most enthusiastic person I’ve ever met,” commissioner Adam Silver recently told B/R. “I sat with him at a Clippers game before he bought the team, and he was bellowing so loud, people kept looking around, like, what’s that noise emanating from my row, and it was Steve yelling and screaming with crazy enjoyment and enthusiasm.”

Sitting inside the floor-to-ceiling windows in his 40th-floor penthouse office condo that Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson might’ve been a step slower than Ballmer in buying, Ballmer has reached one of those moments when the ice in his tea pinballs inside the glass and his baby blues begin to bug out…

He has flashed back to eighth grade, a meaningful formative moment rising out of all the data and analysis in that big brain, and he’s already grinning and guffawing and rambling, “I remember the day…it’s so vivid in my mind…”

He was not a good athlete. He was running track in hopes of slimming down but also because he enjoyed being part of a team.

“Every day, every practice, every race, everything, I came in last,” he said. “Dead last.”

But then…

“One day, coach blows the whistle. The other kids are goofing around. They don’t take off. I was probably 80 or 100 yards out—of the 400 or so—before they ever started.”

Ballmer is so excited he throws in irrelevant details (“you had to be 14 in the state of Michigan to run the quarter-mile”), and he gets ahead of himself as he remembers the dirt trail and the little creek and then the tree. By the time he finishes the story, he’ll be wheezing as if he has actually run because he has been laughing so hard.

 

“The tree was maybe 40 yards from the end,” he said. “Everybody had caught me by the tree. Everybody had caught me BY THE TREE!”

But they wouldn’t pass him, not on that day.

“These two guys—the quarterback of the football team and this greaser who was still on the track team—they say, ‘Anybody who passes him, we’re gonna kick your ass.’ They wanted me to have my one moment in the sun. They liked me, even though I was just about the worst guy on the track team. Chris Pagnucco and Mike Zazo.

“And nobody passed me. I won one. It was as hard as I’d ever gone—just to win one. And I had AN 80-YARD HEAD START!”

However many billions of dollars he has now (Forbes estimates his worth at $22.4 billion), however many lives he has streamlined through his work innovation, it’s the sort of moment that stands above.

Better than regular life.

In Ballmer’s case, it’s doubly meaningful because the path was cleared by his people skills—the real reason, beyond his perfect score on the math portion of the SAT or his perfect timing with Microsoft in the early 1980s, that Ballmer has made his life into such a success.

Now Ballmer, 58, is in search of something similar to that day at East Junior High in Farmington, Michigan.

Maybe Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the guys Ballmer calls perhaps two of the top five players in basketball today, are about to set him up for his next moment.

Indeed, same as Chris Pagnucco and Mike Zazo, they have reason to believe in Ballmer.


There would not be many more personal sports highlights.

The 1988 marathon he finished in four-and-a-half hours definitely qualifies, but the pounding of training took its toll. Ballmer will lift up the bottom of his pants to show you how one ankle bows in now.

“That’s pre-arthritic,” he said. “I try not to run at all.”

So the outside shot that used to be pretty decent has lost its pop. Oh, how he used to love backing in and hitting his little hook shot. (“I’ve got a big butt.”)

The bum ankle definitely means no more pickup basketball, as used to be part of his ritual at 6 a.m. every Wednesday morning.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “It was A LOT OF FUN!”

But Ballmer has long been able to find fun in tracking sports, too.

Long before he got his Seattle SuperSonics season tickets in the late ’80s, he made $12 a game to count rebounds and assists at the scorer’s table for the Harvard basketball team. And he was big into APBA, the stats-based, dice-rolling game that was one of the antecedents to fantasy sports of today. Ballmer played the basketball, football and especially baseball versions.

He grew up following the hometown Detroit Pistons most, and when Microsoft business sent him back there three years ago for a meeting with former Pistons great and current Detroit mayor Dave Bing…

“For me that’s DYING AND GOING TO HEAVEN!” Ballmer said. “Ha ha!”

Bing, the Microsoft search engine, is not actually a tribute to the former Piston, but just talking to Ballmer offers a pretty encyclopedic picture of basketball history. It is evident that talking about it warms him, too.

“I was into it as a kid,” he said. “Every Christmas, it was always the Celtics on TV on Christmas Day. I remember the floors. I remember fighting with my mother and dad whether I got to watch, because there was always family stuff to do—and I wanted to watch the game. It was always the Celtics.”

If you’re getting the feeling that he’s kind of an everyman sports guy except for the genius part and being ranked Forbes‘ 32nd-richest person in the world, he is.

