What could have been in the Northwest


Want to see what Seattle's professional basketball future could have looked like? Just watch Steve Ballmer's introduction to the Los Angeles Clippers fans yesterday. Read on.


• To put it succinctly, Ballmer stole the show. And Clipper fans' hearts. Dressed like your typical Microsoft programmer – slacks, pinstripe shirt, Clippers baseball hat and, I'm guessing, some pretty expensive sneakers – Ballmer was all energy and emotion as he let laid-back LA know what was in store. If you recall, Ballmer was the main money man behind Chris Hansen's idea of building a new arena and moving the Sacramento Kings to Seattle just about a year ago. Hansen was the face of the move but it is obvious now Ballmer was the heart and soul. And the wallet. Anyone who could drop a cool $2 billion – that's billion with a "b" – on a basketball team worth $750 million, tops, has a wallet brimming with Samuels. (In case you're wondering, Samuel Chase's portrait was the centerpiece when the U.S. used to print $10,000 bills.) Now his emotions are brimming over for the Clippers. That emotion had coach Doc Rivers laughing yesterday but it's the same emotion that could come back to bite Rivers in the butt if the Clippers are ever hit with a long losing streak. Ballmer was a notorious hard-ass when he ran Microsoft, though how anyone who wasn't could rise to the top of that company is impossible to comprehend. But, like a lot of successful businessmen who love sports, Ballmer may just be one of those guys who thinks he has all the answers. After all, everyone knows being manager of the Harvard football team is the perfect foundation for making decisions on who should play the off-guard position in crunch time of an NBA game. That side of Ballmer, the tough corporate, win-at-all-costs executive who clashed with Bill Gates over control of Microsoft's future, that side has yet to be seen. Yesterday was the marketing side of Ballmer, the stuff YouTube used to explode over when Ballmer, the Microsoft CEO, was speaking to his minions. He's the guy now in Los Angeles, mainly because the pro sports in the town are either run by an amalgamation of folks (the Dodgers) or a dysfunctional family (Lakers). If he and Hansen had been successful in moving the Kings, Ballmer would have been a force behind the scenes but not nearly the presence he'll be with the Clippers. And Doc Rivers might find, down the yellow brick road Ballmer laid out yesterday, that's not the great thing it seems.


• WSU: Today Jacob Thorpe's keen eye turns toward Washington State's linebackers, a group with experience, athleticism and smarts. Now the Cougars have added communication to the list of attributes. ... Practice was better yesterday according to the coaching staff. That's the thrust of Jacob's practice report. He also has a morning blog post with links. ... We add one more link. Utah has selected a starting quarterback.

• Gonzaga: Remember the bad old days? By that, we mean last season. When the Zags opened the WCC season with four home games, sans students. Well the conference did and fixed it. The 2014-15 season opens with three road games for GU, ensuring all the home games will be played before the loudest student section in the WCC. Jim Meehan has a blog post and a story on the schedule, released yesterday.

• Indians: Remember the good old days? By that, we mean yesterday. When we were worried about the Indians' offense. No more worries on that score. They plated 12 baserunners last night. Now we have a new worry. The pitching staff collapsed and gave up 21 runs. Yep, Spokane lost 21-12 at Avista. Chris Derrick has the game story and a blog post on the offensive fireworks.

• Golf: There is no longer a Coaches vs. Cancer event in the Inland Northwest. Instead, there was a fund-raiser yesterday at the Coeur d'Alene Resort, a golf event with the goal of raising money for the new Community Cancer Fund in the area. The weekend worked well enough to raise $500,000 for the new charity. Jim Meehan was at the Resort and has this story.

• Seahawks: If there has been one area a little limited in the preseason due to injuries, it's been the linebacking corps. But players are getting healthier and that means there should be more competition as the preseason winds down. ... There may be two extra practice squad spots as the NFL is looking at expanding the group from eight to 10. ... Pete Carroll talked after practice yesterday and, as one would expect, he had plenty to say. ... Tharold Simon thinks he has a lot to offer Seattle. As does Brock Coyle. ... Punt returning is still up in the air.

• Mariners: I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Larry Stone, the Times long-time baseball writer-turned columnist, is on-board with the whole winning-the-West thing. ... The M's took a big step backward last night when they couldn't solve the riddle presented by Jerome Williams in a 4-1 loss. The big inning was the eighth, when Seattle had a run in, one out, runners at second and third and Robinson Cano and Kendrys Morales coming up. Both struck out. Game over. ... Felix is ready to get back on the bump. ... Logan Morrison was in right field last night. There is no designated hitter in National League ballparks.

• Sounders: Every match has some import these days as the Sounders try to finish atop the MLS standings and their opponents try to earn playoff spots. ... Chad Barrett has supplied some punch off the bench. ... Injuries? Sure, the Sounders have some injuries.


• And that's what we have for you today. Remember, college football is just around the corner. Then things get hectic. Until later ... 

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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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