NBA AM: Is The End For Donald Sterling Near?

Will the NBA be able to adequately respond to Donald Sterling? Commissioner Adam Silver will try today… Magic Johnson defuses reports that he’s trying to buy the LA Clippers.

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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Hopefully An End Is Near:  There are times in sports, especially as a sports writer and reporter where the stories we have to chase are not worth the effort. At Basketball Insiders we have made a pledge to stick to the news that affects the game. We do not chase DUI’s or altercations with girlfriends, we gladly concede the garbage to others. Not that covering those things are not important to some, but they simply are not what we care about. We care about basketball. We care about the things that materially affect basketball and how the game will be played. Over our years covering basketball we have taken some heat for not pouncing on a fringe story, but that’s simply not who we are as a group. We will gladly hand that off to those that are far better at digging in the garbage than we are.

So when news broke of a tape involving Clippers owner Donald Sterling spewing racially incentive comments that are downright demeaning and degrading, our initial response was that there wasn’t anything new here, mainly because of Sterling’s long track record of this sort of behavior. This wasn’t news so much as proof of what we’ve known for years. Water is wet, news at eleven.

We decided that we would wait and see what resulted from this latest installment of “As the Moron Turns”, and as we sort of expected, the basketball world was appalled and we have covered the story from that vantage point.

The hope today is that when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver reveals what the NBA has confirmed and has ultimately decided that some level of closure to this story will follow. Sadly, that’s not likely to be the case.

As we covered in this space yesterday, there is not a lot the NBA can do to Donald Sterling. They cannot do what the fans and many players around the NBA want, which is take away the franchise or force him out of the league. He simply didn’t break the right series of rules to make that reasonable or possible without exposing the NBA to massive lawsuits that they may not be able to win.

What would be worse than not tossing Sterling out of the NBA: him winning a multi-billion dollar anti-trust lawsuit.

The NBA operates under a very carefully crafted series of by-laws, and unfortunately saying something insensitive and stupid isn’t one of those rules that can cost you your franchise. Maybe it should be, but today it is not.

What is likely coming is a hefty fine; $2.5 million is what is believed to be the maximum allowable and then some sort of suspension. Some have suggested he be suspended indefinitely. Some have said a life-time ban is in order. It’s unclear if that’s what we’ll hear from the Commissioner today, but that’s likely the gist of what we’re going to hear in some form or fashion.

Sadly, that’s not going to be enough. That’s not going to be enough for the players; it’s not going to be enough for the corporate sponsors that dumped the Clippers like a bad meal yesterday or the fans that seem to think all of this was new information.

But that’s what there is. That’s what is available given what has really occurred.

Sadly, as much as some of us want to talk about anything else but this, this has to be covered.

It has to be covered because of its social importance. It has to be covered because it will impact the outcome of games. It has to be covered because the results of the NBA’s response today will impact the game and league going forward.

No one here likes to sift through the trash, that’s not what we get excited about, but today will be an interesting day in basketball history. The statements made today in the NBA’s response to this and the follow-up with the NBA Players later today will matter.

As much as we’d like to see closure today, there just does not seem to be a sense that we’ll get what many of us are looking for, and as someone so properly stated on Twitter yesterday – we have to keep caring about this until the trash is taken out.

This isn’t what we like to do, but we are committed to making sure we don’t let this one slide away because it’s dirty.

Maybe we’ll get closure today. Maybe we’ll get a response that appropriately frames what this really is in the grand scheme. Maybe we won’t.

Either way, we’ll give this the coverage it deserves, all the way up to the point that the trash is taken out.

Magic Johnson Speaks Up:  There were some reports yesterday, suggesting that Earvin “Magic” Johnson and his associates at Guggenheim Partners were interested and willing to buy the LA Clippers if they were made available for sale.

While all of the initial stories were clear, that no offer was being made, the usual ‘game of telephone’ ensued that turned the story from ‘would have interest’ into ‘has interest’ into ‘made an offer’.

Johnson took to Twitter yesterday to clarify that he has not made any type of offer on the LA Clippers.

Sources close to the situation have maintained for some time that should a NBA team become available that makes sense to Johnson and Guggenheim’s big picture plans they have the resources to move.

Johnson and Guggenheim are the majority owners of LA Dodgers and are believed to be involved in trying to bring NFL football back to LA.

Acquiring the Clippers seems to fit into their portfolio plan, however as Johnson said the team has to be made available for sale first and that has not happened.

Given the multiple being applied to NBA franchise purchases lately, Johnson may wisely be covering himself from expectations that may not be reasonable to meet.

If the Clippers were to hit the open market, there would likely be a lot more parties interested in buying the team, even given its current situation, largely because owning a sports team in LA is almost like buying a cash machine.

With the Milwaukee Bucks being sold for more than $550 million, the Clippers could command almost twice that, especially if some of the deep pocketed suitors like Larry Ellison or Mark Mastrov get involved in the process.

Johnson’s twitter denial isn’t so much about not having interest, as tempering expectations that he’ll be the one that gets the franchise if or when it gets put on the market.

Six Things: Every day we try and highlight some of the things you may have missed over the last few days. Here are today’s Six Things Your Need To Know:

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Alan is an expert gambling writer who works as one of the chief editors for Basketball Insiders. He has been covering online gambling and sports betting for over 8 years, having written for the likes of Sportlens,, The Sports Daily, 90min, and His particular specialisms include US online casinos and gambling regulations, and soccer and basketball betting. Based in London, Alan holds an MA in English Literature and is a passionate supporter of Chelsea FC.

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