David Stern praises Adam Silver

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
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[+] EnlargeDavid Stern
AP Photo/J Pat CarterFormer commissioner David Stern praised his successor Adam Silver in the handling of the Donald Sterling controversy.

NEW YORK -- Former NBA commissioner David Stern praised the NBA's handling of the Donald Sterling controversy and predicts it will "end well" for the league.

Stern said his successor, Adam Silver, has been "forceful" but also "demonstrated a compassionate side" in his reaction to the racist remarks that were made by the Los Angeles Clippers owner.

"He's done great. He has been forceful, he has been reflective, he has been buttoned-down and I think he has also demonstrated a compassionate side as well," Stern told The Associated Press on Wednesday during a phone interview.

"So I think it's going to end well."

Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million and banned him for life after the recorded comments became public. Sterling's wife, Shelly, later agreed to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for a record $2 billion, a transaction the league believes will close shortly even as Donald Sterling continues trying to fight in court.

Stern retired after 30 years as commissioner in February. He will be enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame next week.


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Steve Ballmer was as surprised as anyone when the call came in. Donald Sterling had spent months doing whatever he could to derail Ballmer's $2 billion purchase of the Los Angeles Clippers ... and then he wanted to meet. About what, he wouldn't say. But amid a hail of lawsuits, medical assessments and threats, the man was calling on the afternoon of Sunday, July 20, and asking Ballmer to fly in from Seattle for a face-to-face meeting in Los Angeles the next afternoon.

Ballmer had no insight into the topic. A settlement? A renegotiation of the sale terms? A deal with the NBA that would allow Sterling some dignity at the end of one of the ugliest chapters in NBA history?

As a former Microsoft CEO, Ballmer had dealt with many an eccentric billionaire -- men who eschew normal laws of decorum and decision-making. Men who operate as if there are not rules of time and space.

There is no guidebook in dealing with men like this. You just show up and see what happens.

So Ballmer rolled with it. He hopped on a plane, and made his way to the meeting, even when the location was changed from a Beverly Hills hotel to Sterling's nearby residence. When they finally met, Ballmer tried his best to establish a rapport with the man who had made a hobby of erecting expensive obstacles to Ballmer's purchase of the Clippers.

As the meeting unfolded, it emerged that Sterling liked Ballmer. He found him classy and sincere. Under different circumstances, Sterling might have been fine with selling his franchise to him, or at least doing some business.

But this had gone too far, gotten too personal and too ugly for there to be a harmonious resolution.


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Police arrest Matt Barnes' uncle

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Police say they have arrested a man wanted in the slaying of the aunt of Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes.

Officer Michele Gigante says a Sacramento County sheriff's deputy found 51-year-old Michael Williams on Tuesday.

Police say Williams is suspected of fatally stabbing his wife, 48-year-old Tanganyika Williams, whose body was found July 8 on a Sacramento street.

Barnes pleaded for help from the public, using his Twitter and Instagram accounts to publicize the manhunt.

Gigante says Williams was found after a tip from a citizen who saw his description in news coverage.

Police say Williams was transient and thought to be hiding in south Sacramento.

He was arrested less than five miles from the crime scene.


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LAS VEGAS -- Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin withdrew last week from Team USA training camp for the FIBA World Cup because he was advised by doctors to give a small fracture in his back more time to heal before the start of the next NBA season, sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com.

Griffin is expected to make a full recovery from the injury, which sources say was suffered during the playoffs. However, doctors advised him to sit out international competition this summer for precautionary reasons.

Griffin has continued to work out this summer in Los Angeles with teammate DeAndre Jordan and former Laker and Clipper Sasha Vujacic.

Both Griffin and Minnesota forward Kevin Love withdrew from the training camp last week, which left Team USA thin in the front court and prompted the late addition of Atlanta's Paul Millsap to the camp.

In a statement, USA Basketball said Love was unable to participate "because of his current status," a thinly veiled reference to the trade talks that have dragged on since June.


