In the midst of his first NBA Finals as the league’s commissioner, Adam Silver met with the media before Game 2 here at the very well air-conditioned AT&T Center, and while several subjects were on the docket, it was the pending sale of the Clippers to billionaire Steve Ballmer that dominated the talk.
Silver said that although the sale to Ballmer for $2 billion still has some steps that need undertaking, they are mostly formal and he characterized the transaction as, “almost there,” and said the sale could be approved at the Board of Governors meeting in mid-July.
The lingering issue is that Sterling has not yet dropped his lawsuit against Silver and the league. But Silver explained that, because Shelly Sterling had her husband found mentally incapacitated and indemnified the league against any lawsuit, Donald Sterling is effectively boxed in.
“I have absolute confidence it will be resolved because as part of the sale agreement with Shelly Sterling, she agreed to indemnify the league against a lawsuit by her husband,” Silver said. “So in essence, Donald is suing himself and he knows that. While I understand he is frustrated, I think it’s over. I think it’s just a matter of time now, and then we will move on to better topics and back to the Finals.”
It was suggested that Sterling could be holding out on dropping his lawsuit in order to extract some concession from the league, perhaps a lowering of the maximum $2.5 million fine he incurred in the wake of the racist rant that was caught on tape or a softening of the lifetime ban Silver put on Sterling in late April.
But Silver was emphatic in his response. “There is absolutely no possibility that the lifetime ban will be rescinded or that the fine will be changed in any way,” he said.
Silver was also asked about the NBA’s history with Sterling, and why nothing was done about his past transgressions — Sterling had a long history of being accused of making reprehensible and racist remarks. But Silver pointed out that those cases were settled out of court, so the league’s ability to act was limited.
“I would only say I don’t have any specific regrets,” Silver said. “You know, in hindsight should we have done more to investigate Donald? I’m frankly not sure. In this case, I mean, in addition to the fact that this tape in essence was broadcast to the world and so quickly became available to us, in the past these were issues that did not directly impact the NBA. And we’re not the government. He was investigated by the Department of Housing, the Department of Justice. There were individual lawsuits with him that settled out.
“When we monitored those events, at least it felt at that time that we were doing the appropriate thing. It’s a fair point that, in hindsight, possibly we should have done more. Certainly, if I had to do it again, maybe we would have done more but our eyes are open going forward.”
SAUNDERS: LOVE SHOULDN'T BE FRUSTRATED
The Minnesota Timberwolves are working to convince Kevin Love to stay in town. Reports indicate that Love wants out of Minneapolis after playing six seasons and failing to make the postseason.
Love has been visibly frustrated with the team's losing, but his new coach Flip Saunders doesn't believe Love has that right. As Saunders sees it, the Wolves put together a team effort and Love was part of their collective failure to make the postseason.
"Just like I told (Kevin) Garnett, he didn't have a right to be frustrated," Saunders said on KFAN 100.3 in Minneapolis-St. Paul. "Why does any player have a right to be frustrated? You're either part of the problem or part of the solution.
"Should the team be frustrated? Yeah, the team can be frustrated. But I don't think any one individual should be frustrated."
Saunders continued to explain how Garnett dealt with a similar experience in Minnesota.
"I tell a story about — we were in the locker room when KG was in like his third year in the league, and Sam Mitchell was sitting in the locker room," Saunders said. "KG was in there, and we had lost a couple games, and we were all sitting there talking.
"KG started going, 'Hey, you've got to start doing more.' And he's talking to some of the bench guys. 'You've got to start doing more.' And Sam said, 'Hey, hold it, hold it. Let me tell you something. You're making all the money. Hey, it's your responsibility. You make the money, you've got to live up to that.' So, that was the mentality, and from that time, KG never ever from that point, he always took responsibility."
That story does fit this situation, but the fact remains that Garnett never won a title until he left Minnesota. In fact, Garnett won in the NBA Finals with the Boston Celtics "Big Three" in his first year away from the Wolves.
And, in Love's defense, there is far less talent on Minnesota now than there was when Garnett played there.
