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David Aldridge

Report: NBA will reinstate hearing if Sterling ruled mentally fit


Posted Jun 10, 2014 7:56 PM - Updated Jun 10, 2014 8:26 PM

The NBA will reinstate the owner termination hearing against Donald Sterling if Sterling is successful in convincing a probate court that he is mentally fit to remain owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, according to sources.

The latest turn in this seemingly endless soap opera came as Sterling's wife, Shelly Sterling, plans to go to court in Los Angeles on Wednesday morning at 8:30 to try and get an expedited probate hearing before a judge seeking affirmation that Shelly Sterling acted legally and properly late last month in determining that Donald Sterling was mentally incapacitated, and thus unable to continue his role as co-trustee of the Sterling Family Trust, which owns the Clippers and other properties that the Sterlings have acquired over the years.

Sterling's attorney, Maxwell Blecher, said Tuesday that his client would challenge the finding that Shelly Sterling is the trust's sole trustee, but said he would not be taking legal action against his wife.

"We will challenge it -- and we will win," Blecher said in an e-mail.

In a subsequent e-mail, Blecher said he was "sure" Donald Sterling would undergo additional neurological testing in the hope that other physicians would find him mentally competent to continue serving as co-trustee.

Donald Sterling announced Monday that he would go ahead with a $1 billion lawsuit against the league and Commissioner Adam Silver, reversing his position of less than a week ago, when he was willing to withdraw the suit and allow the sale of the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. The lawsuit seeks to end the lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine Silver imposed on Donald Sterling April 29, as well as reinstate Andy Roeser, the Clippers president who was put on an indefinite leave of absence by the league.

The league gave its approval to the sale after Shelly Sterling agreed to indemnify the NBA against all potential lawsuits stemming from the sale of the team, including any legal actions by Donald Sterling. That means Shelly Sterling would pay if there were any financial finding against the league, including court costs.

This leads the league to believe, as Silver said in a news conference Sunday, that Donald Sterling would be, in essence, suing himself.

"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 Sunday. "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."

But in a statement Monday, Donald Sterling said the actions taken by Silver are "a violation of my rights," and vowed to continue with the suit, which was originally filed May 30.

"I have decided that I must fight to protect my rights," Donald Sterling said in the statement. "While my position may not be popular, I believe that my rights to privacy and the preservation of my rights to due process should not be trampled."

The league originally initiated termination protocol against Sterling last month, saying that Sterling's audio tape in which he made disparaging remarks to his then-girlfriend against African Americans, including Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, and said he didn't want her to bring blacks to games, had damaged the league, including its owners, and caused harm. A three-quarters vote of the 29 other owners would be required to "sustain" the charge and remove Sterling as Clippers owner.

But Shelly Sterling asserted that she is now the Trust's only trustee, and thus able to conduct the sale. Donald and Shelly Sterling were the only trustees until last month, when Shelly Sterling produced documentation from two doctors saying that Donald Sterling was mentally incapacitated, and thus unable to handle the duties of being a trustee.

Under those circumstances, Shelly Sterling proceeded to initiate a sale of the team, with Ballmer's bid beating out those of other groups, including one featuring former NBA player (and Turner Sports employee) Grant Hill for $1.2 billion, and another from media mogul David Geffen for $1.6 billion.

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