Report: NBA considering countersuit against Donald Sterling

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This is going to get uglier before it ends. A lot uglier.

Donald Sterling has sued the NBA and has a team of investigators digging up whatever they can on the NBA owners — and it’s safe to imagine that there is some ugly stuff that can be dug up. The league’s reaction has essentially been to shrug. The league’s position is that Shelly Sterling is the sole trustee of the Sterling Family Trust (which owns the Clippers) after she had Donald declared mentally incapacitated and in that role she can sell the team. She also gave the league indemnity against Donald’s lawsuit — even if he wins $1 billion in court, he gets paid out of the Sterling Trust.

At least the league has shrugged up to now, but they may well choose to countersue reports Michael McCann at Sports Illustrated.

The league will answer Sterling’s complaint by August 11, and sources tell SI.com there is a good chance the league will countersue Sterling. The NBA could raise a tortious interference with contractual relations claim, and contend that Sterling has interfered in the business relations of the NBA and one of its franchises by interfering with the sale of the team.

Of course, that just adds to the legal mess. It would be more about leverage — “we’ll drop our lawsuit if you drop yours” — than actually expecting to get anything out of Sterling.

All of that is really the sideshow. An ugly, loud, potentially embarrassing sideshow, but a sideshow nonetheless.

The only thing that really matters is the July 7 probate court hearing on Sterling’s mental competency and with that control of the Sterling Family Trust. Shelly Sterling got Donald to take neurological tests after his CNN interview (about the leaked tapes of his prejudiced statements that started this entire situation) and with the results of those had him declared mentally incapacitated under the rules laid out in the Trust. That left her as the sole trustees and she set up the $2 billion sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer (in which she still gets perks and basically an “owner emeritus” status).

If the probate judge sides with Shelly Sterling, the sale to Ballmer goes through and Donald’s lawsuit is simply a nuisance (in which he has to pay himself any money he wins).

If the judge sides with Donald Sterling and re-instates him as a trustee, blocking the sale to Ballmer, the NBA will go back to Plan A and have the other owners vote on whether to strip him of his franchise. Sterling sent out a long, crazy rant basically calling that unAmerican but the fact is this is more like being part of a country club — if you do something to violate the club bylaws (and Sterling has done that by being bad for business) the other club members can vote you out. Whether or not that was a private recording leaked to the public, it certainly has damaged the Clipper brand and the NBA brand (sponsors have pulled out of the team and players have discussed a boycott) and the other owners have the right to vote who they do business with.

What Sterling can do is sue the league, dig up dirt and make it an ugly mess.

None of that is going to help him keep his team. Rather, the opposite.

Knicks’ Joakim Noah has expected shoulder surgery to repair rotator cuff

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NEW YORK (AP) — Knicks center Joakim Noah has had right shoulder surgery to repair his rotator cuff, a procedure that could sideline him until training camp.

The Knicks say Noah had the surgery Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed by Dr. David Altchek.

The team didn’t give a timetable for Noah’s recovery, but coach Jeff Hornacek said late in the season that if Noah had the operation, the recovery time could be five months.

Noah had an injury-plagued season that ended early when he was suspended 20 games by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. There are still 12 games remaining on the penalty that he will have to serve next season when healthy.

Noah had surgery on his other shoulder last season, limiting him to 29 games in his final season in Chicago before signing a four-year, $72 million deal with New York.

PBT Extra: Pacers offseason moves starts with Paul George question

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Larry Bird, when not delivering All-Star Game bids, should be spending his time lighting candles and praying in churches all over Indianapolis that Paul George makes an All-NBA team.

If PG13 makes the cut, Bird’s job this summer becomes more clear: Offer George the designated player max extension, get him to sign the deal, then get back to building a contender around him.

If George doesn’t make the cut, things get much tougher for Bird. I discuss all of it in this new PBT Extra.

Fans to vote on “Best Dunk,” “Best Assist,” other categories handed out at NBA Awards show

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Fans are going to get their say at the NBA Awards Show, coming June 26 on TNT. Drake will be the host, and we to come up with an under/over on the number of players Drake gives a bro hug to during the ceremony.

That’s the night the NBA will hand out its Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, and every other major postseason award — except for All-NBA Team, which has to come earlier. The media have already cast their votes for these awards.

Where the fans get to come in is the fun awards, categories created just for this event:

• Dunk of the Year
• Best Style
• Block of the Year
• Assist of the Year
• Game Winner of the Year
• Top Performance of the Year

The NBA already narrowed down the list of choices for each category to three, and voting opens tonight. Just go to  www.nba.com/nbaawards and cast your ballot, or on Twitter or Facebook just post the #AwardName and First/Last Name of their winner (for example, #DunkOfTheYear  Larry Nance).

These awards should add some energy — and good highlights — to what has the potential to be a stuffy event. It’s a bunch of NBA players in suits in a ballroom in New York, this is going to feel like a branding event at times. The NBA is hoping the fans can liven it up.

Here are the categories, with the hashtags for voting:

#DunkOfTheYear
• Los Angeles Lakers’ Larry Nance, Jr. vs. Brooklyn

• Minnesota’s Zach LaVine vs. Phoenix

• Oklahoma City’s Victor Oladipo vs. Atlanta

#BestStyle
• Cleveland’s Iman Shumpert
• Chicago’s Dwyane Wade
• Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook

#BlockOfTheYear
• San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard vs. Houston
• New York’s Kristaps Porzingis vs. Brooklyn
• Miami’s Hassan Whiteside vs. Toronto

#GameWinnerOfTheYear
• Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving vs. Golden State
• Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook vs. Denver
• Phoenix’s Tyler Ulis vs. Boston

#TopPerformanceOfTheYear
• Phoenix’s Devin Booker 70-point game vs. Boston
• Houston’s James Harden nets 53-16-17 triple double vs. New York
• Golden State’s Klay Thompson scores 60 in three quarters vs. Indiana
• Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook with most points in a triple-double, 57-13-11, vs. Orlando

#AssistOfTheYear
• Golden State’s Draymond Green to Stephen Curry to Kevin Durant
• Denver’s Nikola Jokic with no-look pass
• LA Clippers’ Chris Paul with wraparound pass

Report: USC’s Elijah Stewart intended to declare for NBA draft, forgot

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Declaring for the NBA draft is like declaring bankruptcy: You can’t just bellow it and expect it to take effect. You actually have to fill out the paperwork.

That’s why USC’s Elijah Stewart wasn’t among the 192 early entrants to the 2017 NBA draft.

Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress:

Stewart:

Givony’s report will do little but embarrass Stewart. It’s unlikely Stewart would’ve been drafted, and he likely would have withdrawn to return to USC for his senior season. Perhaps, he would’ve gotten helpful feedback from the NBA before that point, but that’s minimal.

The real problem, though, isn’t Stewart’s inattentiveness, to whatever extent is exists. It’s that the NCAA won’t allow players to maintain eligibility while having an agent.

If Stewart had proper representation, there’d be no questioning whether he intended to declare for the draft. His agent would’ve handled it, one way or the other.

If the NCAA were truly about educating players, it’d allow them to have guidance from experienced professional agents. Agents don’t have to conflict with amateurism (not that amateurism is a worthy goal, anyway).

But teaching players is not the NCAA’s true goal. The NCAA prioritizes keeping its cartel in tact and money flowing to coaches and administrators.

Agents might steer players from that corrupt system entirely or at least help them leverage their immense power to gain better compensation than a wage-fixed scholarship.

This incident should spark discussion about the unseemly lengths the NCAA goes to to protect its money-makers from its revenue-generators. Instead, it’s much easier to make Stewart a punchline.