Clippers dragged down as Donald Sterling saga drags on


The court battle between Shelly and Donald Sterling has held the Clippers back this offseason. (Mark J. Terrill/AP File Photo)

The Lakers may be absent a coach and a direction as they retool their roster, but the other team in Los Angeles has problems of its own despite being closer to title contention.

The NBA had hoped to rid itself of Donald Sterling for good on Tuesday with the board of governors coming together to approve the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. But Sterling’s sudden change of heart and refusal to sell now has him at odds with his estranged wife, Shelly, in a very ugly trial that won’t be settled until July 28 at the earliest.

If Superior Court judge Michael Levanas rules that Shelly didn’t have authority to make the deal with Ballmer after doctors determined that Donald was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the league will enter some unsettling territory. New commissioner Adam Silver has already issued a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine to the defiant Donald, whose recorded racist rant in May brought his long history of questionable behavior to the forefront. Ballmer’s bid was set to expire on Tuesday but contains a 30-day extension provision.

The uncertainty of the sale has hurt Clippers coach and team president Doc Rivers this offseason, as he attempts to make improvements on a team that lost in the second round of the playoffs to Oklahoma City, succumbing to the controversy clouding the organization – and an onslaught from the Thunder’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Rivers is unable to meet with Ballmer to discuss strategy and the team currently has limited resources to make significant upgrades. The Clippers added Spencer Hawes and Jordan Farmar, but Rivers was unable to strike a deal to land Paul Pierce, with whom he spent nine years in Boston and won a championship in 2008. Pierce chose to come to Washington instead and the Clippers have hope for the current players on their roster to improve – and that Donald Sterling is out of the picture sooner than later.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · July 16