Donald Sterling’s response to NBA charges vows fight, Shelly Sterling files separate response

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If you read from his comments over the past couple weeks that Donald Sterling was willing to let his Los Angeles Clippers go, that he didn’t really want to fight the league, then you haven’t followed Donald Sterling’s career.

Sterling’s attorney filed a lengthy, defiant response to the NBA’s charges — those charges are part of an effort by the league to use its constitution to force a sale of the team following outcry after prejudiced remarks by Sterling first heard on a private recording obtained by TMZ and then additional remarks on CNN.

Sterling’s response talks of large offers for the team — in excess of $2.5 billion, although his attorney later denied that was the number — and promising to fight the league’s efforts to force a sale of the team, reports Brent Schrotenboer of the USA Today.

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling said the NBA’s efforts to terminate his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers are “illegal” and that it would force his family to pay an enormous capital gains tax that would be “egregious,” according to his response to NBA charges filed Tuesday.

In a 32-page response to the league, he said he will fight the charges and noted that he has received offers of more than $2.5 billion for the team.

Donald’s wife of 58 years, Shelly Sterling, filed a separate response with the league asserting her rights as half owner of the team under community property laws and saying she was just an innocent bystander in this. Her attorney Pierce O’Donnell reached out to NBC News with this statement:

“Donald Sterling has authorized Shelly Sterling in writing to negotiate the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, including his 50 percent ownership of the team. Shelly is managing the sale of the Clippers. While no formal offers have yet been received, Shelly and the NBA are working cooperatively on the transaction.”

Donald Sterling’s lawyer refutes that.

The NBA is not slowing down its process, NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement in response to the Sterling’s filings.

“This evening, the NBA received responses from Donald and Shelly Sterling to the charge to terminate the current ownership interests in the Los Angeles Clippers.  The NBA Board of Governors will meet on June 3 at 1 p.m. in New York City to hear and vote upon this matter.  Should the Board vote to sustain the charge, the Sterlings’ interests in the Clippers will be terminated and the team will be sold.”

The owners need a three-quarters vote (23 of the 29 owners) to strip Sterling of his franchise.

This all stems from recorded comments by Donald Sterling that were prejudiced (both in the interview with his former mistress and on CNN), combined with a racist history, which resulted in a wave of anger from fans and sponsors withdrawing their support from the Clippers. This is what the NBA had said previously about the charges.

The charge asserts that Mr. Sterling engaged in conduct that has damaged and continues to damage the NBA and its teams. 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’s actions and positions significantly undermine the NBA’s efforts to promote diversity and inclusion; damage the NBA’s relationship with its fans; harm NBA owners, players and Clippers team personnel; and impair the NBA’s relationship with marketing and merchandising partners, as well as with government and community leaders. Mr. Sterling engaged in other misconduct as well, including issuing a false and misleading press statement about this matter.

The mention of capital gains tax by Donald Sterling’s lawyer gets to the heart of the matter — in California the combination of state and federal taxes would force him to pay 33 percent of his profit on the sale in tax. He bought the team for $12.5 million more than 30 years ago, even if the team sold for $1 billion (and it’s expected to be higher, maybe much higher) that would be $333 million in taxes.

However, if Sterling holds on to the team until he passes (he is reportedly battling cancer) and the team goes to his relatives who sell it, they only pay capital gains on the difference between the estimated value at the time of his passing and the sale. That would be considerably less.

The league does not care.

They are moving ahead with their drive to force a sale. If the 29 other owners vote to terminate Sterling’s ownership, the league then takes over and sells the team (Sterling would get the profits from that sale). The league believes it has the right to do this because the Clippers are a a franchise and Sterling signed documents multiple times over the years agreeing to the league’s rules and bylaws. Most legal experts side with the league’s position.

Shelly Sterling is trying to say she will help sell the team, however as part of that she wants to keep a piece of the franchise as a minority owner — her identity is clearly largely tied to being the owner of the Clippers.

The league and its players will not tolerate that.

Expect the league’s owners to vote to terminate Sterling’s ownership of the team on June 3.

Expect the Sterlings to take this to court after that vote.

Expect this to continue to drag out. Because this is who the Sterlings are, this is what they do.

Bill Laimbeer on LeBron vs. Jordan comparisons: “I’ll take LeBron James, absolutely”

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LeBron James is headed to his seventh straight NBA Finals. He just passed Michael Jordan to take over the top spot on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. Fourteen years into his NBA career, he has put together a resume that few in the game’s history can match — and he’s not done.

You don’t have to think that LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan, however, if you don’t think it’s a valid discussion, you’re blinded by bias.

Former NBA All-Star, champion, and WNBA coach Bill Laimbeer of the “bad boy” Detroit Pistons was asked about the LeBron/Jordan comparison on “The Rematch” podcast, and he said we’ve never seen anyone like LeBron (hat tip the USA Today).

