NBA unites behind ousting Donald Sterling, but removing him will not be that simple

16 Comments

The NBA is finally united. Nothing can get 29 owners, 450 players and legions of fans to agree on something…

Nothing except Donald Sterling.

New commissioner Adam Silver started to define his legacy when he brought the hammer down on the Clippers owner for his racist comments caught on tape — a lifetime ban, a $2.5 million fine, and plans by the league to force a sale of the franchise.

That last one is the big, bold move — forcing him to sell the team. Sterling loves owning a team, it is part of his identity, he will not willingly sell. However, under terms of the NBA’s constitution the league can force a sale if three quarters of the other NBA owners vote to do so — 23 of the other 29.

That’s not going to be a problem — within two hours of Silver’s press conference all 29 owners had come out in support of his actions. (You know a smart lawyer like Silver would never have said he was going this route without knowing he had the votes.)

“This kind of behavior can’t be allowed in the NBA by owners, players or anybody,” Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said to the Houston Chronicle. “This guy has no place in the family of the NBA. Whatever it takes, we have to make sure this kind of event never happens again.”

“In light of the serious matter facing our league, a matter that transcends sports, the New Orleans Pelicans fully support the decisions made today by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and will fully support his recommendations moving forward,” Pelicans owner Tom Benson said in a statement.

And so it went through every owner not named Sterling — even the Clippers released a statement saying they supported the decision.

If there is this kind of unified support when would a vote to oust Sterling happen? One owner told David Aldridge of NBA.com the latest is likely the annual owner’s meeting in July. Maybe earlier.

But it’s just not going to be that easy.

Donald Sterling told Jim Gray of Fox News earlier tonight the Clippers are “not for sale.” Sterling is an incredibly litigious person and most people around the league expect Sterling to fight this forced sale. He will do it in federal courts claiming the league is not following its own rules — the league has clear lines for selling a team where the owner was gambling on basketball or not paying his bills, neither of which are in question here. There is no “morals” clause but there is room to say Sterling was bad for business (the players were ready to boycott games and sponsors did pull out). However, lawyers say the wording in Sec. 13 of the constitution is vague, enough that Sterling can fight it. He will get injunctions, and he will drag it out and drag his feet. He will do everything he can to fight this, even if his options are limited. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com added that the fact Sterling’s wife of 50 years Shelly owns half the team complicates matters (it doesn’t matter that they are estranged as a couple, under California law half of what is his is hers, including the team).

With the courts involved, even if Adam Silver has the solid legal footing he says he does, it could take a year or more to get the sale okayed.

Silver took the bold steps and was able to unify the basketball world behind him in a way his predecessor David Stern never could. Now if he could maintain that unity and build on it that could lead to something special.

But getting rid of Sterling, that will be ugly and take a little time. Even with that unity.

Thunder’s Enes Kanter: ‘I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship’

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
1 Comment

When Kevin Durant left the Thunder for the Warriors, Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter jumped fully on board the pro-Russell Westbrook, anti-Durant bandwagon.

That ride doesn’t stop with his former teammate facing the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

Kanter, via Fox Sports Radio:

I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship.

Kanter never misses an opportunity to take a shot at the Warriors – except when Zaza Pachulia laid out Westbrook and stood over him.

Dwane Casey: Masai Ujiri assured me I’ll return as Raptors coach

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Galit Rodan
Leave a comment

Raptors president Masai Ujiri didn’t mince words at his season-ending press conference: Toronto’s playing style had become unacceptable.

It sounded as if he might have been planting the seed for firing Dwane Casey.

But the coach says Ujiri assured him he’d return next season.

Casey on TSN (hat tip: Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic):

I think people mistook Masai’s comments for that. We had a good meeting before that meeting, and we’ve had meeting since then – with all the coaches – as far as plans for next year and the culture reset, which I think every corporation and every team should do periodically to get the culture back in focus and that type of thing. It’s not like we’re in total chaos or anything like that. It’s just good to have roles defined, things we can do better in each of our roles.

We’re doing some good things and some things we can do much better with. And that’s what we’ll plan on doing this summer and also this fall, when we go to training camp.

The Raptors’ offensive rating has dropped from regular season to the playoffs by 8.5, 7.2 and 11.7 the last three years. Their isolation-heavy style is just easier to stop when defenses see it in consecutive games.

The big question: What does Toronto do about that?

It’d be difficult to move on from the two players most responsible for the style, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. DeRozan is signed long-term, and if the Raptors don’t re-sign Lowry, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, they won’t have the cap space to land a comparable replacement.

The best bet is probably changing schemes from the bench and hoping the players can adjust – and maybe Casey can handle that responsibility. Hiring a new coach obviously would been the clearest path to a shake up, but maybe Casey can evolve. I’d want to see a plan from him before committing to keeping him, but maybe Ujiri got that.

Casey has played a key role in Toronto’s improvement, it’s nice to give him an opportunity to coach differently before hiring a different coach.

Kevin Durant: Don’t blame me for Nets, Magic and other teams stinking

AP Photo/Adam Hunger
1 Comment

For the first time in NBA history, the NBA Finals will feature the same matchup for three straight years.

Among those responsible: Kevin Durant, who sunk the title-contending Thunder and gave the Warriors an even stronger grip on the Western Conference.

But don’t blame him for a lack of parity league-wide.

Durant, via Sam Amick of USA Today:

“Like I’m the reason why (expletive) Orlando couldn’t make the playoffs for five, six years in a row?” he said. “Am I the reason that Brooklyn gave all their picks to Boston? Like, am I the reason that they’re not that good (laughs). I can’t play for every team, so the truth of the matter is I left one team. It’s one more team that you probably would’ve thought would’ve been a contender. One more team. I couldn’t have made the (entire) East better. I couldn’t have made everybody (else) in the West better.”

Some teams will always be better than others. The Magic, Nets and more were mis-managed before Durant left Oklahoma City.

But I’m not even sure this is the right debate.

Does the NBA even have a parity problem to blame on Durant?

Cleveland and Golden State aren’t traditional powers. Before 2015, the Warriors hadn’t won a title since 1975 and the Cavaliers had never won one. Their ascension is proof of parity – that sound management and a little luck can lift teams from the basement.

Report: Clippers take Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor ‘very seriously’

2 Comments

Want to laugh off that Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor?

The Clippers aren’t joining you.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Clippers should be concerned. Losing Paul would unravel their entire foundation, dropping them from the fringe of championship contention to out of the title picture completely. It could even help usher out Blake Griffin, who will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer. (To be fair, Paul leaving could also help convince Griffin to stay.)

About a month ago, the Clippers reportedly expected Paul to stay. They even reportedly struck a verbal agreement with him to re-sign before that. But they can’t officially sign him until July, and that leaves the door open for him to leave.

The Clippers should be heartened by their advantages – a prime market and a projected max offer of $205 million over five years.

The most another team projects to be able to offer is $152 million over four years, and San Antonio will have a hard time doing that. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to shed two of those players to clear max cap space.

So, never say never, but the Clippers’ concern might be rooted more in the dire consequences of Paul leaving rather than the likelihood of it.