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With ruling, Clippers get biggest win

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
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LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers have had more to cheer about over the past three seasons than at any point in their largely star-crossed history. But on a Monday some two months before training camp, in a courtroom two miles from Staples Center, they enjoyed their biggest win in franchise history.

In front of packed courtroom on the second floor of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, Judge Michael Levanas effectively cleared the way for the Clippers to be sold to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.

It was the first championship moment for a franchise that has never made it past the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Shelly Sterling was in tears as she hugged her attorneys and was congratulated by spectators outside the courtroom.

"I'm just happy it's over," she said. "A great man will be taking over the team now."

The clouds that have enveloped the Clippers for the past three months since Donald Sterling's racist comments led to his ban from the NBA have finally begun to burn off.

Wearing sunglasses outside the courtroom, Shelly Sterling smiled as she talked about the judge's ruling and the future of the team.

"This is going to be a good thing for the city, for the league for my family and for all of us," she said. "Come see the Clippers next year."

Of course, this isn't the end of Donald Sterling. The most litigious owner in sports history always has viewed judges' decisions as the beginning, not the end of fights. "He was calm," said Bobby Samini, Donald Sterling's attorney. "He only saw this as one battle in a long war."

The message to his attorneys on Monday was "keep fighting," and they plan to do just that with two pending lawsuits against the league and Shelly Sterling. That should come as no surprise from a man who said he would sue the NBA until the day he dies.


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Shelly Sterling can proceed with sale

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
3:22
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LOS ANGELES -- A judge ruled against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling on Monday in his attempt to block the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas sided with Sterling's estranged wife Shelly Sterling, who burst into tears when the ruling was announced.

"This is going to be a good thing for the city, for the league for my family and for all of us," she said outside the courthouse. "Come see the Clippers next year."

The judge said Shelly Sterling had negotiated a good deal for the Clippers and had the authority to remove her husband as a trustee of the trust that owns the team after two doctors determined he had signs of Alzheimer's disease and was incapable of making business decisions.

Also under the ruling, Donald Sterling can't delay the sale from going forward as he appeals the case.

"It was the best thing and the court system came through with whatever they thought was equitable and fair," Shelly Sterling said. "I didn't know which way it would go, I just tried to do the best thing for our family and for everybody else."

The ruling on Monday was tentative until the judge files it in writing.

Shelly Sterling's attorneys and Ballmer's attorney said they expect the sale of the team to close before Aug. 15. The judge's final decision is expected to come down by Aug. 13.

Donald Sterling was not in court to hear the ruling. Bobby Samini, the attorney for Donald Sterling, said he spoke to his client ten minutes after the decision was announced.

"He didn't take it too hard," Samini said. "He just said, 'Keep fighting,' " an apparent reference to pending lawsuits Sterling has filed.

When asked if she thought her husband would drop his other lawsuits Shelly Sterling said, "I'm sure he will."


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LAS VEGAS -- Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul told ESPN.com that it's "unacceptable" if Donald Sterling is still the owner of the team when the season begins.

Sterling has been banned for life by the NBA in response to racist comments he made in a recorded conversation released in April.

Paul also said he has spoken to Clippers coach Doc Rivers about the possibility of sitting out if Sterling remains in control when the seasons starts in a little more than two months.

"That's something me and Doc are both talking about," Paul said Thursday after coaching his AAU program, CP3. "Something has to happen, and something needs to happen soon -- sooner rather than later."

Interim Clippers CEO Dick Parsons testified earlier in the week in state court that Rivers told him on multiple occasions that he doesn't think he wants to continue coaching the team if Sterling remains in control of the franchise.

"We're all going to talk about it," Paul said. "We're all definitely going to talk about it. Doc, Blake [Griffin], DJ [DeAndre Jordan]. It's unacceptable."

The issue remains whether Sterling's wife, Shelly, acted properly in selling the franchise without his consent. She agreed to a deal with ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for a record $2 billion.

