Los Angeles Clippers NBA basketball team owner Donald Sterling attends the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills

Whatever Adam Silver does it will not be enough for some, but his hands are somewhat tied


After years of just ignoring everything Donald Sterling has done — the housing discrimination lawsuits, the stories from former players and front office personnel of racist behavior — the NBA seems finally ready to act on the alleged racist comments by Sterling.

If the consciously non-political Michael Jordan is calling for action, you can bet a lot of other owners are pushing for something to be done. They want this mess cleaned up. This is a league that fines players for anything seen as vaguely detrimental to its image — don’t you celebrate a key bucket with the “big balls” dance — and what Sterling did, no matter how private the moment, is a huge black eye to the league.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he has “broad powers in place under the NBA’s constitution and bylaws that include a range of sanctions, and all of those will be considered depending on the findings of our investigation.”

However, Silver’s hands are somewhat tied — he can only do so much.

MORE: Silver discusses Sterling, vows quick investigation

What he can do will not be enough for some people.

Silver is limited by the NBA’s constitution, which is a private document. What has leaked out from people who have seen it paints a picture that ties Silver’s hands.

• He can’t force Sterling to sell. Essentially the league constitution says the league can only sell a team out from under an owner if said owner is not meeting his financial obligations (not paying his bills) and that is not an issue. Blake Griffin’s checks are clearing. What’s more, Sterling’s style — with his real estate holdings, with everything — is to buy and keep, not sell.

Maybe the other owners could try to force the issue saying, “We no longer want Sterling as a business partner” legal argument, but the very litigious Sterling likely would fight that. And it would get ugly. Or, uglier. And it would drag the issue out for years.

There has been talk the league could force him to hand over the team to his estranged wife as part of joint property laws… but she is her own piece of work. In some of the housing discrimination cases against Sterling it was learned she posed as a government health inspector to gain access to apartments. She was part of the problem.

• Silver can only fine Sterling up to $1 million. That’s the maximum, according to multiple reports. Sterling is worth $1.9 billion dollars according to Forbes, a $1 million fine to him is about the equivalent of you or I getting a parking ticket. It’s annoying, we don’t want to write the check, but it’s not that steep a hit.

• Suspension — this is the hammer Silver really can wield. He can suspend Sterling from any contact with the team or interacting with the front office, keep him from attending games. This would be the biggest blow — for Sterling games are a social, “kiss the ring” kind of event where the people around him gather to enjoy “his team” and “his games.” He basks in the celebrity of it. Take that away and it is more of a blow than any fine would be.

How long a suspension is the question. Through these playoffs for sure (which may not last that long for the Clippers, as distracted as they were Sunday). All of next season seems more reasonable … if Silver can do it. We don’t know what limits there could be on a suspension in the private constitution, but none have been mentioned.

A suspension and fine will not make everyone happy — it does not seem enough for a history of racist issues. This is why David Stern should have dealt with the issue when he could, when he had more serious public offenses that were clearly actionable grounds by the league. But he didn’t, there wasn’t an outcry from the other owners to act. He was seen as the bad owner of a bad team, everyone just ignored him and Stern swept the issues under the rug.

Now it falls to Silver, and the case is based on the audiotape of a private conversation — something not admissible in a court of law (Sterling did not consent to be taped). Combine that with Sterling being very litigious and you have Silver stuck in a spot where no matter what he does some people will be unhappy with him. He has to come down as hard as he can, and even that will have some saying it’s not enough and possibly prompting a lawsuit against him from the other side.

Welcome to the big chair, Silver.

Jahlil Okafor tweets apology for recent off-court behavior

Jahlil Okafor

The off-court incidents have been piling up for Jahlil Okafor over the past month: first, an incident captured on video that showed Okafor getting into a fight with a heckler early Thanksgiving morning; then, a report that Okafor had a gun pulled on him in a previous incident; and finally, this morning’s report that the Sixers’ No. 3 overall pick in this June’s draft had been pulled over in recent weeks for driving 108 miles per hour in Philadelphia. Together, they aren’t a good look for the rookie.

On Sunday afternoon, Okafor apologized for his recent behavior in a series of tweets:

The recent incidents involving Okafor are surprising—going into the draft, he never had any red flags for maturity or off-the-court issues. He’s certainly saying the right things after the fact, and he’s only 19, so hopefully this is nothing more than a small rough patch where he’s made some bad decisions, and not an indicator of things to come.

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


It has seemed like this was it for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Bulls’ Dunleavy to see specialist after suffering setback with back injury

Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah
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CHICAGO—Over the past few weeks, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy has seemed to be making progress in his back rehab. Dunleavy underwent back surgery shortly before the start of training camp and was initially given a timeline of 8-10 weeks. Recently, he’s been increasing his workload, and he traveled with the team on their recent west coast road trip.

However, his recovery may have hit a snag.

“Mike is going to see a doctor again tomorrow and then we should have a better update after that,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after practice on Sunday. “He had a little bit of soreness. But we’ll have more on that tomorrow.”

An update to Dunleavy’s status is coming, but given Dunleavy’s age (35) and the frequency of back injuries to reoccur, this news certainly isn’t encouraging. Between Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, the Bulls have struggled at both ends of the floor on the wing. Getting Dunleavy back, whenever that happens, will be a huge help. But nobody knows when that will be.

Stan Van Gundy calls out Andre Drummond’s effort after loss to Thunder

Andre Drummond
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After a promising start to the season, the Pistons have lost three of their last four games and seven of their last 10. And although he’s been outstanding for most of the season, Andre Drummond has not been above receiving criticism from Stan Van Gundy. The coach called out Drummond’s effort on Friday night after a loss to the Thunder.

Via Sportando:

“I didn’t think he brought much energy to the Milwaukee game, and I didn’t think he brought much energy tonight,” Van Gundy said of the two beatings the Pistons received this week. “Why that is, I don’t know. But we need a lot more from him than we got tonight.”

Calling out your best player in the media is bold, but Van Gundy has enough of a track record and a reputation, going back to his days in Orlando with Dwight Howard, that he can get away with it. It also sends a message to the entire team that Van Gundy isn’t going to hold his star to a different standard than the rest of the team.

Despite a couple of poor performances, Drummond is having a career year, leading the league in rebounding at 17.1 per game while also averaging 17.9 points.