LAS VEGAS — Eyebrow-raising testimony, abrupt changes of plans, courtroom delays. If there is one thing NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has learned during the Donald Sterling saga, it’s that there are no guarantees.
So when Silver was asked Tuesday if he could say Sterling would not own the Los Angeles Clippers by the time next season comes around, he said he could not.
"It’s very difficult to say anything with certainty in a situation like this," Sterling said after the Board of Governors’ meeting. "I can say with certainty we are doing everything in our power to move Donald out as an owner in the NBA."
Sterling, who was banned by the NBA for life for making racist remarks, is challenging his wife Shelly’s planned sale of the Clippers for $2 billion to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in court. A judge recently delayed the next hearing until July 21, and closing arguments are scheduled for July 28.
When Ballmer originally reached an agreement with Shelly Sterling to buy the team, the planned timeline included an approval vote by the board on Tuesday. But the court case has pushed everything back well past the expiration of Ballmer’s offer. The deadline can be extended, and Silver said the league is waiting for the process to play out.
"We’re in essence on hold since that sale is being challenged by her husband as to whether she has the right," Silver said. "If the court finds in her favour, the sale will move forward. If not, we will move forward with our own proceedings."
Before Shelly Sterling agreed to sell the team to Ballmer, the NBA was moving forward with a plan to terminate Sterling’s ownership of the team. During the trial, Shelly Sterling testified that she discussed with Silver the possibility of his lifetime ban being reduced to help facilitate a sale of the team.
"It’s accurate that we had the conversation," Silver said. "Shelly and I had several conversations over the course of the last few months in which Shelly proposed all kinds of things to me. And frankly it’s never been quite clear if she’s able to speak for Donald."
Silver said he asked for a proposal in writing from Donald Sterling, but never received one.
Donald Sterling, who at one point in the proceedings called his wife "a pig" in the courtroom, contends she has no right under a family trust that owns the Clippers to single-handedly sell the team. Shelly Sterling contends she has the authority and two doctors hired by her testified that her 80-year-old husband has Alzheimer’s disease and is mentally incapable to act as administrator of the trust.
Rather than holding a vote for approval of Ballmer as an owner, the advisory/finance committee met with him.
"We had an excellent session with him and he talked to us about his passion for NBA basketball and his desire and interest in owning the team," Silver said.
In other news from the meetings:
–Silver said the league’s new replay centre will open in September and be used on an experimental basis in the WNBA and NBA preseason games. Officials at the centre will be able to review calls in question, but the final decision will still be made by the officials in the arena.
–The Competition Committee broached the subject of a midseason tournament similar to the FA Cup in English soccer. "We’re looking at other opportunities in the league to create excitement," Silver said.
–The board heard a review of officiating and Silver said they are "satisfied" with the state of refereeing in the game. "I’m very focused on the public perception of our officiating," he said, "and we want to make sure that the public has complete confidence in the integrity of our game and the integrity of our officiating, and that’s something we continue to talk about and look for ways frankly to improve that."
–Of course, Silver couldn’t resist putting his personal take on gambling on the record in Sin City: "I personally enjoy being here, although I don’t gamble as the Commissioner of the NBA for the record. Not because there’s anything wrong with it, I just don’t think I should be gambling as the Commissioner."