NBA calls Donald Sterling’s lawsuit “entirely baseless”

The NBA scoffed at Clippers embattled owner Donald Sterling planning to sue them for $1 billion in damages.

“Mr. Sterling’s lawsuit is predictable, but entirely baseless,” NBA Executive Vice President and General Counsel Rick Buchanan said in a statement to this newspaper. “Among other infirmities, there was no “forced sale” of his team by the NBA – which means his antitrust and conversion claims are completely invalid. Since it was his wife Shelly Sterling, and not the NBA, that has entered into an agreement to sell the Clippers, Mr. Sterling is complaining about a set of facts that doesn’t even exist.”
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NBA’s hearing on June 3 on Donald Sterling remains intact

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks at a Microsoft event in San Francisco, Monday, July 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks at a Microsoft event in San Francisco, Monday, July 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer agreed to buy the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion. The sale may have brought some relative clarity as the Clippers went through uncertainty in the past month amid embattled owner Donald Sterling making racially insensitive comments on an audio tape that earned him a life-time ban and a $2.5 million fine. Ballmer’s record-setting purchase may have skyrocketed the value of NBA franchises elsewhere.

But much work still needs to be done. The first step: the NBA revealed in a statement that it still must approve the sale. The league will also still have a meeting on June 3 in New York in which the Board of Governor’s will have to have a 3/4 vote to strip Sterling of his ownership.”

“Commissioner Silver has consistently said the preferred outcome to the Clippers proceeding would be a voluntary sale of the team,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement. “Shelly Sterling advised the NBA last night that an agreement had been reached with Steve Ballmer, and the NBA Advisory/Finance Committee met via conference call this morning to discuss these developments. We await the submission of necessary documentation from Mrs. Sterling. In the meantime, the June 3 special meeting of the NBA Board of Governors remains as scheduled.”

The league vetted Ballmer last year during his unsuccessful attempt to buy the Sacramento Kings. But NBA officials have not returned repeated phone calls and e-mails for comment, including how much of a process this will take place.

Still, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said prior to the draft lottery last week that he would welcome Sterling selling the team before such a hearing in hopes that it would avoid both a lengthy and costly litigation case. Still, numerous league sources have said that process could happen only certain circumstances.

One, the Sterlings would have to sell entire team and have no interest stakes whatsoever. While Shelly Sterling has voiced approval about the NBA forcing a sale, she has maintained she is still entitled to her 50 percent ownership stake. The NBA will not approve such a scenario.

Two, the Sterlings would have to mutually agree on the sale. Though numerous publications, including the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, have indicated the agreement was co-signed both by Ballmer and Shelly Sterling, Donald Sterling’s lawyer, Maxwell Blecher, had indicated he will fight the sale. What complicates this issue is that Donald Sterling originally provided written consent on transferring ownership to Shelly with intentions to sell the team. ESPN has also reported experts have declared Donald Sterling mentally incapacitated, leaving Shelly Sterling as the sole trustee with the power to sell the team. The NBA will still want clarity on if Donald feels the same way.

There are likely more variables to weigh considering Ballmer’s involvement and evolving developments surrounding the Sterlings.


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NBA yet to hear from Donald Sterling on charges of termination

Los Angeles Clippers owners Donald Sterling and his wife Rochelle Stein watch the Clippers play the San Antonio Spurs during the second half of their NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, in Los Angeles.  (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Clippers owners Donald Sterling and his wife Rochelle Stein watch the Clippers play the San Antonio Spurs during the second half of their NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The NBA continues to wait for embattled Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his legal counsel to formally respond to its charges of termination. Sterling has until midnight EST on Tuesday to respond to the charges that entailed a life-time ban and a $2.5 million fine for making racially disparaging remarks on an audio tape.

Under Article 14 of the NBA Constitution, the league will consider such inaction “an admission by said Member or Owner of the total validity of the charges as presented.” In addition to Sterling’s remarks made on an audio tape to a female companion named V. Stiviano, the NBA is also holding Sterling’s recent remarks to CNN in which he made more disparaging remarks both about Magic Johnson and African Americans as additional charges. The NBA has also made unspecified charges that Sterling has destroyed and tampered with evidence.

