Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, his wife Shelly, and actor George Segal attend the NBA basketball game between the Toronto Raptors and the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles

With latest interview, case to remove Donald Sterling grows stronger

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On Monday, the day LeBron James dropped 49 points in a playoff game in New York, the big NBA story was what Donald Sterling said about Magic Johnson, and about how Sterling is 100 percent sure the players still love him (the same players that wore their warm-ups inside out and were ready to boycott a game because of him).

On Sunday, the day of maybe the biggest and most dramatic win in Clipper franchise history, the big NBA story was early leaked comments from Donald’s interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. After that it was Shelly Sterling sitting down in an interview to try and distance herself from her husband of 58 years and say she would fight to keep control of the team. The team came in third.

Right now the Sterlings are stealing the spotlight from the players, team and league they claim they love. They are making themselves the story. Which is exactly who they always have been, something that was always obvious when the media room at Staples Center became “Club Sterling” before Clippers games, with one or both of the Sterlings holding court with their “friends.” As ESPN’s J.A. Adande said perfectly, the Sterlings don’t love the Clippers, they love owning the Clippers.

This parade of Sterling interviews not ending soon, Shelly is scheduled to be on The Today Show Tuesday peddling her “I’m just the poor, innocent wife” routine (which is far from the truth).

All of this just strengthens the case to remove them.

It certainly seems to have hardened public support against them (at least based on social media responses).

The league’s case is built around the clause in the franchise agreement that Sterling signed saying he would not engage in unethical conduct or take “positions that have a materially adverse effect on the league.”

In plain language — don’t say things that mess with the bottom line. This is all about the money. It’s convenient that the league’s moral outrage can tie into this, but if it was moral outrage alone the league could have acted years ago. Now there is a new commissioner, but also money is involved.

Sterling’s racist rant, whether he intended it to be public or not, messed with the bottom line — sponsors have pulled away from his team, players have threatened a boycott, and here we are in the middle of the playoffs not talking about the playoffs.

Every time one of the Sterlings’ opens their mouth, the case against them gets stronger because they hurt the league.

Donald Sterling may have felt like he was getting in front of his public relations disaster with that Anderson Cooper interview, but there was no sponsor, no player, no fan who watched that and came around to his way of thinking. He came off as sad, confused and a little bitter, not as a sympathetic figure.

Donald Sterling was worse for the NBA bottom line after that interview — especially after he ripped Magic Johnson again. Shelly Sterling faired no better in her interviews.

The league feels it is on solid legal footing to remove them — Sterling signed the franchise agreement with the league. This is kind of akin to an owner of a McDonald’s or Subway violating their franchise agreements — if a store owner does something that embarrasses or damages the Subway brand and the corporation can yank their franchise. While it’s not identical the same basic principle is at work here — Donald Sterling is bad for business and the other owners can kick him out of the club. Shelly Sterling may own half the team but she is not the controlling owner and the league argues that most teams have minority owners that could lose their rights if the controlling owner screwed up. She is bound by the same franchise agreement.

Adam Silver’s statement in the wake of Donald Sterling’s CNN interview was more than an apology to Magic, the last line was a reminder to the other owners what they need to do — “The NBA Board of Governors is continuing with its process to remove Mr. Sterling as expeditiously as possible.” Silver wants him gone as soon as possible.

Because he’s bad for business.

And every time he speaks he makes the case against him that much stronger.

Rajon Rondo reportedly threw towel toward Bulls assistant during game, and they fedued more after

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 10: Rajon Rondo #9 of the Chicago Bulls gestures during the first half of the game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on November 10, 2016 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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The Bulls suspended Rajon Rondo for tonight’s game against the Trail Blazers for conduct detrimental to the team.

But what does that really mean?

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

Rondo had an emotional exchange with an assistant coach during and after Saturday’s loss to the Mavericks, according to a source. One source said Rondo threw a towel in the direction of associate head coach Jim Boylen during the game and the situation escalated postgame.

Rondo has already apologized to the coaching staff and his teammates, the source said. He met with coach Fred Hoiberg on Sunday and also attended a team function that day.

