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

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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.

Report: Kyrie Irving’s top choice for trade is Spurs

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Kyrie Irving, in requesting a trade, reportedly gave the Cavaliers a list of preferred destinations – Knicks, Heat, Spurs and Timberwolves. But those teams aren’t all equal to Irving.

Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog:

One league source told ZAGSBLOG that the Knicks were not Irving’s preferred destination, and that San Antonio was atop his list.

Irving is locked up for two more years and doesn’t possess a no-trade clause. Where he’d re-sign in 2019 and his agent’s agitating could play small parts in which teams offer the most for him, but he has minimal control of where he goes.

Still, San Antonio is an interesting first choice.

Irving reportedly wants to escape LeBron James‘ shadow and lead his own team. But Kawhi Leonard is far better than Irving and already has Spurs president/coach Gregg Popovich’s trust. Leonard has even turned himself into a 25-point-per-game scorer and MVP runner-up. So, even though the biggest difference between Leonard and Irving is defense (an oft-overlooked area), Leonard still shines in ways that get noticed.

So, why does Irving want to join San Antonio?

Maybe he underestimates Leonard. He wouldn’t be the first star to do so. See Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Maybe Irving has a sliding scale of priorities. Sure, he’d like preeminence on a team, but maybe he’d relinquish that to join Leonard and Popovich. At least the reserved Leonard would cede the spotlight to Irving as much as possible (which LeBron would never do), and Popovich is more respected than Tyronn Lue.

But back to reality: The Spurs lack assets beyond Leonard to trade for Irving – Aldridge would be a horrid fit with LeBron, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, and San Antonio’s first-round picks are always in the low 20s – and the Cavs control where Irving goes. It’s very hard to see Irving landing in San Antonio.

Report: John Wall’s extension includes player option

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The Wizards had John Wall under contract for the next two seasons then signed him to a super-max extension that locks him in for an additional four three years.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m a little surprised the Wizards gave Wall a player option considering their leverage.

Wall’s extension projects to pay him $169 million over four years – $30 million more than another team’s projected max offer over the same span. Even if Wall wanted to stay in Washington, this was the only offseason he could’ve ensured receiving the super-max rate. Had he rejected the extension now, he would have been eligible for the super max only by making an All-NBA team either of the next two years – far from guaranteed.

Still, the Wizards gave Wall everything – the highest-possible salary, max raises, a player option and a trade kicker.* There’s value in pleasing the franchise player. Wall will be the team’s third-highest-paid player for the next two years (behind Otto Porter and Bradley Beal), which might have bothered Wall if not for the super-max extension about to kick in. This deal makes locker-room harmony more likely.

But it also allows Wall to hit free agency in 2022 rather than 2023. Maybe that won’t matter. Wall’s salary option-year salary projects to be $47 million when he’s 32-years-old. I doubt Wall opts out then, though it’s certainly possible.

Effectively, if Wall is worth that much in 2022, he’ll be a free agent. If he’s not worth that much, Washington committed to pay him.

*The trade kicker is unlikely to to matter unless the salary cap unexpectedly increases significantly. It can’t lift Wall’s salary above 35% of the salary cap in the season he’s traded, and he’ll likely be at or above that mark throughout the extension anyway.

Basketball Hall of Famer John Kundla dies at 101

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Kundla, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA championships, died Sunday. He was 101.

Son Jim Kundla said his father died at an assisted living facility in Northeast Minneapolis that he has called home for years.

Kundla coached George Mikan and the Lakers in the 1940s and 1950s, helping them become the NBA’s first dynasty. He went 423-302 before retiring at the age of 42 and went on to coach his alma mater, the University of Minnesota.

Kundla was the oldest living Hall of Famer in any of the four major pro sports.

Kundla was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. A year later, he was named one of the league’s 10 greatest coaches as part of the league’s “NBA at 50” celebration.

 

Report: Magic signing Marreese Speights to one-year, minimum contract

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It’s a tough market for free-agent centers, as Marreese Speights learned the hard way.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

I wonder whether Speights regrets opting out with the Clippers, who were also slated to pay him a minimum salary. Not only is he stuck with a low-paying deal, he’s on a worse team and one with center depth.

Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo should play only center, where Speights is best. Speights can also play power forward, but Aaron Gordon should get all his minutes there. Maybe Jonathan Isaac should, too, though it’s more tolerable to play him at small forward while the rookie adjusts to the NBA.

Simply, there won’t be much playing time for Speights unless Orlando makes a trade (maybe this is a harbinger) or plays too big of lineups (a lesson it should have learned last season).

Likewise, the Clippers will be fine, though less versatile, without Speights. The acquired Willie Reed (free agency) and Montrezl Harrell (Chris Paul trade) to play behind DeAndre Jordan.

Speights clearly isn’t essential, but he has expanded his range beyond the 3-point arc. He defends with effort, though not necessarily well. There’s a place in the league for stretch fives like him. But he turns 30 in a couple weeks, and his stock is clearly low. At least he’ll have a chance for a bigger payday next summer.