The NBA’s constitution is definitely secret and probably intentionally vague, but the common opinion seems to be Adam Silver can’t force Donald Sterling to sell the Clippers.
Rockets owner Leslie Alexander agrees with that interpretation, so when speaking with Silver, Alexander suggested his own idea for consequences.
Alexander, via Jonathan Feigen of Ultimate Rockets:
“I thought that there’s got to be a way to disrupt him from owning the team,” said Alexander, who after 20 years owning the Rockets is one of the longest tenured owners in the NBA. “I gave him the sword to deal with this. I said, ‘Let the players become free agents.’”
Alexander said the goal of his suggestion was not to break up the Clippers, considered among the league’s top teams, or even to punish Sterling. He said the objective was solely to back Sterling into a corner from which he will choose to sell the Clippers.
Alexander said he did not know what Silver would announce on Tuesday and that Silver did not say what actions he was considering, but did say that he would look into the feasibility and ramifications of Alexander’s suggestion.
“He listened to it,” Alexander said. “He said he hadn’t heard that before. He said to me, ‘You always give me a novel idea that I haven’t heard before.’ He told me he would look at it and see what the professionals around him think.”
I would be shocked if the NBA gave the Clippers’ players the option of becoming free agents early. Absolutely shocked. (Though not shocked the consensus-building Silver made Alexander feel heard.)
When noting the league doesn’t have broad power to remove Sterling as owner, I acknowledged Adam Silver and the other owners could always decide to risk acting outside the bounds of the NBA constitution and dare Sterling to sue. That could swiftly push out Sterling, and even if it might come at a great cost later, it could be worthwhile.
But voiding the Clippers’ contracts prematurely? Not only would that not remove Sterling, it would hand him a lawsuit on a silver platter. If the NBA is willing to expose itself to a Sterling lawsuit in order to achieve other aims, one them will be removing Sterling. The league won’t risk a lawsuit just to make Matt Barnes a free agent.
Beyond pragmatism, the NBA just shouldn’t do it.
The owner of an appealing team that might have cap space this summer wants Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to become free agents? You don’t say.
From Mark Jackson angling for a road game with no fans present to Magic Johnson potentially trying to buy the the team (he denies it) to Alexander, the sharks are circling. Their mark, Sterling, is wholly unsympathetic, but Alexander ought to cover up a little better. His self-interest is showing.