NBA commissioner Adam Silver admitted Wednesday that he is worried the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer will be slowed down in the courts.
“The biggest concern is that we’re going to get stuck in a quagmire, of sorts, in litigation,” Silver said during an appearance on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike.”
“But the outcome seems pretty clear as I said the other day: Shelly (Sterling) has an agreement with Steve Ballmer. She sold the team. There was a document signed by Donald Sterling giving her the right to negotiate that sale.
“On top of that, under their trust agreement, she had him found by two leading neurologists in L.A. to be incapacitated or incompetent, or whatever the standard is under that trust agreement giving her the sole right to enter into that agreement. And on top of that, she indemnified the league against any lawsuits from Donald; in essence, she’s covering our expenses or any judgment against us.”
Shelly Sterling negotiated a $2 billion sale of the Clippers to Ballmer on May 29 that her husband said last week he would sign off on. Donald Sterling has since issued statements vowing to fight the sale.
“To me, I’m concerned it’s going to delay Steve Ballmer taking over the Clippers,” Silver said in the radio interview. “The team is sort of a little bit in limbo right now. We have Dick Parsons in right now as the interim CEO. He’s a terrific guy. But of course, I can understand from a player’s perspective — they’re going into a draft, they’re going into free agency. The guys want to know where they stand. So we’d like everything to just be clear, so everybody understands how this team is moving forward. That’s my concern, that it just seems unsettled.”
Meanwhile, the mental state Donald Sterling is becoming the central issue in the proposed sale of the team.
Shelly Sterling’s attorney asked a probate court Wednesday to grant an emergency hearing that could help expedite the Clippers’ sale. The court will be asked to confirm her claim to be sole trustee of the family trust.
Representatives of Donald Sterling, Ballmer and the NBA were also present Wednesday in a Los Angeles County courthouse, according to ESPN.com. Paperwork was filed but it was unclear whether an immediate hearing will be granted.
Shelly Sterling sold the Clippers without her estranged husband’s consent. Neurologists reportedly determined Donald Sterling was mentally unfit to conduct his legal and business affairs.
“We’re watching it closely,” Silver said on “Mike & Mike.” “We’ll do as we’re asked to do by Shelly, in order to support her here. But I feel a bit impotent in this situation. I think this is largely a dispute between Donald and Shelly right now.
“It’s like a house at closing: As long as (Shelly Sterling) can pass clear title to Steve Ballmer, then our process will continue. (Ballmer) will go through the usual vetting, but I don’t anticipate any problems from our side. So really, it’s just waiting on them. It will happen. And I think Donald ultimately knows that. He can jam up the works a little bit right now, but it’s time for him to move on.”
Donald Sterling initially agreed to allow his wife to sell the franchise to Ballmer, but then, on Monday, he issued a letter stating that he would not support the sale of the Clippers
“I intend to fight to keep the Team,” he said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN.com.
The guidelines of the Sterling Family Trust, which technically owns the Clippers, did not require a court order to make a designation that Donald Sterling was unfit to make business decisions. However, after Donald Sterling noted his intention to fight the sale, Shelly Sterling and her lawyers said they would seek a court order regarding Donald Sterling’s incompetency.
Max Blecher, Donald Sterling’s lawyer, offered an explanation to ESPN.com as to why Donald Sterling changed his mind about allowing the sale of the team.
“Two things happened,” Blecher said. “(Shelly) decided to go for the mental incompetency to get rid of him. I think that ticked him off. And the frosting on the cupcake was Silver saying he was never going to repudiate the ban or the fines. I think Sterling looking at this like, ‘There’s no dignity for me. I might as well fight.’
“If the league had reached out to him and said, ‘Let’s work something out, we can restore your dignity,’ I think it’s possible he would have changed his mind. But they didn’t … so he decided it wasn’t worth doing the sale. He doesn’t need the money. He wanted to fight for his dignity.”
Blecher also told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer regarding Donald Sterling, who is 80, “It strikes me as totally incredible to argue that this man — I talk to him every day — is incapable of making decisions and is mentally incompetent, And I don’t believe any court is going to make a finding to the contrary.”
