"Sterling will talk to anybody," said one NBA executive who knows him well. "We'd go to lunch and he'd ask the waiter what he thought. The problem was, he usually took the waiter's advice."
Sterling once tried to cut the Clipper trainer out of the budget, wondering why assistant coaches couldn't tape ankles. He has repeatedly bungled draft choices. And he has habitually undermined coaches. He has been a whopping success as a real estate magnate in Southern California...and a flop as an NBA owner.
Shinn draws honorable mention honors in the worst owner derby. His participation in every aspect of his team's operation is almost as obtrusive as Katz's with the Sixers, yet he doesn't have the Philly owner's knowledge of the NBA. When the Hornet basketball staff was planning its strategy for the expansion draft three seasons ago, Shinn happened by and heard them discussing Vinnie Johnson, the Pistons' estimable sixth man.
"Is he a starter?" said Shinn.
"Well, no," answered one of the coaches. "But he's...."
"Then I don't want him," said Shinn. "I'm not paying that kind of money for a bench warmer."
End of discussion about Vinnie Johnson. The Hornets picked Dell Curry from Cleveland. He's a starter, but he's no Vinnie Johnson.
At the other end of the performance spectrum is the Pistons' Bill Davidson, whom we single out as the NBA's best owner. Davidson is not involved on a day-to-day basis with his team and does not profess to be an NBA expert. He consults with general manager Jack McCloskey regularly, opens up the checkbook when it's necessary, doesn't panic during the tough times and doesn't thrust himself into the spotlight.
Dan The Man
Ricky Pierce, who was traded from Milwaukee to Seattle over the weekend for Dale Ellis, and Phoenix's Dan Majerle both fill sixth-man roles and are effective for entirely different reasons. Pierce, a swingman who made the Eastern Conference All-Star team this season, is, in the words of one coach, "an offensive assassin." Majerle, another swingman, makes his impact by being a hard-nosed defensive player, a tough rebounder, and a fearless dive-on-the-floor scrapper whose style suggests that of a football roverback.