Should Sterling fail to respond, the NBA still plans to hold a hearing on June 3 in which the Board of Governors meeting to vote on his ouster, according to a league source familiar with the situation. But the source also added such inaction could entice the owners representing the league’s Board of Governors to call for Sterling’s dismissal before the hearing.

At the hearing, both Donald and Shelly Sterling will be entitled to present their arguments and have their respective lawyers represent them. But the Sterlings have been informed that the NBA will not accept a scenario where either of them sells the Clippers while still retaining any interest of the team, according to a league source familiar with the discussions. The NBA is amenable to Donald’s attempt to transfer ownership to Shelly only if she will sell 100 percent of the team.

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Donald Sterling’s attempted ownership to transfer sparks questions about league response, tax implications

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, left, and his wife Rochelle look on during the second half in Game 3 of an NBA basketball playoffs Western Conference semifinal against the San Antonio Spurs, Saturday, May 19, 2012, in Los Angeles. The Spurs won 96-86 for a 3-0 series lead. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, left, and his wife Rochelle look on during the second half in Game 3 of an NBA basketball playoffs Western Conference semifinal against the San Antonio Spurs, Saturday, May 19, 2012, in Los Angeles. The Spurs won 96-86 for a 3-0 series lead. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Below is a select Q&A with USC law & business professor Michael Chasalow surrounding Donald Sterling’s attempt to transfer Clippers’ ownership to his wife, Shelly:

On the latest development


Chasalow:
The only thing I see significant with that is he is saying she has the authority to negotiate a sale on his half. He may still have a right to approve a sale in the end. The real idea is if there’s going to be a sale that he’s basically he won’t be involved with the process. If he’s involved in the process, there will be other concerns. So he’s saying he’ll take himself out of the process since he is clearly an inflammatory personality. That makes it more likely that the NBA will work with them on a voluntary sale. They want the team sold and to have a new owner in place.

What are the tax implications?

Chasalow:We don’t know all the circumstances. Just understanding how capital gains tax, if they bought the team for $12 million and it gets sold for more than a billion dollars, there’s going to be a huge tax bill. That’s going to happen with the sale of the team. Selling the team results in significant tax burden that might not happen if it’s stayed in a family trust and passed down to their children. It would at least be greatly reduced. If you assume the capital rains rate is 15-20 percent, you’re talking well over a hundred million dollars in tax.

What other legal implications could emerge from this this development?

Chasalow: The interesting question is what’s going to happen between now and June 3. Just because the Sterlings they’re willing to sell doesn’t mean the NBA will say, ‘Oh okay. Thank goodness. Now we’re not going to do anything else.’ The NBA announced it’s preceding with its meeting. The question is if before June 3, the NBA and the Sterlings can work out an arrangement that sets up a procedure for a voluntary sale so that the NBA puts off its process to force the Sterlings to sell. Or maybe they still have the meeting, but delay the implementation of a forced sale pending a voluntary sale. Or they could ignore it completely. But I think it’s in everybody’s best interest to have a voluntary sale. The NBA realizes that too so if there is a way to arrange that, they’re probably going to want that. But they will want a seat at the table. The NBA also gets to approve any sale.

After June 3, what do you envision the process being?

Chasalow: A good process would like an organized process through which interested buyers will submit bids. Then you will have a group of people, initially just the Sterlings and the NBA will be involved in looking over the bids and selecting a group of people to purchase the team and seeking approval once everybody has agreed upon the right purchaser. That’s if things go well. If things don’t go well, they may just wind up in litigation and the drama will keep unfolding.