Ballmer’s love for basketball was sparked anew when his oldest son played basketball instead of football.

“You follow your kids a little bit,” Ballmer said. “That gets you switched on.”

And if there’s a real reason why Ballmer now owns an NBA team instead of an NFL team, maybe it’s this simple one: “My wife really likes basketball a lot better than football.”

Make no mistake, though. He is fascinated by basketball for the same reason he knew early on he wanted to take his extreme intellect in the direction of building groups and businesses: the people.

“Basketball’s kind of unique,” he said. “You don’t play with helmets, so you can really see the facial expressions. There’s a little more human drama, human emotion. You’ve got more independent decisions you have to make.”


For as much as Ballmer likes team games, there is something about playing golf now and depending on no one else. He is aware of the focus on Ballmer and Bill Gates as the tech world’s Shaq and Kobe. He can joke about having to “go a little toe-to-toe with our board” to get Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia, the mobile company, done.

“I’m not the greatest at working deliberately in collaboration with others,” he said.

He owns the Clippers all by himself, untethered.

“When I ran Microsoft, you could say I felt accountable only to myself, and of course there were tens of thousands of shareholders that I was accountable to!” he said, laughing. “But the thing I learned there was, you’ve got to be ‘to thine own self be true.’ And if your shareholders don’t like it, they should remove you.

“In this case with the Clippers, there’s only one shareholder. That’s me. And so…TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE!”

Ballmer has already ignored the advice of Microsoft cohort/Portland Trail Blazers owner/good friend Paul Allen to have a separate head coach and general manager, going all in to extend Doc Rivers‘ contract as coach and president of the Clippers’ basketball operations through 2019.

Rivers said it wasn’t a complex negotiation. It went like this:

Ballmer: “I want to give you more years.”

Rivers: “OK.”

Rivers’ explanation is similarly simple. Having traded Donald Sterling for Ballmer, Rivers sees the job differently.

“Now with the new ownership, it just felt like that’s something you want to be a part of,” Rivers said.

Said Ballmer: “When you lose confidence, you’ve got to change the people. I’m lucky. Somehow I was birthed into a situation that has one of the most awesome basketball leaders and basketball minds around in Doc Rivers, and I feel very fortunate about that.”

It was Allen who has long been lobbying Ballmer to own a team—and publicly vouched for Ballmer in a statement before the sale was finalized: “Steve Ballmer would make an excellent owner for the Los Angeles Clippers. I encouraged him to consider acquiring an NBA team because of his strong passion for the game.”

It’s not unlike how then-Lakers owner Jerry Buss once upon a time encouraged Sterling to join the fraternity of NBA owners, ironically.

Ballmer remembers Allen’s specific words as they flew together to watch the Blazers and Pistons in the 1990 NBA Finals: “You’ll love it, Steve. You’ll have fun.”

Ballmer didn’t seriously consider it for a long time because he had “a very full-time job.” Also, his kids were still young—and he recalls David Stern telling him once: “Unless you’re OK having people come up to your kids at brunch and complain about what their dad is doing with the team, you shouldn’t own a team.”

Ballmer tried to support the Sonics staying in Seattle but wasn’t willing to be a front man. With his company exit planned, Ballmer was sitting courtside at a University of Washington basketball game (three seats down from Bill Russell, Ballmer is giddy to add) in early January and received an email about pursuing the Milwaukee Bucks. Ballmer still initially said no because it “felt wrong” to pursue it while still CEO of Microsoft.

Come February, though, Ballmer was huddling with NBA commissioner Adam Silver and being told not to expect expansion or a move to Seattle.

“I started counting, ‘Which are the teams closest to Seattle?’ And Milwaukee, actually, that’s not bad,” Ballmer said. “That’s eighth-closest to Seattle!”

Ballmer hopped into pursuit of the league’s lowest-valued franchise, but it wasn’t until the Sterling controversy arose, and with it grander opportunity in Los Angeles, that something truly felt like a fit.

“I just had to take this one,” Ballmer said. “No matter what.”

Ballmer liked the warmer weather and the safety from people wanting to talk tech deals with him. He actually spent three of the most unsuccessful months of his life living in L.A., a young man idling before going on to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, “because I thought I wanted to be in the movie business.”

This time around, Ballmer is at a slightly different place in life than parking cars at charity auctions and reading scripts for free and networking out of need.

He is not, however, any less ambitious.