Closing arguments in the probate court case are set for Monday, at which point the judge will determine whether to authorize the sale or throw the situation into further confusion. Donald Sterling has vowed to fight "as long as he lives."


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Blake Griffin not joining U.S. team

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
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LOS ANGELES -- Clippers forward Blake Griffin will not participate on the USA Basketball men's national team this summer, he announced Thursday.

Griffin was one of 19 players selected to the U.S. roster from which the 2014 World Cup of Basketball team will be selected.

"I appreciate the invitation to play for Team USA this summer," Griffin said in a statement. "It is a special opportunity anytime you have a chance to represent your country, and I was honored to be included. However, right now I want to focus and dedicate 100 percent of my energy on improving and preparing for the upcoming season with the Clippers."

Griffin was forced to miss the 2012 Summer Olympics in London after he was diagnosed with a medial meniscus tear in his left knee that required arthroscopic surgery and sidelined him for two months.

Earlier Thursday, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported that Washington Wizards guard John Wall had accepted USA Basketball's invitation to attend its training camp next week in Las Vegas.


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LOS ANGELES -- The attorneys for Shelly Sterling said Wednesday they will ask a judge to issue a ruling allowing the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to proceed despite pending lawsuits brought by Donald Sterling in both federal and civil court contesting his wife's authority to sell the franchise without his consent.

Pierce O'Donnell, the lead attorney for Shelly Sterling, said he would seek what would effectively be an emergency, appeal-proof ruling after testimony concluded in the California probate court case to determine whether she acted properly in removing her husband from the family trust which owned the franchise before selling it to Ballmer.

"We think we have overwhelming evidence from [interim Clippers CEO] Dick Parsons and Anwar Zakkour from Bank of America, that if you don't let this sale go through and meet the deadline for the sale, an incredibly valuable asset will fall like a rock," O'Donnell said. "If Donald Sterling stays on as the manager and owner of this asset, Doc [Rivers] won't coach, Chris Paul won't play, sponsors will stay away and TV ratings will fall. It is an urgent matter that this sale be closed immediately to Mr. Ballmer and restore some stability and, frankly, dignity to the NBA in Los Angeles."

O'Donnell cited section 1310 (b) of the California probate code, which allows the judge to approve the sale if there is imminent loss of value to the trust.

Such rulings are rare, however, and it is not clear whether the pending federal and civil lawsuits even would be affected by such a ruling. Donald Sterling's attorneys laughed off the notion that the Clippers were in such a dire state.

"The other day we were warned of a death spiral," his lawyer Bobby Samini said, referring to a phrase Parsons used on the stand Tuesday to describe the precarious state of the team's finances if Donald Sterling remained as owner. "I was very careful crossing the street and nothing happened yesterday. Maybe it's coming today, maybe next week. We'll see what Doc Rivers does. Because I don't see that's the way things are going."

Testimony in the three-week-old probate court trial concluded Wednesday with an Alzheimer's disease expert, Dr. Jeffrey Cummings, testifying that the results of the two exams performed on Mr. Sterling could have been affected by Shelly Sterling's presence during the exams. Having his wife present, Cummings testified, could have created stress that affected his performance.

Cummings also testified that it was not absolutely necessary for a doctor to inform a patient of the legal and financial ramifications of such testing, but said "honesty" and "trust" between patient and doctor was ideal for such cases.

Max Blecher, another of Donald Sterling's attorneys, tried to introduce Cummings' evaluation of Sterling -- in which he found he was mentally competent -- into evidence; however, Judge Michael Levanas said that issue was no longer within the scope of the case.

Blecher argued that the process of declaring his client mentally incompetent was "a ruse" because Shelly Sterling wanted to sell the team and her husband did not.

