Clippers name has to go with Sterling

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LOS ANGELES -- The NBA needs a clean slate, and so does the city of Los Angeles.

Not only is it time for Donald Sterling to go, but it's also time for his Los Angeles Clippers to go as well.

On Thursday, the Sterling family trust signed an agreement to sell the Clippers to former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. If the NBA approves the sale, it will not only signal the end of Sterling's 33-year tenure as the Clippers owner, but hopefully the end of the Clippers as we know them.

The league and the city are long overdue for a fresh start. There's no better time than now, as they show Sterling the door, to burn the name and image of a franchise Sterling has spent the past three decades both building and tarnishing.

A league source said Thursday that changing a team's name is typically a 22-month process, and an exception would have to be made for the Clippers if the new owner wanted to rebrand the team.

Ballmer will no doubt have a list of things he wants to do when he takes over the team, but at the top of that list should be changing the team's name and getting that exception from the league so it happens sooner rather than later.

Ballmer said all the right things in his first statement late Thursday night after winning the bidding process to become the next owner of the Clippers.

"L.A. is one of the world's great cities -- a city that embraces inclusiveness, in exactly the same way that the NBA and I embrace inclusiveness," he said. "I am confident that the Clippers will in the coming years become an even bigger part of the community."

For that to truly happen in the coming years, a healing process must take place. The first step in that process was removing Sterling from the NBA. The next step is removing the Clippers' name and all the memories it conjures up from Sterling's three decades of failed ownership.

Changing the name and logo would be perhaps the easiest transformation in all of sports. The Clippers don't have an arena of their own, as they share the Staples Center with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kings and Sparks. They are the only tenant in the arena without a championship banner or retired jersey hanging from the rafters. Their only real marks on the arena on game days are makeshift signs and banners that are hung and removed before and after each game and changed before each season. Oh, and the red, white and blue balloons tied to Lakers statues before playoff games.

Most Los Angeles sports fans don't even know what the "Clippers" name actually means because, well, is has nothing to do with Los Angeles. It was a name derived from a fan contest when the Buffalo Braves moved to San Diego in 1978 in honor of San Diego's active harbor and historic sailing ships.

Now, it's nothing new for Los Angeles sports teams to keep names more appropriate for their former homes. The Brooklyn Dodgers were named after Brooklyn residents' ability at dodging the city's trolleys, and the Minneapolis Lakers were named after the state's nickname as "Land of 10,000 Lakes." They both kept their name after moving to Los Angeles because they already had established history. Brooklyn had won 11 pennants, a World Series title and had 10 Hall of Fame players, while Minneapolis had won five NBA titles and had six Hall of Famers.

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