Not that many people can pull off an I’m-so-friggin’-rich-and-happy laugh. Sterling sure couldn’t.

Yet there is nothing villainous about Ballmer as he revels in his confidence that the Clippers are “more likely than not, worth $2 billion plus some appreciation.” His joy over this unique new toy is pure.

“It’s an investment of money,” Ballmer said. “Most people won’t understand that, can’t get that. But the truth is people usually don’t lose money on sports teams, net, with the way these teams appreciate. It’s different than buying something that gets used up and you have nothing left. This is a valuable asset.

“It’s not just a fun way to spend money; you might actually make money—and have fun. The notion that you make money and have fun, that’s mind-blowing. But people miss that. You can MAKE MONEY AND HAVE FUN!”

Winning, naturally, is the most fun. Even Sterling started to realize that in the final stages of his 30-year Clippers ownership, increasing the payroll and actually taking a slight luxury tax hit for the first time ever last season.

Ballmer has all sorts of ideas to gain ground on the Lakers in the local market—although Ballmer has to thank Buss for that $3 billion, 20-year Lakers regional TV deal establishing a sweet market when the Clippers’ deal is up in two years (when Kobe Bryant is planning to retire). The most fundamental way the Clippers under Ballmer will challenge the Lakers is spending as much money as necessary to put out a great product.

Ballmer, actually, was a little chagrined when he figured out definitively that today’s NBA, under the latest collective bargaining agreement, is such a long way from the one Buss used to dominate in large part because of his dollars.

“It’s not like trading baseball cards in the old days or even playing fantasy,” Ballmer said. “Because of the cap and everything else, you don’t have infinite flexibility in what to do. Turns out, [it] doesn’t give you as much flexibility as I might have thought.

“It gives you a chance to spend more money on your own guys. It doesn’t give you a chance to go get other guys’ guys with great flexibility. You have to have cleared flexibility to do that, even if you’re willing to pay. It’s actually more important to be smart than it is to be generous under the system.… It’s weird relative even to what I was thinking, even though I’d studied the thing a little bit.”

What is safe to say is that the Clippers’ days as the penny-pinchers of the sports world are over. They will be a true large-market team, something Ballmer was already ribbing small-market Allen about when they watched the Clippers-Blazers Oct. 12 exhibition game in Portland together.

Ballmer may be a rookie owner but also stands as America’s wealthiest sports owner.

“The average fan thinks the brute force of what you’re willing to spend matters more than it does,” Ballmer said. “I don’t think the brute force matters as much as I wish it did, almost.”

Besides building up the Clippers fan experience as soon as possible (renting out Universal Studios Hollywood for a night for Clippers season ticket holders was one preseason perk) and being an outsized head cheerleader (“if you’re not being bold, you’re being timid—and the L.A. Clippers are GOING TO BE BOLD!” he hooted at an offseason fan rally), there’s something else.

It makes just as much sense as benefiting from Ballmer’s wallet.

Asked about the game heading increasingly in the direction of advanced statistical metrics, basically his spreadsheet-mastery wheelhouse, Ballmer uncharacteristically doesn’t say much…which is telling.

“I have played with the analytic tools. Yes, I have,” he said. “I’ll know those numbers very well.”


Ballmer readily acknowledges the Clippers venture does not prevent him from doing something bigger and better with his time and money now.

“I’d like to try to understand the opportunity for civic contribution for somebody who is not a politician but has some time, some energy, some brains and some means,” he said.

He does not shout the last part, but his “means” are well understood.

To that end, Ballmer is taking meetings, reading books and tooling around on his Microsoft Surface tablet to figure out how he can meaningfully help the world from his place in it.

“I’m more of a save-the-world person than Ballmer is,” his wife Connie recently told Forbes, “so I need him to catch up with me. It’s all really new for him.”

He is well aware, though, how powerful this other little part-time venture with the Clippers could be along that landscape of change.

“I think people are kind of rooting for us,” Ballmer said. “They’re rooting for the guys who had to go through what these guys had to go through; they’re rooting for good things for them.

“Has nothing to do with me. Whoever came in, unless they were screwball, people wanted to root for this team based upon the fact that people in America aspire for the place to be better than the environment these guys were in.”

He is a salesman with a heck of a product to push.

But it’s about more than that with Ballmer. It always has been.

He’s a people person, and his real business is encouraging like-minded optimism.

Whether you embrace him as a flamboyant frat brother or respect him as a gifted intellectual, whether you’re the quarterback of the football team or a working-class kid with goop in your hair, there’s a place on his team for you—and vice versa.

