In which we reunite the NBA's losingest owner with his long-time correspondent, in the hope of keeping the Clippers' new-found fortune from disappearing... yet again.
Dear Donald T. Sterling,
Like I've been telling people for 20 years, you da man!
Who'd have believed the NBA's glamor markets would fight it out for Chris Paul and winner would be... you?
Not even me, and I'm one of the few who understood what an amazing job your people did, rebuilding from square one since Elton Brand split in 2008.
First, however, forgive me for being out of touch so long.
You told me to write when I found work. I hope self-employed contractor counts!
Of course I'm glad to be in touch with anyone after the Los Angles Times reassigned me from NBA writer to retirement, so I'm taking a Web version of my old Sunday page here!
Don't let the name "Lakers Nation" throw you, the guys here are very nice and they say I can write about you, too!
What great news, huh?
So many people have told me they missed our correspondence, even if you never answered any of my letters. But, reluctantly, enough about moi, how are you?
Oh, still worried that something will go wrong?
Hey, just because you had 29 awful years out of 32, it doesn't necessarily mean you don't have a clue!
It may have been something out of your control, like a curse!
I know what winning means to you, or, at least, what you say it means, having heard it every time I saw you for 21 years.
Boy, haven't we had the times!
Remember when you let me sit next to you at courtside for our first interview in 1990?
Of course, you'd let a wooly mammoth sit next to you now before doing that again. It was a surprise then, your sixth season here, with your slick execs, recommended by David Stern after your bizarro debut in San Diego, urging you to lower your profile... say, to the size of an electron.
"You're going to call him the Howard Hughes of the NBA," said team Pres. Alan Rothenberg, when you arrived in 1984.
Unfortunately, irrepressible as you are, you tired of being the mystery guest. By 1990, you had a Hollywood publicist who repped Marilyn Monroe, who got you on the cover of California magazine, astride a yacht, billed as "The Man Who Would Be Trump."
The Donald of the West, get it?
So we sat courtside in the Sports Arena as you died 1,000 deaths and your guests, Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold, exchanged words with catcalling fans.
Amazingly, your guys won, edging the Sonics. Coach Don Casey came running across the floor and twirled you to the dressing room, over your protests.
"You've got to celebrate with us!" said Casey refusing to take no for an answer. "We don't get many of these!"
Case was a little anxious after being left off the guest list for your meeting with your players-at their request-making him a dead coach walking.
I didn't understand how special you were, however, until I interviewed you in your Beverly Hills office, standing behind that look desk of yours -- literally outlined against the posh Wilshire Blvd. corridor -- you summed up your approach, as if for a jury of one.
"I'm a lawyer by profession," you explained. "Lawyers are taught in law school from the first day, one, ascertain the issue and, two, address it.
"You might say the issue is easy. You don't have high-enough quality players..."
"I don't know what the issue is," you concluded.
I wrote it just as you said it, but I'm not sure you liked my piece. Bill Kreifeldt, your PR guy, told me it was why you fired him, along with Casey.
You've come a long way from the Sports Arena, baby! You've made more than $100 million since 2000 when the lightbulb went off in your head and you invited yourself into Staples Center, which was built for the Lakers and Kings, as tenant No. 3.
If your teams had more talent all the time, you never had one like this... Blake Griffin and CP3, are you kidding me?
Guess who has the second-best highlight show in town?
Unfortunately, with all your talented players -- Elton, Blake, Lamar Odom, Zach Randolph, Marcus Camby, Corey Maggette, Andre Miller, Quentine Richardson, Darius Miles, Sam Cassell, Eric Gordon -- you made the playoffs once in 11 seasons.
The Lakers won five titles in that time, which explains why, present talent level notwithstanding, they're still them and you're still you.
If I could make one suggestion: Don't mess it up again.
I know, if you weren't so nice, you'd point out your underlings served you poorly, but that's beside the point. You hired them. If you don't like what they go, get new underlings. You're responsible for what happens, as Jerry Buss is responsible for his present predicament, and his 11 titles.
But enough reminiscing, I can't tell you how happy I am to be back in touch!
In the best tradition of the newspaper biz, the Times let me write you letters for 20 years, while you became its biggest single advertiser.
No one said a word to me. When the first dark cloud popped into the sky, it had nothing to do with you.
Last spring, they killed a Lakers piece I wanted to write, which would have violated our new policy barring multiple columns on the same subject, which could cover a lot of ground.
The day after our Bill Plaschke slammed the Mike Brown hiring, they ran my piece, looking at it as Jim Buss's first decision since his father handed him control of the day-to-day operation.
Those two columns, Bill's and mine, were deemed one too many. Any more, including the one I wanted to write for the following Sunday, were out of the question.
That was a new one after years of well-received, all-Lakers-all-the-time coverage (three columnists at playoff games, more staffers writing sidebars, editors on the road to coordinate).
After my usual routine (quitting, exhaling, apologizing), I decided to stick to my plan: retire after one more season and, hopefully, continue to write my Sunday column for the paper, a scenario we discussed.
Instead, I got a call a month later, telling me I was gonzo.
I mention it because Davan Maharaj, the managing editor over out department, just became editor of the paper!
So, if times get tough and their Lakers coverage gets, uh, discreet, check us out. As opposed to limiting Lakers columns, our people have to write about them!
Anyway, with you now on the brink of something momentous... one way or the other... I wanted you to know I'll always be here for you, if I have to cross all of cyberspace!
With the most sincere sincerity,