Donald Sterling

In latest alleged recording, Donald Sterling denies being a racist, says league can’t force him to sell


Nobody thinks of themselves as a bad person. Even most people we would all agree are bad people don’t view themselves that way. Our ability as humans to compartmentalize and rationalize knows almost no limit. We can convince ourselves of anything.

So of course Donald Sterling doesn’t see himself as a racist.

And of course, as the league expects, he is going to fight the league forcing the sale of his team.

Another recording allegedly of Sterling has been released by Radar Online, one recorded since the scandal broke. In this one, allegedly taped by a long time friend of his, Sterling vacillates between sounding heartbroken and defiant anger.

Here are a few selected highlight quotes. Remember he is addressing a long-time friend who reportedly taped the conversation (some friend he’s got).

• “You think I’m a racist? You think I have anything in the world but love for everybody? You don’t think that! You know I’m not a racist.”

• “I mean, how could you think I’m a racist knowing me all these years? How can you be in this business and be a racist? Do you think I tell the coach to get white players? Or to get the best player he can get?”

• “You can’t force someone to sell property in America.”

• “I grew up in East L.A…. I was the president of the high school there. I mean, and I’m a Jew! And 50% of the people there were black and 40% were hispanic.… So I mean, people must have a good feeling for me.”

• “It breaks my heart that Magic Johnson, a guy that I respect so much, wouldn’t stand up and say, ‘Well let’s get the facts. Let’s get him and talk to him.’ Nobody tried. Nobody!”

I want to make two things clear. First, Sterling has turned down requests to tell “his side of the story” to multiple media outlets. If he wanted to “get the facts” out there he could. Second, a long history of court documents — and a federal lawsuit settlement (in which he had to admit no wrongdoing) — point to a man using his power to limit opportunities, evict and otherwise change the lives of people based on the color of their skin and his perception of them. That pretty much defines racism. That’s not even getting to Elgin Baylor’s lengthy list of stories when he was GM, like bringing his female “friends” into the locker room to admire the “beautiful black bodies” of his players.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver came down on Sterling after the leaking of a previous recording with a lifetime ban from the game, a $2.5 million fine, and the promise that the league would force him to sell the franchise. The league has already started steps on its end to have charges presented and eventually have the other owners vote on Sterling’s ownership. In addition, they have removed Sterling’s long-time friend and team president Andy Roeser and will appoint a new CEO to run the franchise.

Does this new tape hint at a future legal strategy in court by Sterling to block all this? SI’s legal expert Michael McCann thinks maybe.

On another front, Sterling’s long-time wife Shelly has said she wants to maintain control of the team, that what her estranged husband has said and done should not impact her. Under California law she does own half the team, something sources confirm.

If you don’t think this a coordinated effort, that she is serving as his proxy, you are naive. Both of them have for years tried to bully opponents through the courts and had great success, their modus operandi will not change now. The league is not falling for it, Adam Silver has said the team cannot remain in the hands of the Sterling family.

Sterling is battling cancer but his strategy here clearly seems to be to make this uncomfortable for the NBA to fight, to at the very least drag out this process. Maybe he thinks he can win. Either way it is going to get ugly.

That will be bad for all things Clippers. And the NBA. But the Sterlings care more about their egos.


Report: 76ers supporting, not blaming, Jahlil Okafor

Jahlil Okafor
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76ers rookie Jahlil Okafor fought a man in a Boston street.

The team has released a short, vague statement. CSN Philly:

“We are aware of the report and we are currently working to gather additional information. Until that time, we will have no further comment.”

But what do the 76ers really think?

Chris Broussard of ESPN:

I spoke with somebody close to him. They’ve talked to the 76ers. They’ve talked with the NBA.

The Sixers are very supportive of Okafor. They understand the situation, but they have to do their due diligence and look into it.

The Sixers are supporting him. They’re not blaming him. If they have to discipline, it still won’t sully him in their eyes.

Again, I’m told that they’re very supportive of him.

If the 76ers really support Okafor, they’ll do so publicly. Leaking their support anonymously doesn’t really move the needle.

I also find this report a little dubious, because Broussard only said he talked to someone close to Okafor. If the 76ers’ viewpoint came filtered through an Okafor rep, there could be a lot of spin – though it’s possible Broussard also spoke with someone from the team.

What choice do the 76ers have but to support Okafor, anyway? He’s a promising young player on a team that desperately needs hope. It seems he made a major mistake, but it’s not a career-ender. And as long as the 76ers are keeping him, they might as well stand by him.

However – based on what we’ve seen, which is obviously not everything – this incident should “sully him in their eyes.” He appeared to be the aggressor, and the team should be concerned by that. Perhaps, further investigation has provided extenuating circumstances, but absent new evidence, the 76ers should view him less favorably – and be proactive about helping him correct any underlying issues.

That’s the support Okafor needs from them.

Celtics president Danny Ainge on Brad Stevens: ‘He’s a keeper’

Brad Stevens

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has never finished a season with a winning record. He’s over .500 this year only because Boston came back to beat the lowly 76ers. He has never won a playoff game.

But Stevens – who signed a six-year, $22 million contract in 2013 – has plenty of job security.

Celtics president Danny Ainge, in a Q&A with Chris Forsberg of ESPN:

You’ve joked about it before, but are you ready to give him another six-year contract yet?

Ainge: [Laughs] Yeah.

You have to start thinking about that. Sure, we’re only in Year 3, but you can’t risk letting a good coach get away.

Ainge: No, listen, he’s a keeper. He’s great. He’s great to work with. Like I said, I think he’s going to be — if he stays in this game long enough — he’s going to be one of the great coaches.

I tend to agree with Ainge’s assessment. Stevens has looked like an excellent coach so far – implementing a sound defense, creating space on offense and communicating clearly with his players.

But Stevens has benefited tremendously from low expectations, arriving in Boston after Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen retired. Expectations sunk even lower when the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo last season.

That’s when Stevens appeared to do his best work, guiding a starless team to a 24-12 finish.

Expectations will keep rising, though. Some expected the Celtics to break out this year, but they’re just 8-7. Stevens faces the difficult task of managing a rotation full of pretty good – but no great – players. This might be his hardest NBA assignment yet.

Stevens has done plenty to earn praise from his boss. But to actually get a contract extension, he’ll have to keep meeting higher and higher expectations.

I believe Stevens is up to the challenge, but I’m not completely certain of it. He wouldn’t be the first coach to impress early in his tenure and then fizzle. Just look at how many Coach of the Year winners lost their jobs a short time later.

Again, I think Stevens will meet any reasonable expectations he faces. He just must actually do it to get a longer deal.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.