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.

Rumor: Dell Demps out, Joe Dumars in with Pelicans?

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Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is on shaky ground.

What about New Orleans general manager Dell Demps?

A long-swirling rumor is getting renewed.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

A few league sources peg the New Orleans Pelicans as a team that is going to make sweeping changes once their season ends in eight games.

The Pelicans have long been rumored to be the next stop for former Piston’s executive Joe Dumars, who is a Shreveport, Louisiana native and has close ties to the ownership and leadership of the Pelicans and Saints organization.

League sources said recently that Dumars has been active in the NBA front office circles, scouting players and reconnecting to the process.

Demps has done a lousy job building a supporting cast around Davis. Part of the reason trading for the risky DeMarcus Cousins made so much sense: The Pelicans were so underwhelming, they wouldn’t be much worse off if Cousins destroyed their culture and/or bolted in 2018 free agency.

But it’s not too late to salvage Davis’ tenure in New Orleans. He’s locked up for three more seasons, and Cousins is an extremely talented No. 2.

Is Dumars the right man to bring it all together?

He masterfully built the Pistons into the 2004 NBA champions. He also played an integral role in the team’s downfall.

Another factor: There appears to be a mutual respect between Cousins and Dumars, who coveted the big man since he was coming out of Kentucky. That could help the Pelicans re-sign Cousins in 2018.

Dumars’ success should get him general-manager job interviews, but his more-recent failings demand tough questions. I’m unconvinced the Pelicans are scrutinizing Dumars enough, and they’d probably benefit from a more-thorough search.

But Dumars might be a fine hire. Dumping Demps would at least be step in the right direction.

Maryland star Melo Trimble declares for NBA draft

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Maryland guard Melo Trimble declared for last year’s NBA draft but withdrew.

This time, he’s not turning back.

Don Markus of The Baltimore Sun:

Trimble, less than three weeks removed from finishing his junior season with the team’s first-round loss to Xavier in the NCAA tournament, announced Wednesday he will make himself available for the NBA draft.

Unlike a year ago, when Trimble went through the pre-draft process without signing with an agent and then decided to return to school hours before the deadline, the 6-foot-3 point guard will forego his senior season.

“The deciding factor was that I felt there was nothing more I could do,” Trimble told the Baltimore Sun from the Stamp Student Union during a lunch break. “I felt like I did everything I could for the program. We went to the [NCAA] tournament three years in a row, and I had the same amount of points three years in a row. I felt that if I wanted to hopefully get to the next level, I had to leave at this time.

Trimble’s scouting report hasn’t changed much in the last year. He’s a scoring guard whose size (6-foot-3) will require him to play point guard in the next level, but he hasn’t shown the necessary distributing skills.

The biggest difference: He’s now 22, not 21.

Trimble had a superb college career, but at this point, his range is second round to undrafted.

DeMarcus Cousins answers first several Kings-related questions same way (video)

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DeMarcus Cousins had a bitter exit from the Kings, but that won’t be the last they see of him.

Cousins’ Pelicans will host Sacramento tomorrow night.

Not that Cousins rushed to talk about the matchup.

Justin Verrier of ESPN:

Cousins is pretty funny when joking with the media, and his smile is contagious. Just listen to all the laughs Cousins generates as he goes through his shtick.

Bonus points to Cousins for eventually breaking down and providing real answers. Some of his relationships in Sacramento were clearly meaningful to him, and he wanted to acknowledge those — even if he’d prefer just to get past this awkward game and all the talk it invites.

Report: Sweet-shooting 7-footer Lauri Markkanen leaving Arizona for NBA draft

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Lauri Markkanen is 7-foot and made 42% of his 3-pointers this season.

That combination alone will have NBA teams drooling, and the Arizona freshman will capitalize.

Evan Daniels of Scout:

Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen is declaring for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent, multiple sources told Scout.

Markkanen seems pretty certain to get picked in the lottery, likely in the top 10.

Calling him a good shooter for his height undersells him. It’s not just he shoots so efficiently from deep, it’s that he can generate 3-pointers in so many ways — pick-and-pops, spot-ups, off off-ball screens and even running pick-and-rolls himself. Having the height to shoot over defenders is his most noticeable asset, but don’t undersell his mobility.

Markkanen also finishes well at the rim and offensively rebounds at extremely impressive clip for someone who spends so much time on the perimeter. Those interior skills instill belief he will eventually become a suitable defender.

There are a couple red flags. He’s old for a freshman, turning 20 before the draft. He leaves plenty to be desired defensively, especially due to his lack of strength.

But his size and shooting are tantalizing. That’s plenty for now.