Only a handful of days into his new job, Dick Parsons was confident of at least one thing. The Clippers would eventually get new owners.
"My personal belief is that the league will prevail, which means that there will be an ownership change," Parsons said Monday at his introductory news conference as the Clippers' interim chief executive.
"That's a personal belief based on having not only looked at the docs but looked [NBA Commissioner] Adam Silver in the eye and seen the determination. And my goodness, I mean, there's so much momentum for doing the right thing and so much support for doing the right thing that at the end of the day, I believe ownership will change."
Parsons was selected Friday by the NBA to steer the Clippers amid the lifetime ban of owner Donald Sterling and the desire of his wife and co-owner, Shelly, to retain control of the franchise.
An eventual vote of the 30 NBA owners is expected to force Sterling to sell, but he could sue to keep the team he has owned for 33 years.
"I think a prolonged legal battle is in no one's interest," Parsons said at Staples Center. "Literally. No one. Certainly not the league interest. It's going to keep the media circus going, which may be good for the media but not good for the team, not good for the franchise and I don't think good ... not to over-exaggerate, but for the perception of our country. And I don't think it's good for the Sterlings."
Parsons started meeting with "beleaguered" Clippers staffers in an attempt to curb turmoil at the top that "leaks down," Parsons said. His next step will be meeting with players.
The Clippers flew to Oklahoma City on Monday in advance of their playoff game Tuesday. Parsons will not be with the team there because his wife is undergoing a medical procedure Tuesday. Parsons did not know whether he would attend the following playoff game Thursday at Staples Center.
He expressed confidence that Clippers players would not try to get out of their contracts if the Sterlings remained owners in the short term. Star point guard Chris Paul is under contract for four more years and $88.7 million. Blake Griffin, the team's other star, has four more years for $77.9 million on his contract.
"I think that the actions that the league has taken already, the clarity and the swiftness with which they've taken those actions has kind of tamped down this notion that people want to say, 'Look, all bets are off, I don't want to play for this team, I don't want to be with this league,' " Parsons said. "I think people have seen that the commissioner and the league are lined up in the right place and intending to do the right thing."
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers has been praised by players for handling the team since Donald Sterling's racially charged audio recording surfaced more than two weeks ago.
Rivers, though, has not publicly said he would return to the Clippers. He has two more years remaining on a three-year, $21-million contract he signed last summer. Rivers is also an executive with the team on the basketball side.
"I have no reason whatsoever to think Doc has got anything in his mind than sort of finishing this out and staying with this team that is moving in a space, really, where I think it's going to become America's team if we get this right," Parsons said. "Americans love a story where somebody gets knocked down, then they get back up, they get back in the ring, they show they have good character. This team also happens to have talent.
"I think there's huge opportunity here. I think Doc sees it. I hope you all see it and I hope we can realize it."
Parsons was formerly the chairman of Time Warner and also Citigroup. He has served on President Obama's economic advisory team. He said the Clippers' situation reminded him of the Chinese symbol for crisis, which included components of danger and also opportunity.
Parsons has not spoken yet with Shelly Sterling but envisions it eventually happening. He said he would not speak with Donald Sterling, citing Sterling's lifelong ban from all NBA activities.
Parsons had not seen the entire interview Sterling granted CNN's Anderson Cooper but was surprised it took Sterling so long to apologize for his racially insensitive remarks.
"I would observe as most Americans I think observe that he’s a little late for sure," Parsons said. "But beyond that, I’m here to help turn one of the burners off under the pot, not to turn it up higher."
Parsons did not give a timetable for how long he would be with the Clippers but he was certain it would continue into July, when the NBA's free-agency period begins. Prominent agents have told The Times that players would not be interested in joining the Clippers if the Sterlings still owned the team at that time.
Parsons was surprised that Sterling criticized Magic Johnson in the CNN interview. Sterling said Johnson had not done "everything he could do to help minorities."
That view wasn't congruent with "the Magic I know," Parsons said, adding that Johnson had done a lot of work with minority communities.
Parsons said he was familiar with the NBA and Silver because Time Warner had an ownership stake in the Atlanta Hawks when Parsons worked there.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun