The NBA had hoped to approve a transfer of ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday. That was the plan, anyway.
But with Donald and Rochelle Sterling, the team’s co-owners, entangled in litigation, Commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged that the league was in a holding pattern even as it maintained its goal of stripping Donald Sterling of the franchise. Still, Silver said he could not guarantee that Sterling would be removed by the start of next season.
“I cannot say it with certainty,” Silver said, “because it’s in the hands of the probate court right now, and Donald is in the process of suing us for lots of money.”
Silver made his remarks Tuesday afternoon at the conclusion of a four-hour meeting of the league’s Board of Governors, which discussed issues including negotiations over television rights and high-profile player moves in recent days – a lengthy list headlined by LeBron James.
Silver said he had been moved by the first-person essay on Sports Illustrated’s website in which James revealed he was returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Silver’s opinion was not universally shared.
“What I heard from a lot of owners in the league was that ‘I wish my city were his hometown,’” Silver said.
The Board of Governors also talked about the uncertain status of the Clippers, a story line that has shadowed the league for more than two months. The former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, who reached an agreement with Rochelle Sterling to buy the Clippers for a record $2-billion, was interviewed this week by the league’s finance and advisory committee, Silver said.
A trial in California will determine whether Rochelle Sterling, who is known as Shelly, can sell the Clippers without the approval of Donald, her estranged husband. If the court determines that Rochelle Sterling complied with the rules of the family trust in having her husband removed from his position in the trust, that would clear the way for her to complete the deal with Ballmer.
“It appears that she’s done all the right things as set out in their trust agreement,” Silver said. “I’ll only say that if, for whatever reason, the judge ultimately doesn’t decide in favor of Shelly, we’ll reactivate our proceedings to terminate the franchise.”
The league’s competition committee also met. One of the topics discussed, Silver said, was a possible midseason tournament.
“We’re looking at other opportunities in the league to create excitement,” he said. “As one of our general managers said at the meeting, there’s very few things that you can win in the NBA. I mean, when you think about European soccer, for example, they have the FA Cup, and they have other tournaments throughout the season.”
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