NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday he remains confident the Los Angeles Clippers will be sold to former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer, but admitted he's worried that the process will be slowed down in the courts.
"The biggest concern is that we're going to get stuck in a quagmire, of sorts, in litigation," Silver said during an appearance on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike."
"But the outcome seems pretty clear as I said the other day: Shelly [Sterling] has an agreement with Steve Ballmer. She sold the team. There was a document signed by Donald Sterling giving her the right to negotiate that sale. On top of that, under their trust agreement, she had him found by two leading neurologists in L.A. to be incapacitated or incompetent, or whatever the standard is under that trust agreement giving her the sole right to enter into that agreement. And on top of that, she indemnified the league against any lawsuits from Donald; in essence, she's covering our expenses or any judgment against us."
Shelly Sterling has negotiated a $2 billion sale of the Clippers that her husband had said last week he would sign off on. But Donald Sterling has since issued statements vowing to fight the sale, saying "I WILL NOT SELL MY TEAM" and referring to the NBA as "despicable monsters."
"To me, I'm concerned it's going to delay Steve Ballmer taking over the Clippers," Silver said in the radio interview. "The team is sort of a little bit in limbo right now. We have Dick Parsons in right now as the interim CEO. He's a terrific guy. But of course, I can understand from a player's perspective -- they're going into a draft, they're going into free agency. The guys want to know where they stand. So we'd like everything to just be clear, so everybody understands how this team is moving forward. That's my concern, that it just seems unsettled."
Shelly Sterling's attorney is asking a probate court on Wednesday to grant an emergency hearing that could help expedite the Clippers' sale. The court will be asked to confirm her claim to be sole trustee of the family trust.
Representatives of Donald Sterling, Ballmer and the NBA were also present Wednesday in a Los Angeles County courthouse. Paperwork has been filed but it's unclear whether an immediate hearing will be granted.
Donald Sterling's attorney, meanwhile, told ESPN on Tuesday that he believes chances are slim that a court will agree his client is mentally incompetent.
"We're watching it closely," Silver said on "Mike & Mike." "We'll do as we're asked to do by Shelly, in order to support her here. But I feel a bit impotent in this situation. I think this is largely a dispute between Donald and Shelly right now.
"It's like a house at closing: As long as [Shelly Sterling] can pass clear title to Steve Ballmer, then our process will continue. [Ballmer] will go through the usual vetting, but I don't anticipate any problems from our side. So really, it's just waiting on them. It will happen. And I think Donald ultimately knows that. He can jam up the works a little bit right now, but it's time for him to move on."