NBA (reportedly): Donald Sterling urged V. Stiviano to lie to investigators, is not estranged from Shelly

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What exactly did Donald Sterling do?

We know he said some ridiculous things about blacks on recorded audio. He also said heinous things about African-Americans in a CNN interview.

What other wrongdoings is the NBA alleging?

The NBA provided a summary of the charges:

Among other things, Mr. Sterling disparaged African-Americans and “minorities”; directed a female acquaintance not to associate publicly with African-Americans or to bring African-Americans to Clippers games; and criticized African-Americans for not supporting their communities.

Mr. Sterling engaged in other misconduct as well, including issuing a false and misleading press statement about this matter.

James Rainey and Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times obtained the NBA’s full 30-page list of charges. Among the details:

Sterling asked Stiviano to tell the NBA that she lied in her previous meeting with the league. The billionaire owner wanted her to tell the league investigators that the voice on the recording was not his and that she had altered the recording, Stiviano told the investigators. Sterling also allegedly tried to bring a quiet close to his wife’s lawsuit against Stiviano, which sought to recover some of her husband’s money used to buy Stiviano a home and several luxury cars.

Stiviano said Donald Sterling requested that she pay Shelly Sterling to settle the lawsuit, filed in 2013, and that he would return the money to Stiviano through “back channels.”

That’s a big one. If Sterling urged Stiviano to lie to NBA investigators, the league can use that ethical breach in its case against the Clippers owner.

As for Sterling trying to persuade Stiviano to settle the lawsuit, that doesn’t belong in the NBA’s purview – but it really is the heart of the matter. Sterling should have paid off Stiviano long ago, and he would have avoided all this.

It also says there is ample evidence that Sterling and his wife are not estranged, as has been suggested.

Shelly and Donald Sterling were videoed together shortly after TMZ leaked the audio, but she has since said that was only at the request of Clippers president Andy Roeser, who persuaded her that Donald needed her. That’s plausible. The NBA needs more evidence Shelly and Donald are still together than just their brief public appearance together and their shared history of alleged racism, but the league might have that.

Team President Roeser received a copy of the recording on April 9 from another employee of the team, who had gotten it from Stiviano, the charges allege. That was more than two weeks before the April 25 posting of the recording by the website TMZ.

After Roeser told Sterling about the recording, Roeser, on Sterling’s orders, told the unnamed employee to delete it from a phone, along with all related text messages, the NBA charges say.

I’m not sure that will stick as a wrongdoing. What’s wrong with Sterling deleting a recording of two people in a then-private conversation? At that point, he had no reason to believe the NBA was investigating it.

Roeser issued that statement for the team “falsely questioning the legitimacy and authenticity of the recording,” the NBA alleged.

I’m not sure how you can “falsely question.” Maybe the tape’s authenticity was false, but that doesn’t make question the authenticity false. Roeser – no matter what he suspected or should have suspected – wasn’t in position to know with absolute certainty the tape hadn’t been doctored.

Is that a technical out? Absolutely, but this is all about technicalities.

The NBA has a strong case against Sterling. It appears the league is also including some of its less-credible complaints, too, which is fine.

Even if the other owners don’t buy everything in this document, enough evidence remains to vote out Sterling.

Donovan Mitchell tells Thunder fans, Jazz teammates Utah not returning to Oklahoma City this season

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The Jazz blew a 25-point second-half lead in Game 5 last night, extending their series with the Thunder. Up 3-2, the Jazz are still in control. They can close out in Game 6 tomorrow in Utah. Blow that, and they must return to Oklahoma City for Game 7 Sunday.

But Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell is making it abundantly clear he doesn’t plan to do that.

Gabe Ikard of The Franchise 107.7:

Jake Edmonds of KUTV:

A confident proclamation that rallies his team or youthful exuberance run amok?

The narrative will be decided after Game 6. That’s just how this is done.

Report: Grizzlies moving toward keeping J.B. Bickerstaff as coach

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From the moment Robert Pera opted to retain control of the Grizzlies and end a prolonged ownership saga, it seemed interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff would remain Memphis’ coach.

Lo and behold…

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Bickerstaff did a decent job before the Grizzlies started tanking. But that was a small a sample, and his prior work as Rockets interim coach was uninspiring.

To be fair to Bickerstaff, those were both difficult situations. He’s an experienced assistant who might be ready for this challenge.

To be less fair to Bickerstaff, this looks like Memphis taking the cheap route. The Grizzlies didn’t appear to conduct much of a coaching search, if any. Nor has Bickerstaff been mentioned with other openings. It probably won’t cost as much to hire him as it would a more-established option.

