Donald Sterling won’t agree to Clippers sale, instructs attorney proceed with lawsuit against NBA

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You thought Donald Sterling would go quietly? Why? Just because he said he would?

Ha!

What we all hoped would be an inconvenient delay has turned into the worst-case scenario.

Dan Woike of The Orange County Register:

Donald also won’t sign off on the sale of the team to Steve Ballmer, according to the Associated Press.

Whether Donald needs to agree to that sale is a different question for himself, Shelly Sterling and their lawyers to solve. The Sterling Family Trust owns the Clippers and reportedly specifies when one spouse can take control – and Shelly had Donald ruled mentally incapacitated, giving her power to set up the sale of the team.

Donald Sterling’s first move would be to regain his share of the trust, and he’s going to try to do that reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Through her Sterling also released this statement:

“From the onset I did not want to sell the Los Angeles Clippers. I am extremely sorry for the hurtful statements I made privately. While this is not an excuse for the statements, like every other American, I never imagined that my (they) would be made public. I believe that Adam Silver acted in haste by illegally ordering the forced sale of the Clippers and banning me for life from the NBA. Action taken by Silver and the NBA constitutes a violation of my rights and fly in the face of freedoms that are afforded to all Americans. I have decided that I must fight to protect my rights. While my position may not be popular, I believe my rights to privacy & preservation of my rights to due process shouldn’t be trampled. I love the team and have dedicated 33 years of my life to the organization. I intend to fight to keep the Team.”

His real challenge is this — the Clippers are a franchise of the NBA and Sterling, on multiple occasions, agreed to the NBA’s rules, processes and adjudication systems. This is not the government trying to strip him of his business, this is his partners voting him out of the company. Very different things. Few legal experts think Sterling stands much of a chance here.

It is his challenging of Shelly Sterling and taking away his authority in the trust that is more interesting. That will be decided in a California probate court.

If he can do that, he would have the leverage to block the sale. If Donald Sterling fails in probate, then both the sale and the indemnity that Shelly Sterling offered the league — saying the Trust would pay any money Donald Sterling wins suing the league, meaning he is basically suing himself — remain in place.

If Sterling does regain say in the trust the NBA will re-schedule its vote to remove Donald as the Clippers’ owner. Yes, the league has a little egg on its face for allowing Sterling to continue owning the team for whatever the extra time becomes, but that’s not a huge deal. The other owners will almost surely vote out Donald.

If Donald is voted out, the ramifications would be wide. Shelly would also lose her ownership of the team, meaning she couldn’t sell the team to Ballmer (and couldn’t agree with him to preserve her place as owner emeritus). The NBA would take over the sale and then give the proceeds to the Sterlings.

A temporary injunction could delay or maybe even stop that process, but Sterling is unlikely to get an injunction granted.

Sterling is on his way out one way or another. It’ll just go through the courts rather than happen smoothly.

Magic’s Aaron Afflalo suspended two games for swing at Nemanja Bjelica

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This wasn’t two guys yelling into a locker room after a game, this was an actual fight. With an actual haymaker punch being thrown — and missing.

Aaron Afflalo and Nemanja Bjelica had been going back-and-forth all game Tuesday night, then it bubbled over when Jamal Crawford missed a jumper, Bjelica charged right at Afflalo while going for an offensive board, Afflalo blocked him like an offensive lineman, and then it got out of control.

The league announced Thursday that Afflalo has been suspended two games for throwing a haymaker. Both men were ejected from that game, but there is no further punishment for Bjelica (which is fair, Afflalo was the instigator here, Bjelica ended it with a headlock).

Glad to see this suspension was more than one game — if Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green get two games for an incident where there wasn’t a punch thrown, this had to be at least equal to that.

LeBron James says this season has been “most challenging” one

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Kyrie Irving is gone. His replacement, Isaiah Thomas, missed the first couple months of the season and is still trying to get into game shape and find his groove on the court with a new team. Other players have missed games, Kevin Love has moved to center, and the Cavaliers have looked older and slower — particularly on defense — and with that the cloud of LeBron James potentially leaving the team this summer gets darker and darker.

Throw in that LeBron — in his 15th NBA season — is eighth in the entire league in total minutes played, and his usage rate is 10th in the league when he is on the floor, and you can feel the burden on him.

LeBron has responded with an MVP-level season, but as the Cavaliers have struggled going 2-8 in their last 10 games, he admitted to Dave McMenamin of ESPN that this season has been very hard.

