NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he had “absolute confidence” the sale of the Clippers would be completed by mid-July because the indemnification team co-owner Shelly Sterling agreed to should protect the league from lawsuits brought by her husband, Donald.
The agreement means the Sterling trust that controls the team would pay for any legal judgment or settlement that Donald Sterling obtained.
“In essence, Donald is suing himself and he knows that,” Silver told reporters on Sunday before Game 2 of the NBA Finals at the AT&T Center. “While I understand he is frustrated, I think it’s over.”
Donald Sterling has vacillated in his stance on the proposed $2-billion sale of the team, which he presided over for three decades, to former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer. Sterling vowed to drop his $1-billion antitrust lawsuit against the league. But he has not signed off on the transfer of ownership, because he reportedly wants the NBA to rescind the lifetime ban and $2.5-million fine it issued after an audio recording surfaced in which Sterling made racially charged remarks.
Silver said there was “absolutely no possibility” the punishment would be withdrawn.
The commissioner reiterated Shelly Sterling’s position that she does not need her husband’s approval to sell the Clippers because she became sole trustee of the trust that controls the team when medical experts found Donald Sterling mentally unfit.
Nevertheless, Silver said, Shelly Sterling’s attorneys have notified the league that the couple planned to work out their remaining dispute.
Silver said Ballmer needed to undergo additional vetting as part of his bid to buy the Clippers, including an interview with the NBA’s advisory finance committee. If everything checks out, league owners could vote to approve Ballmer at a scheduled board of governors meeting next month, if not sooner.
Ballmer has told the league he intends to close the deal as full owner before possibly bringing in partners.
Shelly Sterling remains free to attend Clippers games, Silver said, but will have no other future role with the team. A proposed foundation created by Shelly Sterling would not directly involve the Clippers other than to include money used from the sale of the team.
Silver said he has spoken with Donald Sterling once since the commissioner issued the lifetime ban.
“I certainly learned nothing new from that conversation with him,” said Silver, who has been sued individually by Donald Sterling in addition to the lawsuit Sterling filed against the league. “He was distraught … but he was not remorseful at that time.”
Though Silver spent most of his news conference discussing the Clippers sale and the air-conditioning malfunction that led to sweltering temperatures for Game 1 between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat, he also touched on a few other issues. He indicated he was in favor of a hard salary cap or “a harder cap,” which he said would improve competitive balance throughout the league.
Silver also said the league wanted to examine ways to improve the lottery and playoff seedings but said he did not anticipate any major changes being implemented next season.