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Steve Ballmer meeting with Shelly Sterling

Smoke or a smoke screen?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Where there is smoke, there is fire.  Sometimes.  Other times, it is a smoke screen.

TMZ is reporting that Steve Ballmer has met with Shelly Sterling regarding purchasing the Los Angeles Clippers.  

The story says:

Shelly Sterling will meet with former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer Sunday afternoon ... and the subject of the meeting is selling the Clippers ... TMZ Sports has learned.The meeting will take place at Shelly's Malibu mansion. TMZ Sports broke the story ... Donald Sterling has surrendered control of the team to Shelly.We're told Shelly sees the handwriting on the wall -- the NBA wants the team sold -- but she wants to do it on her terms. She and her lawyer, Pierce O'Donnell, have been secretly meeting with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to see if they can reach an agreement whereby Shelly has the right to voluntarily sell the team.Shelly is taking matters into her own hands. Ballmer -- worth an estimated $20 billion -- has indicated he wants to buy the team. We're told O'Donnell will be present at the meeting.Here's the rub for L.A. fans. Although Ballmer has publicly said if he bought the team he would keep it in the City of Angels ... he's deeply entrenched in Seattle. He was actively trying to keep the Sonics in his home city before the team moved to Oklahoma. With such deep family ties and city pride ... there's fear Ballmer would move the team North.

My initial response is that Ballmer is a legit bidder, but will end up on the outside looking in.  I can't help but think that Ballmer is the benchmark for the locals. If she uses him, it is to set the value for opening bidding.  Is it possible he throws out a number that just can't be said no to?  Yes, it is.  But possible and probable are two different things.  In my mind this is not something to freak out over, but your mileage in the comments may vary.

Let the speculation begin.  What do you think?  Doom and gloom?  Ballmer is leverage?  David Stern is behind it somehow?  Hockey first?!?