“It’s been very challenging,” James said after practice Wednesday. “Just from the simple fact of how many guys have been in and out. This is a difficult year for our team. Seems like I say that every year, but this one has been even more challenging.

“With everybody who has been out and coming back in, and the rotations, and things of that nature, it’s been very challenging on our team. But we have to figure it out. At the end of the day, we have a game every other day or every two days just like everybody else in the NBA. We have to go out and play.”

The roster shakeup of losing Irving — and with Thomas still trying to find his spots with this team after missing so much time — along with the other injuries is hard to underestimate. This goes beyond the usual mid-season Cavaliers malaise, with this roster they don’t have the offense to cover up the glaring defensive issues that have plagued them since last season (they were 29th in the NBA in defense after the All-Star break last season).

Also, LeBron’s comment seems to be part of the Cavaliers coming to the realization that they are not good enough to win a title with this team as constructed. In past years they believed if they got it together they could compete with anyone, after Monday’s loss to the Warriors they seem to realize that is not the case. Maybe that attitude changes come the playoffs — get out of the East, which they still have to be favorites to do, and they get a shot — but reality seems to have hit this roster.

Kings will shut down veterans for some games, rookie Harry Giles for rest of season

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The Kings foolishly strayed from rebuilding last summer by signing George Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter to relatively expensive contracts. Those additions came despite Sacramento already having veterans Garrett Temple and Kosta Koufos.

The plan has predictably failed. The Kings have the NBA’s worst offense and worst defense and are 13-31.

That’s bad, but not quite bad enough. Not in the last year Sacramento has its own first-round pick before conveying its selection as a result of a ridiculous salary dump a few years ago.

So, in a transparent bid to break a tie with the Hawks and Magic for the NBA’s worst record and tank to the top seed in the lottery/develop young players already on the roster, the Kings are sitting those veterans on a rotating basis.

Sacramento is also shutting down No. 20 pick Harry Giles, who hasn’t played this season.

James Ham of NBC Sports California:

Both management and the coaching staff is on the same page with the decision, NBC Sports California has confirmed. Two or three players will sit each night as they team explores what they have in youngsters.

“Going forward, what I’m going to do is, we’re going to play a rotation where two of our five veterans are going to be out every night. It might be some times there’ll be three. It’s an opportunity for some other guys to get some minutes as we go throughout the course of the season. I’ve got it laid out…I’ve got about five or six games laid out, and every week I’ll go out again because you want to communicate with those guys when they’re not going to play. Other guys, they’ve got to be ready. If you’re in the first three years of your contract, you can expect to play a little, or a lot, or none, but you should be ready to play,” Joerger told the media after the Kings’ loss to the Thunder on Monday night.

This is smart, though it’s also an opportunity it would have been smarter not to sign Hill, Randolph and Carter in the first place. Though those veterans might not be thrilled with the direction of the franchise, at least they’re getting paid. And they should know their rest days far enough in advance to enjoy the reduced workloads.

Younger Kings – including De'Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Willie Cauley-Stein, Buddy Hield and Skal Labissiere – should have a chance to spread their wings and grow. That could help down the road, when Sacramento has a chance to win meaningfully. This year, the difference between the fully operational Kings and tanking Kings is minimal on the court, but could make a huge difference in draft position.

As for Harry Giles, it’s strange how the Kings are touting him as fully healthy while shutting him down for the rest of the season. The best way to keep him his healthy is never play him. At some point, they must test him on the court. Perhaps, giving him even more time to strengthen his knee is the right approach. But if he needs this long, can really accurately be described as entirely healthy?

Report: LeBron James wins overall All-Star fan vote

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For the first time in a dozen years, a player has won the All-Star fan vote for consecutive years.

LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett have all taken turns as leader since Yao Ming claimed the vote lead in 2005 and 2006. Apparently, LeBron will retain the top spot he held last year.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

The fan vote means less than ever, with media and players also playing a role in who starts the All-Star game and a draft assigning players to teams. But the leading fan-vote-getter in each conference still matters, as those will be the captains for the draft.

LeBron will be one. Warriors Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry were neck-and-neck for the other captaincy.

Last I heard, the NBA was leaning toward giving the top overall fan-vote-getter the first pick in the All-Star draft, but that hadn’t been formally decided. So, it’ll probably be on LeBron to select his top choice among the other eight starters, who will be announced tonight. (All starters must be drafted first, so each team still has five starters.)

One more time: Let LeBron make that pick on television. He doesn’t mind.