Great stuff as always Ranma. I'll touch on some of those issues as well.
I remember walking into the then Anaheim Arena back when it was built in '93 for an event called "Battle of the Basketball stars" or something along those lines. Lame event. Mid tier NBA players like Stacey Augmon & a washed up Xavier McDaniel doing the 50 yard dash and tug o war. I was only 21 at the time and didn't really care about the event but rather just wanted to see the arena. At the time, it was the most state of the art arena in the NHL or NBA.
As you mentioned, there was no internet at the time so we had to rely on radio talk shows and print media but just about everyone or both agreed that it would be a no brainer for the Clippers to move there full time. Sterling was the only reason it wasn't happening despite attempts from the Anaheim people to fly him in via helicopter for free if he didn't like the traffic. That was all just a waste of time. They could've teleported him like they did on Star Trek and he wouldn't come. He wanted to be in LA period.
Despite all that, they actually did make progress at one point. In the summer of '96, the league had 2 bullet point items that it needed to address. There was a mini lockout of sorts in '95 that was quick enough to the point that there weren't any games missed but they never put it in writing so they had to take care of that and the 2nd item was making sure the Clippers would move to Anaheim.
A few weeks later, it seemed like a done deal. John Ireland, our resident Laker homer, actually worked for the Clippers at one time. Not sure if he was with them in '96 or not but he did have some inside info on what went down. Legend has it that the deal was done but that they just needed to get Donald's signature on the paperwork. They had a champagne on ice party and were all ready to go. Like you mentioned, it was reps from the Ogden corporation who set up the party. DTS eventually showed up but then excused himself for a moment because he "needed to use the restroom". As you may have figured, he never came back. The gutless Sterling just left everyone hanging and never came back. He probably had Andy Roeser call to give them the bad news.
Stories like this are why I doubt Ramona's sources. While it makes perfect sense on the surface being that Donald always wanted to be downtown while Buss wanted to stay in Inglewood due to over 3 decades of familiarity with the location, the Staples rumors didn't start up until the summer of '96, right around the time that the Anaheim incident took place. Everything that was made public that summer was that this was a Kings/Lakers deal only. If we are to believe Ramona's sources, it's possible that everything between the Kings and Clippers was very backroom oriented and could possibly have gone back to '95 or even earlier and that because it was all backroom, we never heard a peep about it in the media. I just don't see why Anaheim was ever an option knowing how much DTS loves LA if Staples was supposed to be for him in the first place. My thinking was that the Clips were never an option for Staples until someone with AEG got the blessing from the NBA to have 2 teams in one building and as soon as that came up, most likely around the time of the champagne on ice party, he bolted for the toilet and proceeded to negotiate for the next year and a half on a lease to become the 3rd wheel.
It's also possible that Ramona's contacts are correct and like I said in my other post, Anaheim was all just a 3 year leverage ploy to get a better deal out of AEG. Completely classless and gutless to leave everyone hanging and dissapointed but that would be Donald so I don't put it past him.
As for me personally, I always hoped that the Anaheim possibility would come back. It did briefly in the summer of 2004 when the original AEG/Clipper lease was a year from being up. They hit a stalemate in negotiations and Anaheim came to the forefront. Hacksaw Hamilton even reported that it was a better than 50/50 chance but as usual, it was just another leverage by Donald. Anaheim was his bitch and it worked again.
I pretty much knew it was a dead deal unless someone else bought the team. When the V Stiviano tapes emerged and Ballmer finally took over, I put together a website with the help of a couple friends trying to convince Ballmer to come to Anaheim but it was just a fruitless effort and I didn't put much effort into it. I came to the conclusion that the fans didn't want it to happen. A lot of fans are millenials and were either very young or not born yet when the Anaheim stuff was going on. The arena is getting old and while still very functional and better than a few current NBA cribs, it's not the state of the art wonder that it was back in '93. It's time to look forward to what Ballmer has in store.
Which brings us to where we are now. I'm all on board with the IBEC (Inglewood Basketball & Entertainment Center). My preference was for the Baldwin Hills site for no other reason than it has a subway station next door already to go in less than a year, well before the opening of the arena. I guess it's sort of close to Staples but GPS has it at 6 miles which is the distance from MSG to Barclays Center so there is NBA precedence for that setup. Then again, Dolan tried to stop that so I could see him trying to stop Baldwin Hills even though it's not Inglewood LOL. In fact, I think that's the reason why they came up with the Senate bills that were created to speed up the California arena process. The Kings and Warriors were able to get things done relatively quick and the A's and Clippers have a similar bill meant to speed things up. What Dolan did was get a resident named Daniel Goldstein to create a grass roots group to keep starting new lawsuits right as they were about to lose a previous lawsuit. Therefore, they were able to string along the process for 5 years and it almost worked. Net ownership ran out of money and if it weren't for Prokhorov, they most likely would've given up the project and the Nets would be playing in Newark. Even so, Barclays is a very bare bones arena for modern standards due to the project needing to be scaled back so much.
What the California lawmakers came up with for the Kings & Warriors was basically a rule stating that any lawsuit must be filed within 3 months from the end of the EIR process. No stringing it along Dolan/Goldstein style for 4 years.
The A's/Clipper bill is similar only it says that any lawsuit itself has to be decided on within a year of the end of the EIR.
Back to IBEC, I've always held rail public transportation as a must to go with a new arena for multiple reasons, the main two being that it's a cheap alternative and it cuts down on traffic in the neighborhood. This is why I've been a proponent of the Inglewood transit connector. While not the perfect option, it will work if it gets done. The ideal situation would just be to have a 2nd line on the Crenshaw/LAX route that breaks off Florence at Prairie and just heads down to the Forum, the NFL stadium and then finally the arena but for whatever reason, MTA doesn't want to do it so we're left with the Inglewood private project.
Lastly, I will add that I've tried to get updates on the transit connector since all the articles about it date back to 2018 and we've seen nothing as of late. I've emailed the project manager and haven't gotten an update. I've linked the above article that talks about the 2023 opening on various twitter threads and one commenter even added Butts to the conversation to see if the article had any merit. As far as I know, Butts hasn't responded so it appears to be up in the air. This is very much a stay tuned type of project but it would help a great deal if MTA is indeed not going to build a rail spur.