HoopsHype Elgin Baylor rumors

March 16, 2011 Updates

Clippers owner Donald Sterling testified Tuesday about his past deep loyalty and trust for former executive Elgin Baylor despite an admission by the owner that he wasn't completely clear about the NBA legend he appointed vice president of player personnel in 1986. "You didn't know about his basketball career?" Baylor attorney Carl Douglas asked Sterling in his first day on the stand as Baylor's wrongful termination civil lawsuit against the team continued at a Los Angeles courthouse. "His accomplishments? The Hall of Fame?" "No," Sterling answered. "... I didn't know that. I hired him for $3,000 a month. I didn't really know what his role was.... He was working in a mail-order company back then." Los Angeles Times

Douglas' questions revealed the significant distance Sterling kept from the team he moved from San Diego in 1984. The organization has appeared in four postseason series since. When asked about a Baylor predecessor, Sterling said the name Carl Scheer "sounds familiar." He added, "I don't profess to know anything about basketball. I'm a professional lawyer." As for what he recalls about Baylor taking over basketball matters, the owner said, "[Baylor] … ultimately made $500,000 a year. Somewhere in between, he assumed that role." Los Angeles Times

Sterling testified he paid Baylor whatever annual salary he would ask for and said he gave Baylor wide latitude in the team's handling, including what to pay coaches and whom to sign and draft. "Elgin Baylor wouldn't tell me the players he was drafting. He was afraid I'd tell another owner," Sterling testified. Los Angeles Times

The owner dismissed the attorney's suggestion that the Clippers discriminated against Baylor because of his age. Baylor was 74 when he was terminated in 2008. "He's 6 feet 7," Sterling testified. "If somebody wants to harass him, I'd like to see him do it." The NBA "is like musical chairs, they constantly remove and change owners, general managers, coaches and agents, but I had a man I protected for 22 years.… He kept telling me it would get better. I kept hoping it would get better. It didn't get better. It got worse." Los Angeles Times

Ultimately, Sterling testified he agreed with the move to designate Baylor a consultant, testifying, "The record speaks for itself. Of course, I was disappointed. I'm spending one-third of a billion dollars to win, and who's in charge of winning? Elgin Baylor is a good person, but we lost seven out of 10 games with him. How can anyone feel good about that?" Los Angeles Times

March 9, 2011 Updates

Elgin Baylor's wrongful-termination lawsuit against the Clippers tipped off Tuesday, with his attorney portraying the team as lacking a sincere commitment to success. Baylor's attorney, Alvin J. Pittman, in his opening statement, told the seven-man, five woman jury in Los Angeles Superior Court that Baylor was "positioned to take responsibility for the [team's] losses" when he was ousted in 2008 after 22 years as a Clippers executive. Los Angeles Times

In his opening statement, Clippers attorney Robert Platt said Baylor made awful choices in his draft picks and was justifiably held to answer by a Roeser "report card" to Sterling in 2005 that pointed out Baylor's 509-1,017 record over 19 seasons. Baylor dropped the NBA as a defendant from the lawsuit Monday, and he dropped a racial discrimination claim from the suit last week. The Clippers argue they exhibited great loyalty to Baylor, calling him one of the family. Baylor contends his role was sabotaged from 2005 by then-vice president Roeser's push to "harass him, discriminate against him and force him out because of his age," Pittman told jurors. Los Angeles Times

"The Clippers already had a reputation as a horrible franchise" when Baylor, a former Lakers star, took over the Clippers player-personnel duties in 1986, Pittman said. "Whereas the Lakers had ownership showing an interest in winning, Mr. Baylor accepted a position that was challenging, a team that has a tradition of losing and unwilling to pay or re-sign key players." Platt, the Clippers' attorney, in court named Reggie Williams, Joe Wolf, Terry Dehere and Michael Olowokandi among Baylor's poor first-round draft picks "that have gone away in the wind," while Baylor let free agents like Kobe Bryant and Carlos Boozer sign with other teams. "The team did sell hope — hope that Mr. Baylor would pick the right player, and the team's lack of success directly affected the team's financial success," Platt said. Los Angeles Times