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USC law professor provides perspective on Donald Sterling transferring Clippers’ ownership to Shelly

FILE - In this Nov. 12, 2010, file photo, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling, right, sits with his wife Rochelle during the Clippers NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons in Los Angeles. An attorney representing the estranged wife of Clippers owner Donald Sterling said Thursday, May 8, 2014, that she will fight to retain her 50 percent ownership stake in the team. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

FILE – In this Nov. 12, 2010, file photo, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling, right, sits with his wife Rochelle during the Clippers NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons in Los Angeles. An attorney representing the estranged wife of Clippers owner Donald Sterling said Thursday, May 8, 2014, that she will fight to retain her 50 percent ownership stake in the team. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

Below is a select Q&A with USC law professor Jody Armour surrounding Donald Sterling’s attempt to transfer Clippers’ ownership to his wife, Shelly:

On the latest development

Armour: It’s a play for sympathy. Donald Sterling, himself, is a very unsympathetic character to many people, not just on the basis of his words that were recorded and broadcast, but also on the basis of his history that nobody did anything about for a very long time. Now everyone is reacting very self-righteously about his words and maybe even overreacting because of the lack of action. But at the end of the day, he is a very unsympathetic lightning rod. His wife, on the other hand, could say ‘I’m an innocent party here. He has been philandering on me and I am the victim.’ She’s arguing the NBA can’t use the sins of her husband against the wife. That seems unfair. It would make it more difficult from a public relations standpoint for the owners to take stern action against his wife rather against Sterling himself. But the concern seems the league wants to burnish its tarnished image to whatever extent is necessary irrespective of niceties, such as privacy and free speech.


What sense do you get that whether the NBA owners would accept Donald transferring ownership to Shelly?

Armour: Once we’re down the road of having public perception drive human behavior, substance won’t matter much at all. The perception is that if they vote against it, it will show the league is very serious about equality, non-discrimination by getting rid of anyone named Sterling. They will be cleaning house more thoroughly if they get rid of everyone associated with the Sterling name. That may happen from a public relations standpoint. But that might not stand from an individual justice and fairness standpoint.
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Adam Silver urges Donald Sterling to sell Clippers on his own accord

NEW YORK –Three weeks after issuing owner Donald Sterling with a life-time ban for making racially disparaging comments, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver urged the embattled Clippers owner to sell the team on his own accord.

“He knows what the league’s point of view is,” Silver said Tuesday at a press conference at Best Buy Theatre in Times Square, which is hosting the NBA draft lottery. “I’m sure if he wanted to sell the team on some reasonable time table, I’d rather he sell it than go through this process.”

The NBA will hold a hearing on June 3 where the Board of Governors will hold a vote that requires a 3/4 majority to force Sterling to sell the team.

“I envision once we move through that process, we will then put the team in order, hire an investment banker and conduct an orderly process,” Silver said. “We have an obligation to the Sterlings to ensure we sell it for the highest possible price. There’s no doubt it’s a highly valuable asset.”

Sterling’s lawyer, Maxwell Blecher, asked in writing that he be given a three-month delay for the hearing, according to a league source familiar with the situation. A league source also added that if Sterling does not respond to the NBA’s charges by May 27, the NBA will have another grounds for termination.

Blecher has not offered any comment since the NBA announced the hearing on Monday.

“In terms of additional time, the answer has been no,” Silver said. “The proceedings and the process is set out in our constitution. That’s something they signed on for when they became owners in the league.

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Donald Sterling suggested he was set up, argues Magic Johnson hasn’t helped minorities enough

In what marked his first step in asking for forgiveness surrounding racially disparaging remarks on an audio recording released 2 1/2 weeks ago, embattled Clippers owner Donald Sterling may have ruffled more feathers.

Sterling talked with CNN’s Anderson Cooper for an interview that will be aired at 8 p.m. ET tonight in a wide-ranging interview, which will highlight his contention that V. Stiviano set him up into making racially offensive remarks.

“I was baited. That’s not the way I talk. I don’t talk about people for one thing ever. I talk about ideas and other things. I don’t talk about people,” Sterling said. “I don’t know. An 80 year old man is kind of foolish. I thought she liked me and really cared for me. I guess being 51 years older than her, I was deluding myself.”

Sterling chastised Stiviano for posting a picture of herself with Magic Johnson on Instagram. Sterling then told Stiviano not to bring black people to Clippers games. Since then, Sterling said he met with Johnson. But it sounded unclear if he actually apologized.

