Donald Sterling, V. Stiviano

Hearing that determines Sterling Trust control, Clippers’ sale gets underway. Donald Sterling isn’t there.

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The legal question at hand is pretty simple: Did Shelly Sterling and her doctors follow the Sterling Family Trust rules in having Donald Sterling declared mentally incapacitated, leaving her the lone trustee.

Of course, nothing is ever that simple when Donald Sterling is involved.

First, the implications are bigger than that question because as the sole trustee Shelly Sterling set up a sale of the Los Angeles Clippers — owned by the trust — to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Donald Sterling and his attorney say the trust’s rules were not followed and the mental tests are invalid — that the doctor had drinks with everyone in a bar after the test — meaning he should be re-instated as a trustee, which therefor would block the sale of the team.

The NBA backs that sale after having fined Donald Sterling and banned him for life following the leaked audio tape of bigoted remarks.

Because of all that is on the line Donald Sterling’s lawyers spent the first half of Monday trying to get the case kicked out of California Probate Court and up to a federal court. While that is not uncommon, in this case the federal court shot down that request, so in the afternoon it was back to probate and opening statements.

Well, once they found Donald Sterling’s lawyer, who went missing for a while. Because of course he did. Donald Sterling himself was not there, so everything just started without him.

Three trusted reporters on this case — Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi of ESPN as well as Dan Woike of the Orange County Register — were in the courtroom for the start of the trial and tweeted this out of it.

That’s where things stand now in a trial expected to last most of the week.

The long-term outcome for the Clippers is not really in doubt. If Donald Sterling wins and is reinstated as a trustee Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA owners will just go back to Plan A and vote him out of his franchise (as they can do, all professional sports league are essentially like a country club with rules to expel members). Then the league will re-open the bidding and sell the team, with the profits being given to the Sterling Trust. However, Shelly Sterling — who gets seats and the games and would help run a charity with Ballmer loosely affiliated with the Clippers under terms of the Ballmer sale — would be out in the cold.

Report: Rockets will leave Donatas Motiejunas’ offer sheet open

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 12:  Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets and Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Brooklyn Nets fight for the loose ball at the Barclays Center on January 12, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.The Houston Rockets defeated the Brooklyn Nets 113-99. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Donatas Motiejunas’ agent, B.J. Armstrong, said he knows their rights.

Apparently, so does Houston.

Motiejunas has refused to take a physical with the Rockets since they matched his offer sheet from the Nets. So, Houston will hold him on that offer sheet indefinitely.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

Motiejunas can’t sign an offer sheet with another NBA team. He probably can’t even join an overseas team in a FIBA-accredited league, because his NBA holdout will prevent him from getting clearance.

All he can do is submit to a physical or negotiate a new deal with the Rockets.

Motiejunas could undergo a physical anytime between now and March 1. If he passes, he’d join Houston on the terms of his matched offer sheet. If he fails, he’d go to Brooklyn on the original offer-sheet terms (which are $6 million apart).

Motiejunas could also negotiate a new deal with the Rockets. They have immense leverage with his matched offer sheet in place, but perhaps a compromise could be forged. Motiejunas obviously wants a chance at that $6 million, but he’ll have to concede something in exchange. Maybe that’s a later guarantee date on his 2017-18 salary. If both sides agree to a different contract, Houston would withdraw its match, which would make Motiejunas a restricted free agent. Then, the Rockets could re-sign him.

They sure aren’t letting him out of this limbo just to seek a better offer sheet from another team. A new contract must already be agreed upon.

In the meantime, Motiejunas will continue to count toward the Nets’ team salary while the offer sheet is open, which is a nuisance but not hugely disruptive. They have plenty of cap space anyway, and the odds of adding significant salary in a trade are low.

Houston will continue to play without Motiejunas. That’s also not ideal for the Rockets, but they’ve been fine without him so far.

The qualifying offer will expire on March 2, when Motiejunas will no longer be eligible to sign an offer sheet with another team. He’d still be allowed to re-sign with Houston, though. Failing that, he’ll re-enter free agency next summer, when the Rockets could again make him restricted, and we’ll start the process all over again – with the caveat that the Nets can’t sign him for one year after his offer sheet expires.

Maybe something will break before it gets to that point, but Houston and Motiejunas have trudged deeper into this standoff than ever imaginable.

Stephen Curry skips pass between DeAndre Jordan’s legs, gets Zaza Pachulia a layup (video)

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Nicolas Batum wasn’t the only player to bounce a pass through an opponent’s legs last night.

Stephen Curry nutmegged DeAndre Jordan on this sweet assist to Zaza Pachulia.

Clint Capela and Montrezl Harrell take turns dunking on Julius Randle (videos)

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 05:  Head Coach Luke Walton of the Los Angeles Lakers talks with Julius Randle #30 during the second half of a 107-101 Jazz win at Staples Center on December 5, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Rough night for the Lakers, who lost 134-95 to the Rockets.

It was particularly harsh for Julius Randle, who got dunked on by Clint Capela:

And then Montrezl Harrell:

Giannis Antetokounmpo called for 10-second violation on free throw (video)

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This Giannis Antetokounmpo 10-second violation was a year in the making.

Unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, it was too little, too late. Antetokounmpo still finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, four blocks and two steals in the Bucks’ 115-107 win.