March 5, 2011 Updates

The former general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers has dropped allegations of racial discrimination against the team, but is pressing ahead with allegations that he was fired because of age discrimination. Elgin Baylor, 76, sued the team, owner Donald Sterling, and the NBA in February 2009, claiming he was wrongly fired after 22 years. Baylor decided to drop the racial discrimination claim element of his case just as jury selection was about to begin. Jury selection was set for Monday, and opening statements were likely on Tuesday. NBC Los Angeles

February 17, 2011 Updates
January 27, 2011 Updates

A Superior Court judge in Los Angeles tentatively denied a request to dismiss a wrongful termination suit brought by Elgin Baylor, the NBA Hall of Famer and former Clippers executive, against the Clippers and three other defendants. At a hearing Thursday, Judge Kenneth R. Freeman scheduled another hearing for Feb. 3 to make a final ruling on whether the civil case should proceed to trial, tentatively set for March 2. Baylor, 76, spent 22 years as the Clippers’ executive vice president and general manager until August 2008. In his lawsuit filed in February 2009, Baylor alleged he was fired and suffered age and race discrimination while with the team, among other things. Los Angeles Times

January 7, 2011 Updates

There’s only one consistent theme that emerges from the latest filings obtained by ESPN.com in Elgin Baylor’s wrongful termination lawsuit against the Clippers: getting owner Donald Sterling to spend money on players is a daunting prospect. Declarations from Baylor, the Clippers’ former general manager, and Mike Dunleavy, the coach who took over Baylor’s general manager duties before Dunleavy lost both jobs, were included in Baylor’s response to the Clippers’ motions for summary judgment. The Clippers' legal action, filed in November, had essentially asked the court to dismiss Baylor’s suit in which he claims he was fired on the basis of age and race. ESPN.com

Baylor, who describes himself as "an African-American male over the age of 40" in the declaration (the NBA Register lists his date of birth as Sept. 16, 1934), said that Sterling and Clippers president Andy Roeser made references to his age for the last 10 years of his employment and questioned his ability to still do his job. ESPN.com

Dunleavy referenced similar comments about Baylor’s age from the Clippers’ upper management, but Dunleavy stated, "The entire time that I worked for the Clippers, I never saw any change in Elgin’s ability to perform his duties, or that his age had any adverse impact on the performance of his duties and responsibilities as general manager." Dunleavy said that during a team trip to Russia in 2006, Clippers officials were dining at a restaurant called Rasputin when Platt, the Clippers' attorney, told him that the Clippers thought Baylor was too old and they were going to fire him. While the Clippers told Dunleavy that Baylor only wanted to work for two more years, Dunleavy said he never heard that from Baylor, and Baylor said in his statement that he never told anyone that he wanted to retire. ESPN.com

"While ignoring my suggestions and isolating me from decisions customarily reserved for general managers, the Clippers attempted to place the blame for the team’s failures on me," Baylor said in the declaration. "During this same period, players Sam Cassell, Elton Brand and Corey Maggette complained to me that DONALD STERLING would bring women into the locker room after games, while the players were showering, and make comments such as, 'Look at those beautiful black bodies.' I brought this to Sterling’s attention, but he continued to bring women into the locker room." ESPN.com

November 9, 2010 Updates

Also revealed in the filings was that the Clippers had offered Baylor, on Aug. 13, 2008, a retirement package consisting of a contract as a consultant. This would have paid him $120,000 for the next year and then operated on a month-to-month basis, plus four season tickets for the next three years and other perks. Baylor never signed the deal and did not offer a counterproposal. “I didn’t discuss any terms,” Baylor said in the deposition, referring to his brief meeting with team President Andy Roeser. “I just told him this was insulting and I just can’t believe this. I just thought it was ridiculous.” Los Angeles Times

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