Rondo has long been notoriously difficult to coach. That reputation has only intensified in recent years as his play has declined, which is probably not a coincidence. Struggling on the court – Rondo had two points, two assists and five turnovers against Dallas – will only lead to frustration. Plus, tolerance for players acting out exists on a sliding scale with their ability.

But it’s also worth noting teammate Jimmy Butler and coach Fred Hoiberg continue to speak positively about Rondo:

Butler said following Monday’s shootaround that Rondo “has been great” during his stint with the Bulls.

“I think this is just another bump in the road,” Butler said. “He’s a phenomenal damn teammate and I back him on everything.

Hoiberg refused to get into details about the suspension but echoed Butler’s opinion on Rondo’s stint with the Bulls.

“Rajon, as we’ve all said, has been great,” Hoiberg said. “A great teammate. I’ve enjoyed the relationship that we developed, and … it’s not going to change moving forward.’’

This could explain why Rondo got a one-game suspension for throwing a towel at a coach when Markieff Morris, who was already feuding with the Suns, got two games just last year (as could the fact that Chicago is not Phoenix and can administer discipline differently).

Player-coach feuds happen over a long season. The reaction is often telling. Some get ignored. Some result in suspensions.

The Bulls are treating this like an isolated incident from an otherwise model player – but a situation serious enough to warrant a suspension. Rondo will eventually prove that approach right or wrong.

Matt Barnes’ rep says Kings forward acted in self-defense in nightclub fight

SACRAMENTO, CA - OCTOBER 27:  Matt Barnes #22 of the Sacramento Kings looks to pass the ball against the San Antonio Spurs during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game at Golden 1 Center on October 27, 2016 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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New York police reportedly want to question Kings forward Matt Barnes over a nightclub fight early this morning.

What happened between Barnes, teammate DeMarcus Cousins and other clubgoers?

TMZ:

A rep for the NBA star tells us … Barnes was having a good time at Avenue Nightclub with his teammate, DeMarcus Cousins, when he went to sit at his VIP booth and accidentally “butt bumped” a woman who was at the next booth over.

Barnes claims the woman reacted by slapping him in the face, hard — and that’s when all hell broke loose.

Barnes claims the woman’s crew — which included several men — jumped in and began to get violent. Barnes was knocked to the ground in the melee and one of the men began to choke him.

We’re told Barnes got physical in an effort to protect himself. Cousins also jumped in to defend Barnes.

We spoke with  Barnes’ attorney Alex Spiro who tells us, “We do not believe a crime was committed and are hopeful no charges will be pressed.”

By this telling, it sounds as if a crime was committed – with Barnes as the victim. I have no idea whether this account is accurate – what else would Barnes’ representation say? – and it’s reasonable for Barnes not to desire charges even against the other side. But it’s a little strange to hear Barnes’ lawyer give the other side such a quick reprieve while Barnes’ camp circulates this story of Barnes as a clear victim.

Bulls suspend Rajon Rondo for Trail Blazers game

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 09:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Chicago Bulls looks on from the bench in the final minutes of their 115-107 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on November 9, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Starting for an injured Rajon Rondo, Jerian Grant had 18 points and five steals in the Bulls’  25-point win against the Trail Blazers last month.

Grant will likely get another crack to start against Portland tonight.

Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

Chicago’s net rating with each starter on the court is lowest with Rondo:

But I doubt that’s the detrimental conduct the Bulls are referring to.

Chicago’s other starters have been dynamite with Grant instead of Rondo, outscoring opponents by 28 points per 100 possessions (relative to +10.6 with Rondo, still a robust mark). That’s a small sample with Grant, but we’ll get another opportunity to learn how this team meshes without Rondo.

Remember, though it started with a team-imposed one-game suspension, the Mavericks eventually told Rondo to stay away.

DeMarcus Cousins pushes handsy Joakim Noah (video)

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Joakim Noah kept his hands on DeMarcus Cousins after getting called for a foul, and that – and/or the Kings heading toward their third straight loss – agitated Cousins into pushing the Knicks center.

Remember, Cousins and Noah have a history.