Clips snip Elgin, look silly again
In other words, Beno Udrih made a smart move rebuffing the Clippers' initial offer last summer while waiting to hear from the Kings. The Clips have been doomed since Donald Sterling bought the team in 1981, stopped paying his bills in San Diego and elsewhere, and two years later summoned the moving vans for the relocation to Los Angeles. Bad karma follows you everywhere ... (See Al Davis).
More recently, Sterling, who 22 years ago hired Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor as a trophy general manager, only to realize that Elgin is a pretty smart guy, promotes coach MIke Dunleavy and essentially strips Baylor of his power. So, of course, Baylor on Tuesday responds like someone with pride and walks out the door. Welcome to the Clippers. Here comes the next lawsuit.
Meantime, Wednesday was an absolutely fascinating day. Already pretty ticked off about the tenor of Baylor's departure, I contacted the former Lakers great at his home in Los Angeles, and within 45 minutes, also reached Jerry West at his vacation home in West Virginia. All of this, of course, happened close to 6 p.m., with editors offering nasty looks and staring at their watches. But, hey, for Elgin Baylor and Jerry West ... I'll take the hit.
Elgin, who actually returned a phone call (as he graciously did for several of my colleagues). couldn't reveal much on the advice of his attorneys. Hint: that lawsuit looms. But we chatted a little bit about our joint experiences with the Clip Joint in the mid to late 1980s. To summarize: While I was a Clippers beat writer for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner - and before I was rescued by the Lakers - Elgin and I spent many an afternoon sitting in gyms, watching practices and shooting the breeze. Mostly, I listened. As was the case a few years later when I was an NBA columnist who probed the brilliant Lenny Wilkens' brain as often as possible, I couldn't get enough of the stuff. And Elgin was gracious, obliging, insightful, and often hilarious.
A few of my favorite recollections:
* He insisted that Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, etc., consistently palmed the ball, and argued that if he were allowed such liberties, he would have doubled his scoring.
* He never conquered his fear of flying, though he swears he was not among the Lakers who became violently ill during the team's infamous emergency landing in the Midwest.
* He spoke poignantly about how, while growing up in Washington, D.C., he and other African-Americans were banned from the basketball courts during daylight hours. They would wait until dark, then sneak onto the courts and play under the streetlights. It was one reason he was an accomplished football and baseball player, and didn't take up basketball until age 14.
* After accepting a scholarship to the College of Idaho, he took an overnight train to Caldwell, and was petrified because he was alone, and had never ventured far from his hometown.
* He loved the stars. Bird. Magic. Michael. Bill Walton. It drove him crazy that Walton, a one-time Clipper, was sidelined with injuries for most of his career.
* He loves Jerry West. Jerry West loves him. Baylor loved to talk about how, while one of West's older teammates on the Lakers, he nicknamed the West Virginia native, "Zeke from Cabin Creek." West hated the nickname, by the way. While traveling to the region for a story on Belle's Jason Williams, I learned of the heated rivalry that exists among those who claim West as their own. Cabin Creek, where West lived during his youth, is located a few blocks from Chelyan, where West also lived during his youth.
Anyway, when I spoke with West early Wednesday evening, he was somewhere back there in his new resort home on a golf course ... and pretty upset about what happened to his buddy. Say what you will about his acumen as a general manager, but no way Elgin should go out like this. No parade, no celebration, no Elgin Baylor Night. Disgraceful.