Point guard Ricky Rubio, who said he wants to make it hard for Love to leave, has played below initial expectations. Beyond Rubio, Love depends on Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic, the big man who recently signed a big deal. But Pekovic played in only 54 games last season and Martin is noted as a poor defender.
These points could be made in vain, as it has been reported that Saunders' return to the bench will have no effect on Love's desire to leave town.
Saunders does have the postseason experience that Love covets, though. As a coach with Minnesota from 1995-2005, Saunders led the team to the only eight playoff appearances in franchise history.
IRVING COULD GET BIG DEAL
There has been tumult and speculation surrounding Kyrie Irving and his impending contract extension for quite some time, but that could be done soon, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the team intends to offer its point guard a full five-year max contract.
Once July 1 hits and teams are allowed to offer contract extensions, the Cavaliers are expected to present Irving with a deal in the five-year, $90 million range, or the maximum allowed under the collective-bargaining agreement. The team will do so without any concessions, according to the Plain Dealer.
Irving played spectacular basketball in his second season and was expected to take a seismic jump in his third year. That did not come to pass, however. Irving still scored the basketball, but struggled to make teammates better as the Cavaliers floundered through what was once expected to be a playoff season.
But even if Irving gets over this slight bump in the road, the Cavaliers have a long road to reach success. The team must first find a long-term coach after it fired Mike Brown for a second time, then start the process of adding talent around Irving.
Both will be tall tasks for the Cavaliers, who fired Brown and Byron Scott at the end of their last two seasons. And while the Cavaliers own the No. 1 pick, that has proved a problematic undertaking for the team, which took Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 slot last year. Bennett struggled like few No. 1 picks before him last season.
AFFLALO WOULD WELCOME TRADE
The pool of productive shooting guards is extremely shallow into today's NBA, which is why Arron Afflalo, a serviceable player, is rated within the top 10 at his position.
That said, there should be plenty of suitors for the Magic guard, who welcomes a trade to a contender, according to the Orlando Sentinel . And if teams don't line up, Afflalo can leave as a free agent after next season because he holds an option for the 2015-16 season.
Afflalo, who turns 29 in October, was the Magic leading scorer this past season 18.2 points per game on 45.9 percent shooting. His efforts were lost in Orlando's season, which ended with the third-worst record in the NBA, at 23-59.
It makes sense that Afflalo wants out, considering the Magic are in the middle of a large rebuild. Afflalo stands out as one of few veterans on a team filled with recent draft picks, such as Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and Maurice Harkless. In all, the Magic have nine players who are 25 years old or younger.
DENVER COULD TRADE PICK
The Denver Nuggets, who hold their highest pick since selecting Carmelo Anthony No. 3 in 2003, are willing to part with the No. 11 choice in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Denver missed the postseason this past year after making the playoffs for 10 straight seasons, and they hope to solve their issues by either securing a veteran player or moving up in the draft, the Denver Post reports .
"We've had a lot of conversations about a ton of different things — picks, trades. We're pretty active right now," Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly said.
The Nuggets will still consider using the pick, but Connelly expects action around the selection to pick up as the team gets closer to the June 26 draft.
"I don't think things will pick up until the next week or so," Connelly said. "But after a relatively quiet trade deadline, I think we'll see a more active build-up to the draft. I would imagine we'll have a lot of trades."
HORNETS THANK JEFFERSON
Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan honored Al Jefferson by taking out a full-page advertisement Sunday in the Charlotte Observer after the 6-foot-10 center was named third-team All-NBA.
Jefferson has proven to be the franchise's best free-agent signing ever.
He joined Charlotte last July and was the only player in the Eastern Conference to average a double-double for the 2013-14 season.
The ad praised "Big Al" for his "dedication and commitment to the franchise" and congratulated him for winning the Eastern Conference Player of the Month twice during the season.
Jefferson led the franchise to its first playoff appearance since 2010, although Charlotte was swept in the first round by the Miami Heat. Jefferson was hobbled throughout the series after injuring his foot in Game 1.
Contributors: Sean Deveney, Deantae Prince, The Associated Press