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Trading a superstar player is never an easy or enjoyable experience.
Just ask the Cleveland Cavaliers, who granted Kyrie Irving’s request to be traded Aug. 22, sending him to Boston.
Larry Ballmer, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, admitted Saturday that trading five-time All-Star forward Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 29 was a “very difficult decision.”
Speaking at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Ballmer was interviewed by Rachel Nichols of ESPN as part of conversation with FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver.
Ballmer cited Griffin’s lengthy injury history and team chemistry issues in discussing the deal.
“[Griffin] is obviously a superstar player,” he said. “But if you look at what happened injury-wise, if you look at the kind of chemistry we were getting on our team, the thing you can see at the high level with the numbers when I started — one guy got all the assists, one guy got all the points and one guy got all the rebounds. It’s not all quite that way, but I think in the modern NBA, we were seeing it more and more — there’s a greater distribution of responsibility.”
Griffin was sent to the Motor City along with big men Willie Reed and Brice Johnson, the Clippers receiving Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovich, a protected 2018 first-round draft choice and a 2019 second-round pick.
This coming on the heels of Los Angeles signing Griffin to a five-year, $173 million contract last summer, which followed the team’s indepth free-agency pitch in which it called Griffin, “a Clipper for life.”
Ballmer said times changed between signing Griffin longterm and when the blockbuster went down just more than a week ahead of the NBA’s trade deadline, Feb. 8.
“We have to add some pieces obviously, but I think we’re building for what I think is the modern NBA, and that trend has only accelerated since we signed Blake last summer.”
Silver suggested there are many NBA teams that are satisfied posting good regular-season records and reaching the playoffs, but not having realistic chances to win an NBA championship.
Ballmer acknowledged that, but said the Clippers do not fit into that classification, despite the fact they’ve traded both Griffin and Chris Paul (to Houston) since the curtain dropped on the 2016-17 season and were heavily involved in trade talks for center DeAndre Jordan right up to the deadline.
“There are owners who believe that. I am not one of them,” he said. “I’d like a big, fat ring right here. And you’re right, they are different strategies.
“There are two things that are really good in the long run. You get the first pick in the draft, or you win a championship. If you won a championship 20 years ago, it still helps your business.”