With Steve Ballmer, hopefully we can all move on from Sterlings

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On the night of a fascinating Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, much of the NBA’s twitterverse was wrapped up in talking about the latest developments in the “As the Sterlings Turn” soap opera.

It has been that way all playoffs — Donald and Shelly Sterling with their personal and public drama casting a cold, dark shadow over one of the best playoffs in memory.

The latest twist in the saga is that Shelly Sterling had her husband and long-time Clippers primary owner Donald Sterling declared mentally incapacitated, which under the terms of the trust the couple owns the Clippers through makes her the lone trustee. In that capacity she has reached a deal to sell the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, as confirmed by NBC. The deal has been forwarded on to the league for approval, which may postpone the planned vote by the owners to oust Sterling as an owner.

You’d be foolish to think Donald Sterling is not going to fight all of it — the declaration of incapacity and the sale of his team — dragging this sordid affair out.

That’s likely his next step, Donald Sterling trying to get an injunction to stop the sale of the team while he fights the incapacitated ruling pushed by his wife. If Donald wins that then he will take to the courts to fight the league on the forced sale of the Clippers. Ultimately Sterling will lose — either his wife will win and sell the team, or the NBA will vote to revoke his franchise and when Sterling sues to block that he will find out he has no legal legs to stand on (he has signed multiple documents over the years giving the NBA owners the right to do what they are doing).

The question is not how it ends, but how ugly and long the road is to get there.

What Steve Ballmer and his agreement to buy the team brings hope.

Hope that this might all come to an end quickly and cleanly and we can all move on.

Hope for Clippers fans that suffered through three decades of Sterling being the worst owner in professional sports, barely spending on his team. Even as things had turned in recent years his past, his erratic behavior was like the Sword of Damocles hanging over the franchise and the good people who worked for the Clippers. Those people lived with never knowing when the owners odd, racist behaviors might strike.

Hope for the Clippers players that a new owner would build upon the changes the franchise has seen in recent years (trading for Chris Paul, spending on Doc Rivers). This was one of the four best teams in the NBA this season, a team on the cusp of winning it all, the right ownership could sustain and build that.

Hope for the league that its worst and most embarrassing owner would be replaced by a guy with the potential (and pocketbook) to be a great owner. At least Pete Carroll thinks so.

Yes, it is disgusting that a bigot like Donald Sterling is about to make a healthy $1.87 billion profit off this sale (he bought the team for just $13 million 33 years ago). Our sense of justice doesn’t like to see the immoral rewarded, even through we know it happens all the time all over the world (and has throughout history).

But this sale is finally hope for all NBA fans that this ugly saga is behind us and we can start talking just about basketball again.

We’d all like to move on.

Jimmy Butler hits contested deep buzzer-beating 3-pointer (video)

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Shooting buzzer-beaters is especially difficult because the defender knows your deadline to release the shot. The threat of a pump fake, drive to another location or pass disappears as the seconds tick down.

On the other hand, Jimmy Butler is very good.

Wizards’ interior defense, transition buckets earns them 103-98 win, 3-2 series lead over Hawks

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It’s one of the core tenets of the NBA analytics movement that aligns well with old-school thinking — get your buckets from the places it’s easiest to score. The ones where teams shoot the highest percentage, where they are most efficient. Basically, shoot close to the basket or corner threes.

Feeling comfortable back home, Washington took those shots away from Atlanta Wednesday night — the Hawks shot 43.6 percent inside eight feet of the rim, were just 18-of-41 in the paint (43.9 percent) and were 0-of-6 on corner threes.

Combine that with 27 points from Bradley Beal, 20 points and 14 assists for John Wall, and some transition baskets (20 fast break points) and you get a 103-98 win for the Wizards. Washington now has a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 in Atlanta Friday night (if necessary, Game 7 would be Sunday).

Washington always seemed to be the better team in this one, but they could never get a comfortable lead — when Washington would get up double digits, the Hawks would close the gap again and hang around.

A lot of credit for that goes to point guard Dennis Schroder, who had 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting, and was 5-of-6 from three, to lead the Hawks. As it has been all series, the Wizards game plan with Schroder was to go under every pick and dare him to beat them with his jumper — and he almost did. Schroder also had 11 assists on the game.

While he played well and Paul Millsap was his usual impressive self inside (21 points, although on 8-of-19 shooting), the Hawks wings were a mess. Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined to shoot 13-of-41 (31.7 percent) and they were 3-of-18 from three (Hardaway had all the makes).

Meanwhile, Beal had one of his best games of the playoffs, and he deserves some credit for the struggles of the Hawks’ wings.

“I think (Beal) is one of the best two-way players in the league,” Brooks said. “He’s not going to tell anyone he’s a great defender, but his coaching staff, his teammates know he locks up defensively.”

Washington also got some help from Otto Porter (17 points) and Bojan Bogdanovic off the bench with 14 points. Both of them made some clutch shots.

Scott Brooks threw some new wrinkles at the Hawks that worked for stretches — using Wall to double Millsap at times, or going for a stretch with Markieff Morris at the five. Morris still had foul trouble despite the help, the veteran Millsap knows how to get calls. Still, the tweaks worked well enough to get Washington some buckets, and the win.

The question becomes will the Wizards be able to do that on the road — the home team has won every game this series. If the Hawks’ wings feel more comfortable and hit some shots, if Atlanta can get some more easy points inside Friday night, we will be watching Game 7 of this series on Sunday.

No. 1 pick in WNBA draft LAUNCHES shirt deep into stands at Spurs-Grizzlies game (video)

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If the Cleveland Browns are still considering a quarterback with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft tomorrow, maybe they ought to take Kelsey Plum.

Plum, the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft, will play for the San Antonio Stars. First, she went to San Antonio for last night’s Spurs-Grizzlies Game 5 and showed off her arm by launching a shirt far into the crowd.

And she’s witty:

Owner: Hawks will ‘make every effort imaginable’ to re-sign Paul Millsap

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Hawks general manager Wes Wilcox called re-signing Paul Millsap this summer the team’s “priority.”

Hawks owner Tony Ressler went a step further.

Ressler, via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“We love Paul Millsap,” Ressler told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week. “We are trying to re-sign him. We want him to stay here. We think he is a really special player and a special person that we want on our team and in our locker room and we are going to make every effort imaginable to keep him.”

There’s certainly one effort I can imagine: Offer Millsap a max contract, which projects to be worth $205 million over five years.

That’s not necessarily a wise investment. As excellent and underrated as Millsap is now, he’s 32. He’ll be hard-pressed to maintain anywhere near this level of production over the next five years. And what’s the upside for Atlanta enduring such risk, especially late in his contract? A chance at a playoff-series victory each of the next couple years? The trade-off would make more sense for a team that can accomplish something more meaningful now.

The Hawks seem conflicted about their direction. In the last year, they’ve traded Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver but also signed Dwight Howard. Atlanta’s starting lineup is split by a glaring age divider – Millsap (32) and Howard (31) on one side, Tim Hardaway Jr. (25), Dennis Schroder (23) and Taurean Prince (23) on the other.

Do the Hawks want to rebuild or win now? It almost depends when you ask, and by the offseason, there might be a different answer. But the owner so strongly endorsing re-signing Millsap speaks volumes. Everyone in the organization, including president/coach Mike Budenholzer, answers to Ressler.

Of course, Millsap will hold the cards as an unrestricted free agent. He might prefer to leave Atlanta for a team closer to title contention or any other reason.

But the Hawks can make offer that would be darned hard to refuse.