His team is now the Clippers, and his fun with them is just beginning.

 

Kevin Ding is an NBA senior writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.

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Steve Nash throughout his career

      
 

 

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If This Is It, How Will the NBA Remember Steve Nash?

Is it the way he sneaks and creeps his way through and around forests of flailing limbs, somehow finding the faintest view from which to kiss the ball off the glass?

Is it the brief reverse of course on a fast break to feed a trailing teammate, flopping mop of hair not thick enough to cover the second pair of eyes?

Is it the teasing seesaw ball-handling on a high pick-and-roll, finished with a pass pulled from so deep within his pocket it might as well have come from his shoe? Or the same seesaw the next time around, except a chin-cranked downtown dagger instead of a dime?

If it really is the end for Steve Nash, who was ruled out for the entire 2014-15 season Thursday, as first reported by Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding and later confirmed by the Lakers, this—all of it—is how we’ll remember him: A singular maestro who defied age, angles and odds to become one of the greatest pure point guards the game has ever seen.

That’s not all we’ll remember, of course. The quartet of 50-40-90 seasons—the only player ever to do it.

The pair of MVPs, eight All-Star appearances, five assist titles, three All-NBA First Team nods—the stuff of Springfield shrines.

The Phoenix Suns teams he turned from formless speed into methodical basketball machine—a tempting template even today.

The rest of the listlong enough to burn out the induction microphone:

More important than any marks Nash may have bludgeoned on the box score, however, are the ones Toronto Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo highlighted in a recent interview with the National Post’s Sean Fitz-Gerald—they are the marks of a man for whom giving was much more than a means to specific statistical end:

He brings something to the table that most players, most athletes, just don’t bring. It’s not just basketball IQ or his ability to play the game. He brings an emotional intelligence, I think, to the team and the organization, and to the process, that is unrivaled. And I’ve often said that, as far as stars go, he was a low-maintenance star. You can probably count those on your hand. Tim Duncan-types. There’s not many of them that you go to bed at night not worrying about.

Considering the superlatives, you’d think Nash’s was a career charmed from the start. But the 15th overall pick in the 1996 draft—widely considered one of the best in history—was anything but a bankable asset. Over his first four seasons (first with the Suns, where he served as a backup to Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson, then the Dallas Mavericks), Nash averaged just 7.2 points and 3.8 assists.

Even after assuming the reigns of the Mavericks following a trade in 1998, Nash wasn’t exactly considered a top-tier floor general in the making. Finally, during the 2000-2001 season, Nash blossomed, tallying 15.6 points and 7.3 assists.

More importantly, the 26-year-old had begun to forge a unique chemistry with Dallas’ other rising star: a sweet-shooting 7-foot forward by the name of Dirk Nowitzki.

Three more years of steady success followed, highlighted by an appearance in the Western Conference Finals opposite the San Antonio Spursthe eventual championsin 2003. At that point, Dallas’ core trio of Nash, Nowitzki and Michael Finley seemed destined to continue its Western Conference ascent.

Instead, Nash shocked the NBA when, in the summer of 2004, he chose to return to the Suns, who had gone 29-53 the season previous.

The rest is hardwood history: five 50-win slates in six years and a pair of trips to the West Finals for a team that, under head coach Mike D’Antoni, rewrote the modern offensive record books. At the center of it all was Nash, who marshaled a core that included Amar’e Stoudemire, Boris Diaw, Shawn Marion and Joe Johnson to two MVP nods and a string of assist titles, in the process becoming the game’s unquestioned best point guard.

All the while, the Suns’ incendiary brand of ball—helter-skelter and Swiss-clock precision in equal measure—helped redefine what an NBA offense not only could look like, but feel like. From SB Nation’s Paul Flannery:

It’s hard to remember now, but the Suns felt like a counter-cultural movement as much as a basketball team. They played fast, free and loose and threatened to subvert the time-honored tropes that defense-first, isolation basketball wins championships. Nash and the Suns attacked the entire ecosystem from the outside-in with pick-and-rolls and wide open threes. That they couldn‘t ultimately succeed felt at the time like a tragic letdown. It’s not an accident that a lot of the great early basketball writing on the Internet was influenced by their philosophies.

Sadly, the Suns were never quite able to scale the Spurs, and by 2012, Nash—by now without his Seven Seconds or Less stalwarts—was making it known, albeit somewhat clandestinely, that he needed a change of scenery.

