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NBA Saturday: Clippers’ Troubles Mounting

The Los Angeles Clippers’ troubles are starting to mount, both on and off of the court due to Shelly Sterling… The latest on the hunt for Steve Kerr…

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Clippers’ Troubles Mounting: It seems like Game 1 was so long ago.

Chris Paul couldn’t miss from three, the Thunder’s defense looked out of sync and the Clippers had stolen away homecourt advantage.

Now, with a critical Game 4 set for Sunday, the tide has turned completely.

The Thunder’s offense is clicking like a finely tuned machine with their two stars playing so well together that they may never have to hear questions about their compatibility ever again. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook followed up a stellar Game 2 performance with 59 combined points in Game 3 as the Thunder became the first team this season to beat the Clippers despite trailing going into the fourth. They now lead the series 2-1 and have recaptured homecourt advantage.

“They got everything,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said afterwards. “They got threes, layups, key second shots. Down the stretch, they made every big play. We had shots, too, and they didn’t go in. We put way too much pressure on our offense because our defense wasn’t working.”

“We did a good job of weathering storms throughout the game and sticking together,” Durant said. “We’re going to have to do that even more next game if we want to win. It’s probably going to be the toughest game of the series.”

Game 3 was quite chippy and with potentially four games remaining, the physicality is poised to only increase.

However, off the court – things are getting even more intense and interesting.

Shelly Sterling, the estranged wife of banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling, was present at the game. She’s becoming quite the distraction, publicly voicing her desire to keep the team in the family despite her husband’s lifetime banishment. Technically she does own half of Sterling’s majority ownership and she does not plan to give it up without a fight.

“Despite all of the furor during the past week, Mrs. Sterling still has property rights,” Shelly’s attorney Pierce O’Donnell said. “She has worked tirelessly over the years to build up a franchise that was once a cellar dweller into a sports powerhouse. She has the same right as anyone else in America to enjoy and control the fruits of those labors, and that includes deciding whether to keep or sell her 50 percent interest in the team.

“They may share the same last name. But they don’t share the same values on race.”

History says otherwise. While Shelly may not have been included in Silver’s initial round of punishment for her husband’s comments, she has been involved in some of the housing discrimination lawsuits. She’s also been accused of having racist views; although they weren’t anywhere near as highly publicized as Donald’s, the people who matter know all about them.

“Those guys are not going to play for anybody (named) Sterling,” Magic Johnson told USA TODAY Sports’ Eric Prisbell. “It’s just how it is. It’s hard to separate the two. … It’s going to be hard for them to sell that to the fans and definitely to the players.

“When they accused them of (being) slumlords, that was both, it wasn’t one person. It was both of them. … They will never recover from this. All the sponsors pulling out, they will pull out for good if she is owning it. It’s not going to be the same.

“It’s a shame all of this happened. But since it did, they should just sell the team and live a wonderful life because they are going to get a billion-plus for the team. It’s not like they are giving up something because they are going to get paid for this team.”

Rivers agreed with Johnson’s notion that while the two may not be actively together anymore, they’re still seen as one.

“I don’t even want to comment on it because I don’t know yet,” Rivers said. “I think it would be a very hard situation, I’ll say that much. I think it would be very difficult. I guarantee you every person wouldn’t be on board with it. Whether I would or not, I’m not going to say, I just know that would be a very difficult situation for everybody.”

Former Citigroup Chairman Dick Parsons was officially appointed by Adam Silver today as the CEO with the Los Angeles Clippers. In a lengthy Q&A session with ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelburne, he admitted that he will communicate and work with Shelly, for now.

“I have not spoken to her, but obviously I’d plan at some point in time to reach out to her,” Parsons said. “Obviously she’s a big fan of the team, she has an ownership interest, she has not been banned from anything. So our style is to try and work cooperatively, collaboratively and collegially with all the stakeholders. All the stakeholders who haven’t been banned.”

Parsons will be handling the business side of things, in association with Shelly and the rest of the Clippers stakeholders, while leaning on Rivers to handle the basketball operations side of things. He was adamant to Shelburne that he did not plan on interfering with the basketball side of the business, despite having the power to do so.

Shelly may not be in the picture much longer, though. In fear of her interactions with a team basically being a method for Donald to circumvent his banning, the NBA could soon extract her from the equation as well, Shelburne writes in a separate report:

The NBA believes it has the legal grounds to oust both Shelly Sterling and her husband as owners, despite the fact that commissioner Adam Silver’s punishments were specifically leveled only against Donald, according to sources with knowledge of the league’s legal strategy.

Shelly Sterling, the estranged wife of exiled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, has made it clear to the NBA that she intends to retain her 50 percent ownership interest in the team.

She has publicly and privately cooperated with the league in its actions to ban her husband for life and move to oust him from ownership. However, the league’s contention will be that Shelly Sterling — while entitled to a 50 percent interest in the franchise — has never been approved by the board of governors as the controlling owner. She and team president Andy Roeser, who went on an indefinite leave of absence this week, were only alternate governors.

In order to become the team’s new controlling owner, Shelly Sterling would have to be approved by the board of governors, which is unlikely given her association with her husband of 58 years.

Shelly Sterling’s lawyer, Pierce O’Donnell, told ESPN on Friday that his client was “trying to resolve this” amicably with the NBA, but if that wasn’t possible, “We’re going to be in the courts.”

Read the rest of Shelburne’s report here.

Johnson’s view toward Shelly is shared by NBPA representative Roger Mason Jr., who said on the day of Silver’s ruling that a complete change in ownership was the only thing the players were willing to accept.

This cannot be an unforeseen wrinkle for Silver, who has yet to publicly comment or respond to anything said by Shelly and her attorney. Based on the impact, though, and his initial reaction, you can expect swift judgment and action from him soon.

Whether it comes while this thrilling Clippers-Thunder series is still underway remains to be seen. Rivers is doing an admirable job trying to keep his team focused because as he so masterfully put it, they have bigger concerns right now, primarily trying to contain Durant and Westbrook. If they can’t slow them down and shore up their play on the glass, all that’s going to be left to talk about soon is the Sterlings.

Steve Kerr Update: The hottest name in the coaching game right now is Steve Kerr. Despite having never coached a NBA game, Kerr is at the top of the New York Knicks’ wish list, a favorite to replace Mark Jackson in Golden State and someone the Utah Jazz are considering as well.

Kerr is contemplating each and every scenario right now and is expected to make his decision sometime early next week. It seems inevitable that Kerr will be making his debut as a head coach somewhere next season, but sticking to broadcasting has not been completely ruled out yet according to Ian Begley of ESPN New York.

Regardless of whether he accepts an offer next week, he does reportedly plan to see out the rest of his postseason analyst duties with Turner Broadcasting. That could change of course, if his new boss prefers otherwise.


Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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