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Owner Steve Ballmer: LA Clippers 'playing more freely' since roster makeover

From NBA media reports

When the LA Clippers pulled the trigger and traded All-Star Blake Griffin on Jan. 30, they were on the fringe of the playoff picture. Dealing Griffin to the Detroit Pistons netted Tobias Harris, future Draft picks and some salary cap flexibility.

For Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, making that trade was not an easy one. But in the months since then, he can see how his team is heading in a positive direction and is pleased it is still in the thick of the Western Conference playoff chase. Ballmer spoke with Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke about the state of the team, contending for titles and more recently:

Ballmer approved Lawrence Frank’s trade of Griffin to the Detroit Pistons. It was a heavily scrutinized deal considering Griffin had just signed a five-year, $171-million contract to be a Clipper for life. But it was a smart rebuilding deal that netted them not only scorer Tobias Harris but also a second first-round draft pick this year, with both picks currently in the lottery.

“I said, ‘Look, things aren’t going to progress this way … we need to make other changes if we really are going to put ourselves in a position to win a championship,” Ballmer said. “It was not an easy decision, but we’re in it to win championships, and it turns out, you have to take more risks.”

It worked. With Paul and Griffin gone, the Clippers suddenly became a team again, the drama gone, the tension lifted, everyone getting fed.

“Players are playing more freely, I’m thinking about things different, Lawrence has a chance to think more freely about the roster, and Doc has more freedom in the way he thinks about coaching,” Ballmer said.

In four years, even with more wisdom and perspective, his optimism and impatience remain.

“If this was the tech business, I say ‘Look, you have a version one, now you know what you do? A version two,’ ” said the former Microsoft executive. “You learn, adjust, and move forward, and by version three, you better damn well get it right.”

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