Enter the Lakers, who acquired the aging star in a sign-and-trade ahead of the 2012-13 season. Teamed with Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, Nash looked to have his best chance yet at securing that ever-elusive first championship.

By then, though, the wear and tear had begun to take its toll. Over the next two seasons, a disappointing stretch punctuated by Howard’s bitter departure, Nash would appear in just 65 games. The culprit: a lingering, ever-worsening back injury—for a player who’d relied so heavily on stealth quickness and changes of pace, a veritable death knell.

Still, hope was high that the 2014-15 season—a rebuilding year for the Lakers if ever there was one—would at the very least give Nash a bit of career closure in what the eight-time All-Star had claimed would be his last season in the Association.

“I was in a really, really bad place last year during the winter,” Nash told Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding during training camp. “I was largely unaware of how bad I was until I got out of it. Now I realize this is my last year. There’s no guarantee I’ll get to play any games this year. The truth is, I have a lot of miles on my back, and a day or two into training camp, it could all be done.”

Sadly, such perspective proved to be prophetic. Even after an impressive 11-point, five-assist showing in L.A.’s first preseason game, even after the 10 assists in 22 minutes in an otherwise meaningless tilt against the Portland Trail Blazers last April. Signs of life proved to be last gasps only with the cruel benefit of hindsight.

Barring some unforeseen medical mend, Nash has all but certainly footed his final minutes in an NBA uniform—compelled to a post-career course that, for whatever business bona fides or general manager genius may come of it, will never equal the wondrous wizardry of what’s been wrought already.

In the hours following the Lakers’ announcement, one couldn’t help but see in the sea of tweets and solemn retrospectives the disparate lines of some loquacious eulogy. As if Nash had passed from this to some other realm completely.

“I’m crushed,” Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told CSN Bay Area’s Monte Poole. “And at the same time, it’s awfully quick to reflect. But, man, what a career. What an amazing player, an innovator, somebody who will affect generations of players. … He’s one of the most remarkable human beings I’ve ever met.”

But for as outsized as the sorrow may seem, the morbid analogies aren’t so far afield. It’s always the best, brightest and boldest among us, after all, whose departure stirs the saddest of palls.

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Los Angeles Lakers: Just retire, Steve Nash

In all honesty, this probably should’ve happened two years ago. 
Steve Nash’s tenure as a Laker has been an unproductive one marred by injuries.
Steve Nash had the option to retire after his last season with the Phoenix Suns in 2012. The team had just come off of a season where they went 33-33 in a lockout-shortened season and missed the playoffs for the second straight season. In the offseason that followed, the Suns made it clear that they were looking to go in a different direction and start a rebuilding phase. This would’ve been a perfectly good excuse for the man who had meant everything to their franchise to exit the league with grace. At that time, a then-37-year-old Nash boasted a storied career with the Suns and Dallas Mavericks, ranking in the top 10 in total career assists and boasting two consecutive MVPs from 2004-2006. That would’ve been a good point to call it quits, right?
Not for Nash. That offseason, he took his talents to Los Angeles. Months later, a seemingly competitive Big 4 w

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Los Angeles Lakers: Steve Nash Injury A Blessing In Disguise?

(November 4, 2013 – Source: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America)
Los Angeles Lakers: Steve Nash Injury A Blessing In Disguise?
By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…
Yes I feel like a jerk for writing that title, because a player being injured shouldn’t be celebrated and in no way am I celebrating this injury, but for the Lakers this season they are a better team with Steve Nash injured. No Steve Nash for the Lakers means a lot more Jeremy Lin and Jordan Clarkson, which is excellent for the team this season and for multiple seasons.
Jeremy Lin will become the starter for the Lakers this season, who I thought should have started from the day he was traded for. Why? He is the much better player at 26 than Steve Nash at 40. Nash was a distributor and shooter on a team where Kobe Bryant has the ball the most, so a distributor of his caliber wasn’t necessary, they have enough shooting and he just isn’t the best fit with Kobe at guard; Lin is perfect. At 36 Kobe isn’t goin…

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Steve Nash ruled out for season with back injury (Yahoo Sports)

ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 16: Steve Nash #10 of the Los Angeles Lakers warms up before a game against the Utah Jazz at Honda Center on October 16, 2014 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash has been ruled out for the season because of a back injury, putting the two-time NBA MVP’s career in doubt. The Lakers and Nash announced their joint decision Thursday, less than a week before the start of what would have been the 40-year-old Nash’s 19th NBA season.


