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'Beyond anger,' Silver invites Sterling to sell Clippers himself

Adam Silver says he's 'beyond anger' and knows the NBA owners are behind him. (USATSI)
Adam Silver says he's 'beyond anger' and knows the NBA owners are behind him. (USATSI)

More: Magic Johnson responds to Sterling on CNN | Latest updates | NBA news

NEW YORK -- Commissioner Adam Silver said he is "beyond anger" over the Donald Sterling fiasco and left the door open for the Clippers' owner to sell the team on his own without going through the league's termination proceedings.

"Mr. Sterling still owns the Los Angeles Clippers," Silver said Tuesday night before the league's draft lottery in Times Square. "Mrs. Sterling, as I understand it, through a trust, owns 50 percent as well. It is their team to sell. And so he knows what the league's point of view is, and I'm sure if he wanted to sell the team on some reasonable timetable, I'd prefer he sell the team than we go through this process. So if that's what you mean by man to man, I'm open to it."

On Monday, the NBA formally charged Sterling with violating the league's Constitution and By-Laws and "related agreements," beginning a straightforward and swift path to the possible termination of the team's ownership. Sterling has until next Tuesday to respond to the charges, after which a June 3 hearing of the full Board of Governors will take place -- likely in New York. If three-fourths of the other 29 team representatives vote to sustain the charges, "All ownership interests are terminated," Silver said, including that of Sterling's wife, Shelly.

Silver said he has informed Sterling's representative that the league will not grant him additional time to respond to the charges.

"The timing is laid out in the NBA Constitution," Silver said. "We're following it to the letter."

Silver would not divulge what evidence was destroyed, as the league asserted in its summary of the charges against Sterling on Monday. If the owners vote to terminate the team's ownership, Silver said the league would move quickly to "put the team in order" with the hiring of an investment banking firm and "conduct an orderly process."

"We have a fiduciary duty to the Sterlings to ensure that we sell it for the highest possible price," Silver said. "And there's no doubt it's an incredibly valuable asset."

In his first public comments since he banned Sterling for life on April 29 over an audio recording containing racially derogatory comments, Silver said, "My confidence level is high. ... We know we're doing the right thing and I know I have the owners behind me."

All but two questions in Silver's pre-lottery news conference pertained to the Sterling matter. Asked what words would describe his feelings about the embarrassing episode dominating coverage of the league, Silver said, "It's beyond anger. It's a certain sadness, and you feel it. It's almost a malaise around the league. That's what I sensed when I first met with the Clippers. It's something deeper than anger.

"There's something particular about race issues when it comes to sports, and maybe to the NBA in particular," Silver said. "I mean, it's no secret. We have a league where the majority of the players are African-American and the majority of the owners are not."

Silver managed to get his talking points in about the positive effects of the collective bargaining agreement and revenue sharing, noting that the four teams in the conference finals are in the bottom half of the league in terms of market size. He reiterated his desire to raise the draft-eligible age with cooperation from the NCAA, and cited the league's efforts to improve instant replay and add more transparency to the officiating process.

But Sterling's ownership, and the presumed legal battle that will ensue, dominated his remarks -- just as it has dominated a thrilling postseason, and now, a heavily anticipated draft.

"Will there be bumps in the road? Presumably, yes," Silver said. "Mr. Sterling, on one hand -- at least in his CNN interview -- indicated a willingness to accept the judgment of his owner partners. His lawyers are saying otherwise, but we'll see. We'll get this worked out. I know we're pursuing the right course here."

 
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