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Why the L.A. Clippers are seriously considering a move out of Staples Center

On Wednesday, reports of the L.A. Clippers considering a move out of Staples Center into another arena surfaced.

First off, the Clippers’ lease at Staples Center is coming to an end in 2024, and owner Steve Ballmer is doing his due diligence in order to ensure the best future for this Clippers team. As Kevin Arnovitz details in his recent ESPN piece, the Clippers have had their struggles in sharing the arena owned by AEG with two powerhouse, big-name teams like the L.A. Lakers and L.A. Kings.

Sources with knowledge of the Clippers’ lease agreement said that, in many regards, the team operates as Staples Center’s “third tenant,” a condition that’s becoming increasingly tiresome to the organization. The Clippers receives a smaller share of proceeds from suites and club seats than the Lakers and Kings, according to sources, and a lesser say in scheduling and the overall fan experience at the arena.

In 2015, Ballmer told the Los Angeles Times, “We’re third guy in, we have third choice in dates. If you are a good businessman, you don’t come to the end of your lease and say, ‘I have no options, landlord, please take me to the woodshed and beat me.’ We’ll have options.”

During his appearance at Geekwire’s Sports Tech Summit a couple of weeks ago, Ballmer explained that he and his team don’t own the arena, which prevents a lot of possible upgrades to technology and fan experiences.

“We don’t own our arena, so a lot of things about fan experience — food and beverage — they’re not on our list because, frankly, we get what we get from AEG, who owns Staples Center,” Ballmer said.

The Clippers don’t currently own their training center, and a source with knowledge of the organization’s vision said a new arena complex would very likely include a new practice facility.

The Clippers moved into Staples Center in 1999 after a pair of abysmal seasons of 17-65 and 9-41 in the lockout shortened 1998-99 season. Since then, they still haven’t really had much success. The Lakers have gone on to win five NBA Championships under the leadership of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and Phil Jackson while the Kings have been making the playoffs, and have even won a pair of Stanley Cup titles in 2011-12 and 2013-14 under head coach Darryl Sutter.

The Clippers, on the other hand, have made the playoffs just once from 1998 to 2011, where they lost in the second round, and have lost in the first or second round in each of the last five years. They’ve still been labeled as “chokers” and “losers,” and in a time when the Lakers have not even been competitive, the Clippers have continuously failed to take advantage and make Los Angeles a “Clippers town” as opposed to a “Lakers town.”

Owner Steve Ballmer, however, is determined to help change the team’s success for the better, and it starts with his plan not to move the team out of L.A.

“The Clippers are not going anywhere, ever,” Ballmer said. “I will die owning the L.A. Clippers in Los Angeles.”

We’re entering a huge time for the franchise as they’re going to have some big free agency decisions to make with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the coming years. In many ways, these next couple of years could define what direction the Clippers take as they approach the end of their lease and possibly enter a new arena as the first and only tenants. But as we know, there’s one thing that can always help them: Win games when they matter the most in April, May, and possibly June. Until then, people will continue to not take them seriously.

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