Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Four

UPDATE: Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer signs deal to buy Clippers for $2 billion


UPDATE: Shelly Sterling has confirmed the sale through a press release. In it is the statement she could do that as the sole trustee of the Sterling Family Trust, confirming that she had Donald to sell the team.

“I am delighted that we are selling the team to Steve, who will be a terrific owner,” she said in a released statement. “We have worked for 33 years to build the Clippers into a premiere NBA franchise. I am confident Steve will take the team to new levels of success.”

Steve Ballmer also released a statement:

“I will be honored to have my name submitted to the NBA Board of Governors for approval as the next owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. I love basketball. And I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win – and win big – in Los Angeles.”

7:10 pm: I have to start here: Do not assume just because an agreement was reached and papers signed that this is a done deal. Remember that Donald Sterling has talked about “fighting to the bloody end.” He could still attempt to kill the whole thing out of spite (or concerns about capital gains taxes).

But Donald told his wife Shelly Sterling to go ahead and find a buyer for the team, and she seems to have done that:

NBC has confirmed  with a source close to the negotiations that a deal was signed between the Sterling Family Trust and former Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer to buy the Clippers for $2 billion. That document is now being sent on to the NBA league office for review (and to start the approval process).

This news was broken by the Los Angeles Times and since confirmed. The Times had details on the other bidders.

A person with knowledge of the negotiations said the Geffen group bid $1.6 billion and Ressler at $1.2 billion.

David Geffen has now said to ESPN that his group — with Larry Ellison and Oprah Winfrey — have pulled out of the biding.

If $2 billion turns out the be the final sale price, that figure would blow the previous NBA franchise sale price record — $550 million for the Milwaukee Bucks just a few weeks ago — out of the water.

The NBA has reportedly said that if a completed sale agreement was in place before the Board of Governors meeting next Tuesday they likely would postpone the vote. At that meeting the other owners would conduct a hearing then vote on whether to strip Sterling of his ownership of the franchise in response to the backlash that followed his prejudiced comments on a recording released to TMZ, plus later in a CNN interview.

Having the Sterlings sell the Clippers is a cleaner process for the NBA.

Part of the sale agreement is that Ballmer not move the team to Seattle. Plus the Clippers have nine years left on their lease with Staples Center. Also, financially he would devalue the franchise considerably moving it out of the Los Angeles market, especially with the team due for a new television deal, one that is expected to lead to a big bidding war.

It sounds like a good deal… yet there is Donald Sterling lurking.

Shelly Sterling had Donald declared mentally incapacitated, making her the sole trustee and able to act to sell the team as she saw fit.

Donald said in recent days through his attorney (and again today as news of the Ballmer sale started to leak) that the letter he gave his wife is not binding and he may not sign off on the sale. While Donald and Shelly Sterling each own half of the Clippers through a trust, Donald is the recognized primary owner by the league under its constitution.

How will Donald feel with $2 billion on the table?

Donald Sterling’s lawyer was seen going to meet with Donald and told the L.A. Times on the way into the house he is not sure Sterling will sign off on the sale. He added Sterling doesn’t care about the money.

Ballmer would need to be approved by the NBA’s other owners, but that likely would not be much of a hurdle.

Ballmer was part of Steve Hansen’s Seattle group that almost bought the Kings last season. He has long been someone David Stern, and now Adam Silver, have wanted to bring into the league.

Celtics president Danny Ainge on Brad Stevens: ‘He’s a keeper’

Brad Stevens

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has never finished a season with a winning record. He’s over .500 this year only because Boston came back to beat the lowly 76ers. He has never won a playoff game.

But Stevens – who signed a six-year, $22 million contract in 2013 – has plenty of job security.

Celtics president Danny Ainge, in a Q&A with Chris Forsberg of ESPN:

You’ve joked about it before, but are you ready to give him another six-year contract yet?

Ainge: [Laughs] Yeah.

You have to start thinking about that. Sure, we’re only in Year 3, but you can’t risk letting a good coach get away.

Ainge: No, listen, he’s a keeper. He’s great. He’s great to work with. Like I said, I think he’s going to be — if he stays in this game long enough — he’s going to be one of the great coaches.

I tend to agree with Ainge’s assessment. Stevens has looked like an excellent coach so far – implementing a sound defense, creating space on offense and communicating clearly with his players.

But Stevens has benefited tremendously from low expectations, arriving in Boston after Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen retired. Expectations sunk even lower when the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo last season.

That’s when Stevens appeared to do his best work, guiding a starless team to a 24-12 finish.

Expectations will keep rising, though. Some expected the Celtics to break out this year, but they’re just 8-7. Stevens faces the difficult task of managing a rotation full of pretty good – but no great – players. This might be his hardest NBA assignment yet.

Stevens has done plenty to earn praise from his boss. But to actually get a contract extension, he’ll have to keep meeting higher and higher expectations.

I believe Stevens is up to the challenge, but I’m not completely certain of it. He wouldn’t be the first coach to impress early in his tenure and then fizzle. Just look at how many Coach of the Year winners lost their jobs a short time later.

Again, I think Stevens will meet any reasonable expectations he faces. He just must actually do it to get a longer deal.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.