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Lakers announce Steve Nash to miss season with back issues

Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash  is expected to be ruled out for the 2014-15 NBA season because of recurring nerve damage in his back, reports Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report. Nash, 40, expected this season, his 19th, to be his final one.  But he has not announced his retirement. The two-time league MVP is in the final year of a three-year, $28 million deal with the Lakers that will pay him $9.7 million this year. Nash has played in just 65 games over two seasons with the Lakers, including just 15 last season. Last week, Nash injured his back carrying bags. Nash ranks first in league history in free-throw percentage (90.4), and third with 10,335 assists. The post Report: Steve Nash to miss season with back issues appeared first on Sports Glory.

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Lakers News: Steve Nash’s Season-Ending Injury Creates Big Role for Jeremy Lin

Entering the last year of his current contract, Jeremy Lin has been given a massive opportunity to woo any potential suitors, albeit due to some unfortunate circumstances.

According to a league source cited by Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, incumbent starting point guard and future Hall of Famer Steve Nash will miss the entire 2014-15 season as a result of nerve damage in his back.

It’s a shame to see Nash, one of the most enjoyable players on the planet during the last decade, likely end his marvelous career on such a sour note, but as Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix noted, this makes it Lin’s time to step up:

Whether he indeed enters the starting lineup or comes off the bench in favor of the more defensively minded Ronnie Price (as he has the last two preseason games), Lin is going to receive north of 30 minutes per game.

Despite dealing with an ankle injury throughout preseason, Lin has already earned praise from a pair of Los Angeles Lakers legends.

Magic Johnson recently applauded the fifth-year point guard’s ability to create offense off the dribble:

Kobe Bryant, via the Orange County Register‘s Bill Oram, echoed that sentiment: “Jeremy makes a huge difference…creating shots for others. We’ve got somebody else who can penetrate, make plays for others and put pressure on the defense. It’s a really big difference.”

Going back to the days of “Linsanity,” the 26-year-old’s best attribute has always been his ability to collapse a defense. However, he has improved as a shooter. Last year with the Rockets, he set career highs in three-point percentage (35.8), three-pointers made per 36 minutes (1.4) and true-shooting percentage (57.2).

Especially while Nick Young is sidelined, the Lake Show need a consistent second option on offense behind Bryant. Lin, who has played well as both a scorer and distributor in the preseason, is now the clear candidate to fill that role.

Of course, while Lin is important to the Lakers’ success, the reverse is also true. If Lin wants to take that next step as an individual player, there’s really no better way to do it than spending an entire season in the same backcourt as Bryant.

Lin has already talked about learning from the 16-time All-Star, via Sports Out West’s Bob Garcia and Lakers Nation’s Serena Winters:

While news of Nash’s season-ending injury is disheartening, positives will emerge from it. A larger role for Lin is chief among those.

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WATCH: Steve Ballmer freaks out while shown on Jumbotron

We all know that Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer can get a tad excited at times and well, during tonight’s Clippers-Suns preseason game, he showed off his enthusiasm at the Staples Center. While Steve was being shown on the jumbotron, check out his epic fist-pumping reaction as seen in the below Vine video: Never change Steve, Never Change! *** Clippers owner Steve Ballmer goes HAM while on scoreboard [CJZero] Ballmer image courtesy of Getty Images

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Clippers Owner Steve Ballmer Goes Full Ballmer While Cheering Team in Preseason

Steve Ballmer is an unabashed crazy person, and I mean that in the most complimentary sense. 

The Los Angeles Clippers owner assumed his role of lead screamer during Wednesday night’s preseason game against the Phoenix Suns. To say he was turned up would not do it justice, as he spent the majority of the game roaring and resisting the urge to run onto the court for high fives.

Vine user Snurf (h/t John Ferensen of Next Impulse Sports) uploaded video of Ballmer’s red-faced howling. This is what it looks like right before someone’s head explodes: 

It bears repeating that this was a preseason game. Where most owners would yawn through these glorified scrimmages, Ballmer screamed like he was flying a Harrier into the maw of the mothership.

So consider the tone good and set for the Clippers’ 2014-15 season. It started with his wild exhibition during the Clippers Fan Festival in September, wherein the former Microsoft CEO walked out of the tunnel to “Lose Yourself” and screamed “Boom, baby!” to the crowd.

This is just the beginning, Clippers fans. If your players can muster a quarter of Ballmer’s craziness, it’s going to be an interesting season.

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture filigree.

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