On Tuesday, Donald Sterling expanded on the reason he plans to sue the NBA and Silver, who announced that Sterling was banned from the NBA for life and fined $2.5 million.
Besides saying that his right to privacy and right to freedom of speech were violated, Sterling said, “I also feel that the leadership of the NBA is incompetent, inexperienced and angry. It is clear that they took this opportunity to settle the personal grievances they have harbored against me for years.
“The NBA has a history of discriminatory practices which is supported by the numerous lawsuits filed by NBA employees claiming gender based discrimination. Adam Silver has worked for the NBA since 1992. He must know about the discriminatory practices of the NBA which are all matters of public record. The reason Adam Silver is focused on the sale, instead the larger social issue, is because doing so would require him to examine the NBA’s own discriminatory practices, including those that occurred under his many years in leadership. …
“(Silver is) focusing his energy on violating my rights, attempting to take my property, and signing autographs for TMZ.”
Silver responded at halftime of Tuesday night’s finals game by saying, “I have no idea what he is talking about.”
Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair
If James Harden needed any extra motivation against the Los Angeles Clippers, he found it in the first half.
Harden scored 34 points, and the Rockets held on for a 100-98 victory over the Clippers in a sometimes testy affair on Sunday at Staples Center.
Point guard Chris Paul, who finished with 23 points, missed a contested shot at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.
“It was very important for us just to go out there and play well,” said Harden, who hit seven of 16 shots from the floor, three of five from 3-point range and 17 of 18 free throws. “The last two games we kind of struggled a little bit, but we got our pop back a little bit today, and it was a good win for us.”
Harden provided much of that pop, particularly in the second quarter after Clippers forward Matt Barnes was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul after pushing Harden to the court at 6:02. Harden scored 15 of his 18 points in the period after that, leading the Rockets to a 58-50 halftime lead.
Did the flagrant foul add more fuel for the Rockets’ All-Star guard and MVP candidate?
“Yeah. Things like that are fun,” said Harden, who had 24 points in the first half. “We have fun, we got boosted off of that.”
The win ended a two-game skid for the Rockets (44-22). Houston forward Trevor Ariza scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while forward Terrence Jones added 16 points and 12 boards.
“This was a win that we needed, especially on the road,” Ariza said. “Going into the home stretch, these are the types of games we have to win.”
Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin returned after missing 15 games due to surgery on his right elbow. Griffin had 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but committed five turnovers in 41 minutes.
“I didn’t think I played well,” said Griffin, who managed 4-of-10 shooting. “I was out of rhythm. Way too many turnovers, obviously.”
Barnes scored 19 points and guard J.J. Redick had 15 for the Clippers (42-24), who fell into a tie for the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference standings with the Dallas Mavericks.
Paul lamented a host of turnovers in the defeat, including a critical one involving center DeAndre Jordan.
“I had some bad turnovers,” said Paul, who committed three of the Clippers’ 20 miscues compared to 13 for the Rockets. “On one, I drove it off DeAndre’s foot, the other one I lost towards the end of the half. We have to take better care of the ball. We still had an opportunity to win, but we just didn’t do it.”
The Clippers came back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. Paul scored seven straight points, capping it with a 3-point basket to tie the score at 96 with 3:05 left in the game. Houston got a 3-pointer by Jones, but Barnes countered with a basket to keep Los Angeles within 99-98 with 1:35 left. Los Angeles, though, never scored again.
Griffin got a steal as Ariza attempted a pass to Harden, but Ariza drew a charging foul as Griffin bolted to the bucket with 12 seconds remaining. Griffin remained unhappy about the call after the game.
“If I speak on that, I’ll get fined,” Griffin said.
Harden hit one of two foul shots with 8.9 seconds left, capping the scoring before Paul failed to connect on a jumper in the lane with Ariza defending.
