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.

Three players most likely to be moved on Trade Deadline Day

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There will be trades today. Unexpected ones.

Probably not the big names fans are hoping to see. The offers for Carmelo Anthony have been so poor that as much as Phil Jackson wants to move ‘Melo he can’t take those offers. Indiana isn’t eager to trade Paul George, same with Chicago and Jimmy Butler, and it’s going to take a very unlikely Godfather offer to get those deals done (such as Boston parting with one of their Brooklyn picks). Andre Drummond likely remains a Piston.

Sorry to be Debbie Downer on the big trades.

But here are three guys likely to be moved.

1) Jahlil Okafor, Philadephia 76ers. He’s been in more rumors than Khloe Kardashian the past few months. The latest rumors have the Chicago Bulls making a push to land him, but demanding the Sixers take Nikola Mirotic back in the deal. The Bulls don’t need Mirotic — a stretch four shooing 29 percent from three this season — with the emergence of Cristiano Felicio. where Okafor would give Chicago more scoring inside. However, why exactly do the Sixers want Mirotic when they have Dario Saric? The Bulls are going to have to throw more in that deal.

Other teams have expressed interest in Okafor, including Indiana. The Sixers need to move people around up front, the only question is because there is a glut of centers on the market — Brook Lopez, Tyson Chandler, Greg Monroe, to name a few — the price is low. Bryan Colangelo may decide to wait until this summer, but he’s prefer to just get this done.

2) P.J. Tucker, Phoenix Suns. He’s a physical, tough defender who can get you buckets on the other end, a lot of teams could use him. The Clippers had interest and offered a couple of second round picks, but the Suns wanted a first-rounder. The Knicks also had interest at one point, but they don’t have a first-rounder they can move until basically the second coming. Still, Tucker is on the market and I expect some veteran team will come in and try to scoop him up.

3) Darren Collison, Sacramento Kings. After owner Vivek Ranadive finally changed his mind, the Kings moved quickly to trade DeMarcus Cousins and put the team on a path. A rebuilding path. One that doesn’t have a lot of roster spots for older players. That includes Darren Collison. He’s a solid point guard averaging 13.7 points per game this season, shooting 42 percent from three, and he knows how to run an offense. There’s a lot of teams that could use him, and the Kings can listen to multiple offers than take the best one. But there’s no reason to keep him around the rest of the season.

 

Report: Unless they trade for Jimmy Butler or Paul George, Celtics likely to keep main assets

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The Celtics have been linked in trade talks to the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler and Pacers’ Paul George, but that requires the other team to deal with Boston. Indications are neither Chicago nor Indiana is particularly amenable.

So, time for the Celtics to pick another star to target?

Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:

With less than 24 hours until the NBA’s 3 p.m. trade deadline today, the Celtics were said to be still holding out hope that internal discussions within the Bulls and Pacers would lead to one or both making their best player available.

But short of that, the view from around the league is that the Celts are becoming more and more enamored with the idea of keeping their main assets and using the first-round draft pick they have coming from Brooklyn in June via a swap of positions. (They also have the Nets’ 2018 first-rounder unencumbered.)

Sources continued to say that, while there remains a chance things could change as the deadline draws nearer, Chicago and Indiana are more likely to retain Jimmy Butler and Paul George, respectively. Those All-Star talents have been the Celtics’ two main targets

This could just be the Celtics playing hardball — either through leaks to the media or through conversations with other teams that have trickled out. But Bulpett is well-connected, especially in Boston. This is more likely than most reports of this nature to be accurate, but it’s always difficult to break through the smokescreens this time of year.

The Nets’ upcoming first-rounder is extremely valuable, as they’ll likely finish with the NBA’s worst record. The Celtics could do far worse than keeping that pick.

But Boston’s top players — Isaiah Thomas (28) and Al Horford (30) — are already at ages where they can’t necessarily wait for a 2017 pick, even someone as talented as Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball, to develop. It makes sense to cash in chips now.

Still, the Celtics’ deep pool of assets mean the window isn’t closing yet. There should be no desperation to make a win now trade.

If Boston keeps its main assets — mainly the Nets picks — past the trade deadline, we’ll just revisit all this again in the summer.

Cavaliers sign forward Derrick Williams to second 10-day contract

Cleveland Cavaliers' Derrick Williams, right, drives to the basket against Indiana Pacers' Rodney Stuckey in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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The Cleveland Cavaliers have signed forward Derrick Williams to a second 10-day contract.

The NBA champions have been impressed with Williams, a former No. 2 overall pick, and it’s likely they will sign him for the remainder of the season when his current contract expires. The Cavs announced Wednesday they signed Williams again. He has averaged 9.8 points and 3.0 rebounds in 22 minutes for the Cavs, who have been bringing him off their bench with their second unit.

Before signing as a free agent with Cleveland on Feb. 9, Williams played for Miami this season before being released.

The Cavs returned from the All-Star break Wednesday and will practice before hosting the New York Knicks on Thursday, just a few hours after the trade deadline.

Hornets’ Miles Plumlee out at least two weeks with leg injury

Charlotte Hornets' Miles Plumlee (18) dunks against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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The Hornets are essentially two different teams with and without Cody Zeller.

They’re 22-17 when he plays and 2-15 when he doesn’t. They play at a 62-win pace with him on the floor and a 29-win pace when he sits.

So, with Zeller banged up, Charlotte traded for Miles Plumee. But Plumlee hasn’t provided much, just 3.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per game in five contests.

And now he’ll add even less.

Hornets release:

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that center Miles Plumlee underwent a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI), which revealed a second-degree calf strain in his right leg. Plumlee will be out for Charlotte’s game tomorrow at Detroit and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

The Hornets incurred significant long-term costs ($37.5 million over the next three years) to use Plumlee as a short-term bandage. Without him providing even that, this situation looks bleak.

Depending on Zeller’s health, this could turn Charlotte — 2.5 games and three teams out of playoff position — into sellers before the trade deadline. At minimum, it makes the Hornets less likely to buy.