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

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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.

 

Magic Johnson winks at bringing Paul George to Lakers

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Paul George-to-the-Lakers rumors have swirled for a while.

New Lakers president Magic Johnson will only fuel them.

Asked how he’d interact with the Pacers star to avoid tampering if they ran into each other, Johnson said on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

In explaining how he’d avoid tampering, Johnson probably tampered. Accidental tampering appears to be his specialty.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says team employees can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.” But the league arbitrarily enforces tampering, so who knows whether he’ll be punished?

Johnson almost certainly could have gotten away with the hypothetical conversation he laid out. But going on television and describing it — even as fantasy, even not directly to George — could constitute tampering in itself,

If Johnson helps attract George to Los Angeles, it’d well be worth it. At least he’s trying something.

Report: Austin Rivers returning for Clippers-Jazz Game 5

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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There have been bigger injuries in the Clippers-Jazz first-round series: Blake Griffin‘s toe, Rudy Gobert‘s knee and Gordon Hayward‘s stomach.

But Clippers guard Austin Rivers has yet to play due to a strained hamstring.

It sounds as if that will change tomorrow.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This is neither as big a deal as the Clippers will make it out to be nor as meaningless as Rivers’ many detractors will claim.

The 6-foot-4 Rivers will provide an important defensive upgrade on the perimeter. The Clippers haven’t successfully hidden Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton, allowing Utah too many quality looks. Here how the Jazz have shot when defended by each, per NBA.com:

  • Crawford: 18-of-36 (50%), including 7-of-17 on 3-pointers (41%)
  • Felton: 13-of-24 (54%), including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers (63%)

Rivers needn’t be great to help behind Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.

Isaiah Thomas: ‘Mentally and emotionally, I’m not here’

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Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.

Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”

Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.

His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.