Memphis seems to be operating under the belief that a healthy Mike Conley and Marc Gasol will right the ship next season. And they might. But given the age and injury history of those two, I wouldn’t assume they stay healthy and productive all season. Even if they do, they’d have to carry an underwhelming supporting cast – with limited room for upgrade this summer – in a deep Western Conference.

The Grizzlies want Bickerstaff, who’d be a first-time non-interim head coach, leading that team trying to win now? That doesn’t seem like the right risk-reward balance – at least until considering his salary, and even then.

Rumor: 76ers increasingly confident about signing LeBron James

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LeBron James-76ers rumors have been mainstream for the better part of the year.

And they’re not going anywhere.

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

I now fully understand why whispers about the Philadelphia 76ers and their growing behind-the-scenes confidence that they can woo LeBron to Philly this summer are getting louder.

Why shouldn’t they be increasingly confident? Led by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the 76ers have already won a playoff series. The Cavaliers are mired in a tight first-round series with the Pacers, and LeBron’s supporting cast has mostly stunk.

This has the makings of LeBron’s previous free agencies – when he left barren Cleveland for Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Heat in 2010, when he left aging Miami for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love with the Cavaliers in 2014. Whatever motivations and narratives attached to LeBron’s decisions, he has left sinking teams for better-positioned ones.

The 76ers are good enough to fit that. They also have the cap flexibility to acquire him without sacrificing roster strength.

That LeBron has positioned himself as a mentor to Simmons – who shares an agent, Rich Paul, with LeBron – would only make signing with Philadelphia easier. LeBron could sell the narrative of teaching and grooming Simmons. LeBron, who cares about his legacy, must explain why he’s again leaving his hometown team in a way that won’t alienate everyone – not easy considering his homecoming message upon his return. Working first-hand with his protégé would look understandable, maybe even commendable.

All that said, growing confidence could be going from a 1% chance to a 10% chance. That’d be a 10-fold increase while leaving Philadelphia a big underdog.

LeBron’s free agency is still a huge unknown – including, at least in part, to LeBron himself. But I believe he has already started to consider options, even if he hasn’t made up his mind. And when that happens, signs could emerge behind the scenes. Perhaps, the 76ers have a read on those.

Or maybe they’re seeing what we’re all seeing: The 76ers are rising while the Cavs are just trying to keep their heads above water. Which situation would LeBron choose?

Victor Oladipo on his final shot: “It was a goaltend”

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Ultimately, the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report will back up Victor Oladipo — it was a goaltend.

With the score tied 95-95 and just six seconds left in the game Wednesday night, Oladipo attacked LeBron James in isolation, and like so many before him thought he was past LeBron only to have a chase down block from behind end his bid — except video replays shows Oladipo laid the ball off the backboard a fraction of a second before LeBron blocked it. That makes it a goaltend, a defender cannot block a shot that has already touched the backboard. Check out the slow-mo video.

The officials didn’t call it that way on the court, and the play is only eligible for video review if a goaltend is called (to be fair to the officials, that was an incredibly close play that is very difficult to call in real time). From there, LeBron went on to hit the dramatic game-winning three that gave Cleveland the win and a 3-2 series lead.

After the game, Oladipo and his teammates were pissed about the no-call.

“I got a step on him,” Oladipo said via the Associated Press. “I felt like I even got grabbed on the way to the rim, tried to shoot a layup, it hit the backboard, then he blocked it. It was a goaltend. It’s hard to even speak on it. It just sucks, honestly. It really sucks. Even though we fought our way back, we tied the game up, that layup was huge.

“Give him credit where credit is due. The three was big-time. Definitely huge. But who’s to say they even run that play? We don’t know what happens. It’s unfortunate. It really sucks that they missed that.”

LeBron didn’t see it that way.

“Of course I didn’t think it was a goaltend. I try to make plays like that all the time and I mean he made a heck of a move, got me leaning right and he went left and I just tried to use my recovery speed and get back up there and make a play on the ball. And I was able to make a play.”

We’ll see what the Last Two Minute Report says, but to my eyes that was a goaltend, it clearly comes off the backboard.

That call is also not why Indiana lost. If Pacers’ fans want to place blame, Oladipo going 2-of-15 on the night was a bigger issue. Or Darren Collison having an off night and going 1-of-5 from the floor. Or maybe it’s just the fact that LeBron James is the best player in the game and can drop 44 on the Pacers — including the three that may well have made the goaltend moot anyway — and Indiana can’t stop it. One call late does not by itself decide a 48-minute game.

But it was a goaltend.