“If I said anything wrong, I’m sorry,” Sterling said. “He’s a good person. I mean, what am I going to say? Has he done everything he can do to help minorities? I don’t think so. But I’ll say it, he’s great. But I don’t think he’s a good example for the children of Los Angeles.”

It is unclear what Sterling meant by that. Johnson has donated money and resources in urban communities through his foundation, various businesses and scholarship programs. Continue reading

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Five things to take from Clippers 101-99 Game 4 win over Thunder

Below are five things to take from the Clippers’ 101-99 Game 4 victory Sunday over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center (The series is tied 2-2 with Game 5 set for Tuesday in Oklahoma City. Game 6 will take place on Thursday at Staples Center).

1. Final moments Great comeback by the Clippers. Terrible choke job by the Thunder. The Clippers once trailed by as many as 19 points, shot 25 percent in the first quarter and made a playoff game appear like an ordinary regular season game in mid January.

But no matter.

The Clippers delivered with Darren Collison scoring 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter. Despite nursing five fouls, Blake Griffin scored 10 points of his team-high 25 points in the final period. Despite playing a team-high 45 minutes, Chris Paul posted 10 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter. The Clippers converted on 18 of their last 19 offensive possessions.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City choked in every way imaginable.

Despite dropping a team-high 40 points on 12 of 24 shooting, Thunder forward Kevin Durant received half as many fourth-quarter attempts (five) as Russell Westbrook (10). Despite missing five consecutive shots, Westbrook kept looking for his shot. The Thunder allowed the Clippers then to dominate in points in the paint (24), fast-break points (12) and shooting (63.6 percent)

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Blake Griffin suffers bloody nose against Serge Ibaka

The blood poured out of Blake Griffin’s nose like a streaming river. His face looked battered and bruised as if a bouncer jumped him outside of a club.

Yet, Griffin was not whistled a foul as he went up against Oklahoma City forward Serge Ibaka for one inexplicable reason.

“I got hit, took an elbow to my nose,” Griffin said. “When I asked the [official] about it, he said I ran my face into his elbow. So I got to be careful where I put my face.”

Griffin delivered that line with the same deadpan and sarcastic expression that has made his Kia commercials pure comedy. But the explanation also taps into Griffin’s league-wide reputation as someone who collects Oscar nominations in both instigating confrontations and then showing pain.

But in this case, Griffin’s 34 points on 13 of 22 shooting marked a more aggressive approach in driving to the basket after spending the past two playoff games mostly shooting jumpers.

“I was just being aggressive, attacking early, facing up, trying to be the aggressive one,” Griffin said. “It doesn’t really mean much if you don’t get a win.”

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Five things to take from Clippers’ 118-112 Game 3 loss to Thunder

Below are five things to take from the Clippers’ Game 3 118-112 Game 3 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center:

1. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook took over in the final minutes.
After this intriguing flashed reeks of inconsistency in their first-round matchup against Memphis, Durant and Westbrook have left the Clippers in fits. Beyond the stat lines between Durant (36 points) and Westbrook (23 points), the pair also helped close out a game that went nip and tuck for nearly four quarters.

First, Westbrook drove to the basket with ease for an open layup. Then, he buried a top of the key 3-pointer that gave the Thunder a 111-107 edge with 2:09 left. Durant iced the game then with a turnaround jumper for a 113-107 lead with 1:13 left, a play that left Clippers fans crying as much as Durant’s mom shed tears this week when her son delivered a riveting MVP speech.


2. Blake Griffin thrived through the physical play.
Blood streamed out of Griffin’s nose after fighting for a rebound with Serge Ibaka. Elbows greeted him every time he entered the paint. Pushing and shoving ensued anytime he fought through a rebound. But Griffin thrived through it all, posting 34 points on 13 of 22 shooting, eight rebounds and four assists. That marked a vast improvement in Griffin’s in both Game 1 and 2 where he shot a combined 12 of 29 from the field mostly on jump shots. In Game 3, Griffin painted a different picture. He resorted toward driving to the basket with enough force that any ensuing contact became a non issue. Griffin still shot six of his attempts from the outside, including one missed three-point field goal attempt. But he complementing that developing skill by becoming more aggressive.
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