Clippers can compete for NBA title with Steve Ballmer

New Clippers ownere Steve Ballmer and his family were at Thursday night's game. (©GettyImages)

The drama that filled the Clippers' last postseason and offseason is gone.

By that, I mean Donald Sterling.

Now, it's Steve Ballmer's team the Clippers are kings of L.A.

The fans recognize it, and by that I mean the celebrities that showed up for the home-opening 93-90 win over the depleted Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night.

The Thunder are now 0-2 and without Kevin Durant and now Russell Westbrook, which leaves a big opening at the top of the Western Conference next to the San Antonio Spurs that the Clippers are about to step into.

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Why such a big shift?

Part of the reason for the earth moving shift from it being a Lakers town to a Clippers town is how far the Lakers have fallen. Kobe is back, but he's got nothing else to work with as the team falls apart around him.

The Clippers are stacked and now the city has no reason to hate them with their “creepy” (Blake Griffin's description) old past owner gone. Now, they have a new attitude and a “Be Relentless” motto that they showed Thursday in a game that wasn't the prettiest but resulted in a victory.

"What I was proud of, they kept fighting defensively," Doc Rivers said. "I don't know that we win this game last year."

How much of it is Ballmer?

Much was made of Ballmer and his son being at the game and Fergie singing the national anthem on Thursday night with commissioner Adam Silver in attendance.

But this is less about it being actually Ballmer than it is about it not being Sterling. There just isn't a place for a guy like Sterling to be in charge of a professional sports team.

“I didn’t think this would happen this quick, to be honest,” Rivers said. “I was fully aware of it still being in court. I assumed it as a matter of fact. I didn’t think there would be any way they would be done with all the stuff. I’m very happy about it. It’s good to just start this new thing we have going.”

How far can they go?

The Spurs aren't getting any younger. The Thunder are hurt. The Mavericks are a wild card. But the Clippers appear to be as good of a team as any in the Western Conference.

What they shouldn't have to worry about is all the rest of the issues they were confronted with last season as they were fighting for playoff wins.

“I’m very happy about it,” Rivers said. “I don’t really give it a lot of thought. Maybe someday you will and realize that things don’t usually happen this quickly, and it’s really nice. It’s nice for everybody. It’s nice for the players and the fans and for the city too that we can just talk basketball. That’s nice.”

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