“I’ll take Lebron James, absolutely,” Laimbeer said to host Etan Thomas… “He’s 6-8, 285 (James is listed at 250 pounds). Runs like the wind, jumps out of the gym. Phenomenal leader since he’s been 12 years old. Understood when he came into the league how to involve his teammates from the start. And you can’t guard him. You can’t double-team, he’s too big, he powers through everything. Michael was a guard. Yeah, he was 6-6, but he wasn’t a real thick and strong guard. It took him a lot of years to learn how to involve his teammates in order to win championships. Don’t fault him for that, it’s a learning experience. But we’ve never seen anybody like LeBron James physically. He just bullies you.

It was Laimbeer and the Pistons who taught Jordan to win — they beat the Bulls year after year in the playoffs, until Jordan broadened his game (and got better teammates) and the Pistons started to fade. People point to MJ’s unblemished Finals record, but he was seen for years as a guy who couldn’t get a team to the Finals because of those Pistons (LeBron learned his lessons on a different stage, taking some early Cavs teams that had no business in the Finals to that stage anyway, only to get crushed).

LeBron has a more versatile game than Jordan, which better suits this era: When Jordan was a force in the ’80s and ’90s there was no zone defense, which led to a lot of clear-out sets where eight guys watched a one-on-one battle from the other side of the key, and if the double-team came it was obvious from where. Jordan’s skill as a guy who could get his shot, kill it from the midrange or get to the rim, his ability to physically play through contact, and the legendary killer instinct made him great. But he was aided by timing — the booming popularity of the sport in the 1990s, the rise of Nike as a marketing giant, and the fact he didn’t have a true rival, a Bird to his Magic, that could best him.

LeBron has reached the point in his career that the legacy talk and where he ranks all-time is the only real discussion left — and Jordan sits as the bar to clear. Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Bill Russell, and a few others should be on that tier as well, part of the discussion, but the point is LeBron has moved on to that level of discussion. He’s earned it. The fact some people on Twitter/sports talk radio feel the need to rip him for everything doesn’t change that — if Jordan played the social media era he would have heard the same things from the same people.

Report: Celtics focused on adding All-Star-caliber frontcourt player

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Isaiah Thomas said he he’d happily forgo a renegotiation-and-extension if the Celtics use their cap space to upgrade their roster.

Where are they looking?

A. Sherrod Blakey of CSN New England:

Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.

In the last three years, 22 frontcourt players have been All-Stars. Boston already has one: Al Horford. Could the Celtics land any of the other 22?

Almost certainly unavailable

Free agency

Trade

Free agency or trade

  • Pau Gasol (Though Gasol said he’d opt in, San Antonio might try pushing him out to pursue Paul. If Gasol opts in, the Spurs could also trade him to clear space for Paul.)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (The Mavericks have a $25 million team option on Nowitzki for next season. Nowitzki going to Boston, via trade or free agency, would probably require a mutual agreement between Dallas and him that pursuing a title elsewhere is the right way for him to end his career.)

Report: Spurs exploring Chris Paul pursuit

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The Clippers are taking the Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumors seriously.

And apparently so are the Spurs.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The San Antonio Spurs are exploring the feasibility of making a free-agent run at All-Star point guard Chris Paul, league sources told ESPN.

San Antonio must complete three difficult objectives to land Paul:

  • Clear cap space. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to dump two of them to clear max room. Can they convince Gasol to reverse course and opt out, maybe re-signing at a major discount? Would they trade Parker, who has meant so much to the franchise? Would they deal Aldridge or Green, players who would make major contributions to a Leonard/Paul-led team?
  • Convince Paul to accept a projected max of $152 million over four years rather than the projected $205 million he could get over five years from the Clippers. Although the annual difference is just $3 million and Paul could sign another deal in four years, it’s unlikely he recoups that at age 36.
  • Convince Paul to leave big-market L.A. for small-market San Antonio. Remember, Paul forced his way from small-market New Orleans then ascended into one of the NBA’s biggest endorsement stars.

The Spurs boast a fantastic basketball culture, and Leonard and Popovich make great partners in a championship chase. There are reasons San Antonio is gaining traction with Paul.

But there’s still a lot for the Spurs to overcome. Will they? At least they’re trying rather than just dismissing the plot as unfeasible.

Cleveland GM David Griffin: “I hope everybody says we have no chance”

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The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA title. According to bovda.lv, bet $100 on the Warriors to win the title and you get $41.7 dollars. Bet $100 on the Cavaliers and you get $200. And that number is likely to get worse for Warriors fans.

The Cavaliers are okay with that. They like being the underdogs. Look at what GM David Griffin said in a televised interview after they eliminated the Celtics in Game 5, via Cleveland.com.

“I hope everybody says we have no chance,” General Manager David Griffin said during a TV interview following the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, clinching a third straight NBA Finals appearance.

“Obviously the team we’re playing is as good as you can possibly put together, it’s going to be an unbelievable battle for us, but I think [the Cavs] love battling together. The greater the odds, the better we seem to play together. We really do rally around each other in that sense.”

There is some truth to that.

There’s also a difference between that truth and slowing Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. How the Cavaliers are going to do that will be the interesting part of these playoffs.