LAS VEGAS -- NBA Commissioner Adam Silver could not guarantee the Clippers would have a new owner next season because of the possibility that the courts would not determine a clear owner of the team.
“No, I cannot say it with certainty,” Silver said Tuesday after the league’s board of governors met for four hours to discuss the Donald Sterling situation and other agenda items. “It’s in the hands of the probate court right now and he’s in the process of suing us for lots of money.
“And the only reason I can’t say it with certainty is it’s possible some court would step in and stop this thing. I think it is highly, highly unlikely because we are absolutely acting within our rights. I think what’s transpired in probate court so far has made it even clearer that we are acting not only within our rights but doing what is right and appropriate in this situation.”
Silver said the league would move to terminate Sterling’s ownership of the Clippers if a Los Angeles Superior Court judge eventually ruled that his wife did not act accordingly in finding a buyer for the franchise.
The league never took a vote to officially end Donald’s ownership because of the speed with which Shelly Sterling, a co-owner of the team, sold it to Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer in May.
“If the probate ruling doesn’t go in our favor, we will re-commence our procedures under termination,” Silver said.
Donald Sterling was banned for life by Silver from all NBA activities because of racially charged comments he made.
Silver sidestepped a question about Shelly Sterling, who testified last week that Silver once told her he would soften the $2.5-million fine and lifetime ban he issued against her husband.
“What I had said to Shelly was that if Donald was interested in agreeing to sell the team as opposed to going through litigation…I said I would listen to anything he wanted to say,” Silver said, adding that he never received any proposals for a reduction from Donald or his lawyers.
Ballmer, who submitted the highest bid to buy the Clippers for a record-setting $2 billion, was at the board of governors meeting.
“With us, he talked about his passion for NBA basketball and his desire and interest in owning the team,” Silver said.
Ballmer has not been officially been approved by the board as the new Clippers owner because of the Sterlings’ court battle.
Judge Michael Levanas called off all hearings this week to allow one of Donald’s lawyers to take a planned vacation. Court is scheduled to resume Monday and closing arguments are expected July 28.