"They wanted to sell the team," Blecher said. "The commissioner [Adam Silver] planted that in O'Donnell and Shelly's head when they met in New York on May 13. He planted that in their head. He said you have to own all of the stock and then we can sell it. So they came home and the very day that meeting took place, Shelly arranged the interviews with the doctors. What does that tell you? That tells you from the very first interview between the psychologist and Donald, is that Plan B [to declare Donald Sterling mentally incompetent] is in effect.

"And yet Shelly said she never heard of Plan B, so they flew out a high-class banker from New York [Zakkour] and he testified that they sat in a meeting together and talked about Plan B. So either she has a failure of recollection or she's a liar. You choose."

Levanas ordered attorneys from both sides to submit closing briefs by Thursday afternoon and appear back in court Monday morning at 10 a.m. for closing arguments.

The sale was initially scheduled to close by July 15. That deadline has been extended to August 15. The NBA has said it will resume termination proceedings against Sterling if the sale does not close by September 15.

Samini cast doubt on the idea that the outcome of this trial will resolve the sale.

"I know everybody was here waiting, thinking that this ruling would determine the fate of the sale. I don't think it will," he said. "That's going to go on. Until you get to the conclusion in [the civil court lawsuit Sterling filed Tuesday


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Matt Barnes looking for aunt's killer

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
4:20
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes is asking for the public's help to track down the man police say killed his aunt in Northern California.

Barnes took to his Twitter and Instagram accounts Tuesday, asking anyone who knows the whereabouts of 51-year-old Michael Williams of Sacramento to call police.

Barnes also posted photos of Williams on his accounts. Williams was married to Barnes' aunt, 48-year-old Tanganyika Williams.

Sacramento police say Michael Williams is suspected of fatally stabbing his wife. Her body was found lying on a street July 8.

Officer Michele Gigante, a police spokeswoman, says an arrest warrant is out for Williams, who apparently was last seen in south Sacramento on Monday.

Gigante says police appreciate that Barnes is using his status to help find the suspect.


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Drafts of the Los Angeles Clippers' sale bid book show exactly how much Steve Ballmer is willing to overpay for the team.

The bid book was entered as an exhibit by Shelly Sterling's lawyers in a trial in California probate court to determine whether she should have the right to sell the team without her husband, Donald.

Ballmer's $2 billion final bid is 12.1 times the expected 2014 revenues of the team, according to the numbers given to the bidders by Bank of America, which conducted the sale on behalf of the Sterling trust. The document was introduced into court Tuesday and subsequently obtained by ESPN. A person with knowledge of the sale confirmed that bidders were given these documents.

The book, called "Project Claret" so as not to give away on the cover sheet that these numbers are indeed the financials of the Clippers, reveals that the team is projected to finish the year with $62.3 million in revenues from ticket sales, $25.8 million from its local cable contract and $24.1 million in additional team revenue. The Clippers are also projected to receive $52.7 million on the season in shared national league revenue, according to the document. After taking away player payroll costs, total operating revenue for the 2013-14 season is projected to be $100 million.

Valuation multiples are usually based on total revenues, so the $164.9 million before player costs are extracted equals more than 12 times less than the $2 billion sale price.

"No team in the history of sports has sold for six times total revenues, so that should give you an idea of how crazy this purchase price is," said a sports banker who was not involved in the transaction.


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LOS ANGELES -- It sounded more like the title of a horror film than a projection for next season.

As Dick Parsons, the interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers, testified in state court Tuesday about the uncertain future of the team, he outlined an accelerated "death spiral" for the Clippers if Donald Sterling were to remain the owner.

"If none of your sponsors want to sponsor you," Parsons said. "And your coach doesn't want to coach for you and your players don’t want to play for you, what do you have?"

Parsons wasn’t just hypothesizing about losing sponsors, coaches and players if Sterling remained the owner. He testified that he has talked to many of the parties involved and they have told him their commitment to the team is only as strong as the team’s commitment to moving forward without Sterling.

"We're in so long as Donald Sterling is out," Parsons said when describing his conversation with several sponsors that have yet to commit to the team for the upcoming season.

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