How Shelly Sterling took control of the Clippers from Donald Sterling

21 Comments

Donald Sterling won’t agree to sell the Clippers.

Does he need to for the sale to happen?

Shelly Sterling says no.

It’s not due to a letter Donald sent before rescinding its message. It’s because he was rule mentally incapacitated.

How did that happen?

Scott Cacciola of The New York Times:

Pierce O’Donnell, Mrs. Sterling’s lawyer, turned to a roomful of lawyers, investment bankers and financial advisers and said, “Time to go to Plan B,” according to advisers who were in the room.

It was a reference to a provision in the trust that controlled the Clippers that stipulated that if Mr. or Mrs. Sterling was found to have a cognitive impairment, the other had a fiduciary responsibility to become sole trustee.

That legal maneuver, so closely held that some of Mrs. Sterling’s advisers were unaware it existed, capped a hectic, weekslong effort to wrest control of the team from Mr. Sterling.

Mrs. Sterling has maintained that she was unaware of the provision until late in the process, according to her advisers. But on May 13, the day after she watched her husband give a rambling interview to Anderson Cooper of CNN, she called Mr. Sterling and urged him to undergo neurological testing, according to people with knowledge of the conversation. She told friends that she was motivated by concern for her husband.

Mr. Sterling agreed to an appointment for that Friday, May 16, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. 

Mr. O’Donnell, her lawyer, was well aware of the legal ramifications of the hospital visit, according to participants in the negotiations. Medical documentation of Mr. Sterling’s condition could allow Mrs. Sterling to take control of the trust. This was “Plan B.”

The doctors’ conclusions were clear, according to participants who have reviewed the records: A neurologist affiliated with U.C.L.A. Medical Center and another from the San Fernando Valley found Mr. Sterling to be affected by cognitive impairment.

From the perspective of her legal team, that documentation was the weapon they needed to strip the team from Mr. Sterling.

Mr. O’Donnell faxed papers, along with the doctors’ reports, to Mr. Sterling’s lawyer, Maxwell M. Blecher, that informed him that Mrs. Sterling was now the sole trustee, according to people briefed on the negotiations.

Mr. O’Donnell then called Richard Buchanan, the N.B.A.’s general counsel. Mr. Buchanan and other league officials had reviewed the doctors’ reports, according to people briefed on the negotiations.

If it really is that easy for Donald to lose control of the trust – Shelly didn’t even need to establish his mental condition in court first – his lawyers failed him when they wrote the trust agreement. They failed him again when they allowed him to make that May 16 appointment.

The only possible significant outcome was Donald losing his control of the trust. If he’d been found fully competent, nothing would have changed. If there were real concerns about his health, his lawyers should have ensured nobody but Donald could get access to his private medical records.

If you believe Shelly didn’t know what she was doing when she urged Donald to to the hospital… well, don’t be so gullible.

Either way, Shelly is getting half of the sale value. But by running the search herself, she did it on her terms. She negotiated a deal that gives her ties to the Clippers – tickets, parking and control of the team’s charitable foundation. Another perk for Shelly, as reported by Cacciola: three championship rings if the Clippers win an NBA title.

Of course, Donald’s lawyer says the medical tests were inconclusive. They can try to establish that in court.

But for now, even after NBA review, Shelly is in charge. All she had to do – whether or not she knew it (wink, wink) – was convince her husband she was concerned about his well-being. The doctors and lawyers took care of the rest.

PBT Podcast: All-Star starters mock draft, picking reserves

Getty images
Leave a comment

The votes are in, and LeBron James and Stephen Curry are your All-Star captains.

For the first time in NBA All-Star history, that means they are picking their own teams, playground style, first from the pool of starters, then the pool of reserves. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports take on the roles of LeBron and Curry and pick their All-Star starters, from James Harden through Kyrie Irving.

Then the pair gets into who should be the All-Star Game reserves — and choosing among the Western Conference guards is brutal. Do they leave out Damian Lillard? Lou Williams? Klay Thompson? And that’s not even getting into Paul George being a bubble All-Star in a deep West.

Kurt and Dan break it all down, plus talk some Kemba Walker trade scenarios.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Aaron Gordon forgoes desperation attempt to win, sinks halfcourt shot instead (video)

Leave a comment

The Magic were in dire straights near the end of their game against the Cavaliers last night. Orlando trailed 104-103 with 0.2 seconds and a jump ball to be tossed at center court. By rule, the Magic didn’t have time to catch-and-shoot, let alone recover the jump ball then shoot. Aaron Gordon had to tip the jump ball through the hoop from halfcourt – nearly impossible, but technically possible.

Instead, Gordon grabbed the jump ball – a violation – then sank a halfcourt shot. What an ironic end.

Cleveland then harmlessly inbounded the ball to seal the win.

Can Kemba Walker save the sinking Hornets? He doesn’t want to jump the ship he’s (barely) keeping afloat

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

DETROIT – Around this time last year, Kemba Walker‘s reputation peaked.

The season prior, he led Charlotte to its first playoff-game wins since the franchise reemerged as the Bobcats. The Hornets were on pace to make the playoff again, which would have been their first back-to-back postseason appearances in the second Charlotte era. And Walker made his first All-Star team.

