Armed with an extraordinarily large wallet, Steve Ballmer saw the opportunity of a lifetime in 2014 and quickly made his move. With Donald Sterling, the former disgraced owner of the LA Clippers, forced to sell, Ballmer dished out two billion dollars to pry ownership away.
So far, during the former CEO of Microsoft’s tenure, he’s done his best to build a contender. However, despite his tireless work ethic, Ballmer was forced to endure a brutal 2021-22 season. Although Ballmer expressed confidence in All-Star Paul George, head coach Ty Lue, and a cast of well-put-together ancillary pieces, he knew good and well that it would be tough sledding without Kawhi Leonard.
During the 2021 Western Conference Semis against the Utah Jazz, Leonard crumbled in a heap as he tore his ACL in Game 4. As a result, Leonard would go on to miss the remainder of the 2021 playoffs and the entirety of the 2021-22 season.
Though Lue kept LA level-headed all season, they floundered for long stretches. Still, they fought their way to 42 victories, before just missing out on the postseason action. While initially despondent over Leonard’s injury diagnosis, Ballmer’s spirits have been incrementally lifted over the past several months. Having watched closely from his front office window as Leonard continued to attack his rehab assignment aggressively, Ballmer can’t help but smile as he envisions the former two-time Defensive Player of the Year returning for next year’s campaign.
“Come on, man,” said Ballmer during an interview with ESPN. “[Leonard is] not only your best player but one of the preeminent handful of top players in the world. I am really excited about that. Kawhi’s in the gym. He’s working, and we got our fingers crossed everything keeps going on schedule.”
Steve Ballmer believes Kawhi Leonard is LA’s missing piece
Ballmer’s intrinsic hopes and dreams of one day lifting an NBA title, however, aren’t beholden to only Leonard. Paul George, a multiple-time All-Star in his own right, averaged 24.3 points per game last season while battling torn ligaments in his right elbow. Additionally, in an effort to revamp their bench, LA swung and connected on a midseason trade that netted them the services of both Norman Powell and Robert Covington.
Still, even with LA’s star-studded lineup, the title-less franchise is placing all of its eggs in one basket, following their recent moves. LA has opted for continuity and star power during their offseason, re-signing center Ivica Zubac to a three-year extension. Also, both the Clippers and former five-time All-Star John Wall, appear on the verge of coming to terms on a deal, as the franchise has identified the former number one overall pick as idoneous for their point guard position going forward.
Yet, regardless of Ballmer constructing one of the more formidable rosters in the entire NBA, LA’s owner is well aware that it takes more than just a great team to win it all.
“I think the sky is the limit for our team. It’ll be our effort, our energy. Of course, you got to have a little good luck to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy, which is what we really like.”