The Rockets outscored Los Angeles 36-20 in the second quarter despite making just 38.5 percent of their shots compared to 44.4 percent for the Clippers. Overall, the Clippers hit 43.9 percent to 37.2 percent for the Rockets. They also held an edge in 3-point shooting, converting 12 of 26 attempts to seven of 30 for Houston. The Rockets, though were 29 of 36 from the foul line to 14 of 24 for Los Angeles.
Jordan finished with 20 rebounds and four blocks.
NOTES: F Blake Griffin’s return benefits PG Chris Paul as much as any Clipper. “Teams have been able to trap (Paul) far more than they can when Blake is on the floor because of (Griffin’s) ability to pass,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I’m sure CP is the happiest of all to have him back.” … Rivers isn’t sure if injured G Jamal Crawford would return before the playoffs. Crawford has missed six games with a right calf contusion. … Rockets C Dwight Howard sat out his 18th game with a right knee edema. “He’s doing everything he can, he’s trying to get better, but until you’re on the floor, it’s impossible to say,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said regarding Howard’s return. … Both clubs resume play Tuesday. Houston hosts the Orlando Magic, while Los Angeles plays the Charlotte Hornets at Staples Center.
Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle
SAN ANTONIO — Guard Manu Ginobili was helped off the floor late in the third quarter of the San Antonio Spurs’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday due to a sprained right ankle.
Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points. He was immediately was led to the locker room, and he did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court. He did not return to the game.
In 19 minutes during the Spurs’ 123-97 win over the Timberwolves, Ginobili scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and leading him to play limited minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.
NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return
Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, out the last 15 games with an elbow injury, was cleared to return Sunday against the Houston Rockets.
Griffin had surgery five weeks ago to remove a staph infection in his right elbow.
“He said, ‘I’m ready,'” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday’s game. “Yesterday the trainers called me and said, ‘If he can go, he can go. He’s been cleared.'”
Rivers said timing likely will be an adjustment for Griffin.
“Timing is timing,” Rivers said. “You lose it when you don’t play in an NBA game. Sometimes you come back and you play great the first game and then you lose your timing. Sometimes it doesn’t. As far as the way we play, it won’t be hard for him at all.”
In 51 games this season, Griffin is averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
–Spurs guard Manu Ginobili had to be helped off the floor late in the third quarter against Minnesota on Sunday. Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points.
He was helped off the floor and immediately was led to the locker room. He did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court.
Up to that point, Ginobili had scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against Toronto and play limited minutes against Cleveland on March 12.
–Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr sent emails to three fans who were disappointed that he rested several prominent players, including All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, in Friday’s loss to the Nuggets in Denver.
“There’s two really good sides to the story,” Kerr said, according to the Associated Press report. “Nobody’s wrong here. … I can’t argue with them.”
Kerr received an email from a family that drove from South Dakota to Denver to see Curry, Thompson and the entertaining Warriors play. But Curry, Thompson, center Andrew Bogut and reserve guard Andre Iguodala did not play so they could be rested, and the Warriors lost 114-103.
“I heard from some fans. I received a few emails, stories about driving in from a long distance off and spending a lot of money on tickets,” Kerr said. “I have great sympathy for those people. I really do. It’s a tricky one. It’s something that I think Adam Silver is trying to address through the scheduling shuffling that he’s talking about.
–The Dallas Mavericks recalled center/forward Dwight Powell from the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League on Sunday.
The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Powell played in one game during his most recent assignment to the D-League and finished with 28 points, five rebounds and two assists to lead the Legends in a 115-89 win over the Austin Spurs on Saturday night.
Powell has appeared in 19 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10.0 minutes per game.
–The Atlanta Hawks signed forward Austin Daye to a 10-day contract Sunday.
Daye appeared in 26 games (four starts) earlier this season with the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.3 minutes.
In 10 games this season with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League, Daye has averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 blocks in 28.5 minutes.
–The Miami Heat recalled guard Zoran Dragic from the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League on Sunday.
Zoran appeared in four games (one start) and averaged 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.50 steals, helping the Skyforce to a 3-1 record over that span.