While basking in his personal and team success, Walker found one downer: The NBA moved the All-Star game from his home arena to New Orleans due to North Carolina’s anti-gay law.

“It would have been really special if this had been in Charlotte,” Walker said.

The Hornets have gone south since.

They stumbled in the second half and missed the playoffs last season. They’re even worse this season, 18-25 and 11th in the Eastern Conference. As a result, Walker’s stock has tanked. He’s treated as a fringe All-Star candidate at best.

Yet – as trade speculation emerges – Walker has come to a conclusion similar to his a year ago: His experience would be more special in Charlotte.

“I would definitely be devastated if I was to get traded,” Walker said. “I do want to be here.”

Walker is one of the most intriguing cases as the trade deadline approaches. The 27-year-old is earning $12 million this season and is due the same salary next season before his contract expires. It’s not clear the Hornets would trade him. It’s not clear they should trade him.

Charlotte is bad around Walker, not because of him. The Hornets have played better with Walker on the floor (+5.2 points per 100 possessions) than the Cavaliers have with LeBron James (+0.3), Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo (+3.7) and Pelicans with Anthony Davis (+5.1).

Put another way, using Pythagorean win percentage, Charlotte has played like 55-win team when Walker plays and a 12-win team when he doesn’t. That 43-win-pace drop is the fourth largest league-wide (minimum: 20 games):

image

The Hornets have struggled with Michael Carter-Williams at backup point guard and even more with rookie Malik Monk (a natural shooting guard) in the role while Carter-Williams was hurt. Backup point guard was a glaring weak spot last season, too, and Charlotte signed Carter-Williams to stop the bleeding.

But he was a budget choice. The Hornets’ mid-level exception sits mostly unused as they duck the luxury tax.

Using starting shooting guard Nicolas Batum as the primary playmaker when Walker sits has worked better than most alternatives. Staggering those two more often could right Charlotte.

However, even if Batum is the solution to the micro problem, he’s central to the macro problem.

The Hornets’ payroll has become bloated with prohibitive long-term deals. Several players are owed major money after this season:

With those constraints, it will be difficult to build a winner around Walker without paying the luxury tax, which Charlotte has never paid.

Walker is the Hornets’ most valuable asset, and trading him could make their second-most valuable asset – their upcoming first-round pick – even more valuable. Charlotte also use Walker as enticement to unload a bad contract, a tactic Adrian Wojnarowski reports is being explored. Still, the Hornets are in so deep, it’d be difficult to escape salary-cap purgatory, even while shedding Walker.

Because he signed his rookie-scale extension before the national TV deals carried the salary cap into the stratosphere and before he rose into stardom, Walker has a low salary for his status. That could open the door for trades not possible with other stars, especially if the Hornets want to attach an albatross.

Only Isaiah Thomas has a lower salary among reigning All-Stars:

image

Of course, teams looking to upgrade at point guard for the stretch run – Pistons? Pacers? Jazz? Nuggets? Cavaliers? Spurs? – would be interested in Walker. But because he has an another season left on his contract, other teams – Knicks? Magic? Suns? – could trade for him as a head start on next year. The best analogue: The Jazz getting out ahead by trading Deron Williams to the Nets before his contract entered its final year.

A team must also prepare to pay Walker in 2019, when he’ll be 30 years old. Though the $48 million over four years he’s earning now is nothing to sneeze at, free agency will be his first opportunity to really cash in on the new TV money. In the extremely likely event he doesn’t make an All-NBA team next season, the largest extension he could sign (starting July 1) would be four years, $64,512,000. That probably won’t cut it. So, Walker’s team – unless it has cap space to renegotiate-and-extend his deal – will likely have to ride out his unrestricted free agency.

“Of course, it would be nice to get a big contract like a lot of the guys around the league are getting,” Walker said. “But, at the same time, I just try to take it one day at a time.”

All these discussions have thrown Walker for a loss. Charlotte drafted him and built around him. He’s not quite sure how to handle this.

“I’ve never really been in trade rumors like that, like I’ve been hearing lately about myself,” Walker said. “But I mean, I don’t know. I don’t even know. I don’t know.

“This is very new, and I really just don’t know.”

Walker said management hasn’t told him anything, and he won’t ask. It’s easy to read the writing on the wall: Walker is a good player on a losing team, and those players are always ripe to get dealt. On the other hand, a team owned by Michael Jordan is probably less inclined to enter rebuilding voluntarily.

“I’m here,” Walker said, “and I’m just trying to play and trying to win and trying to do what I can for this organization and try to get back in the playoff hunt. That’s the main priority.”

The Hornets have won two in a row, and head coach Steve Clifford is back. A surge into playoff contention isn’t out of the question.

If it happens, it’ll probably be on Walker’s shouldeers.

“We put so much pressure on Kemba to do so much,” said assistant coach Stephen Silas, who served as acting head coach in Clifford’s absence.

Too much pressure?

“At times, it can be,” Silas said. “But that’s what he signed up for, and that’s how we’re built.”

For now, at least.

Joel Embiid whacks Jaylen Brown in face while celebrating basket (video)

Leave a comment

Joel Embiid‘s antics – the Instagram victory laps, trash-talking and taunting – can rub people the wrong way.

With Jaylen Brown last night, literally.