Posts Tagged ‘Donald Sterling’

Clips rejoice as Hurricane Steve blows in

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Steve Ballmer get the Clippers’ crowd fired up at the team’s pep rally

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Los Angeles Clippers won’t be changing their name. But if they were, Hurricanes would be appropriate.

L.A. is known for earthquakes, not howling tropical storms. But the latter is exactly what comes to mind after the franchise’s new owner blew into the city Monday afternoon.

Hurricane Steve.

Clippers players on stage at Staples Center on Monday couldn’t help but smile wide and long as they welcomed new owner Steve Ballmer. Some covered their mouths as they chuckled under their breath. Others cocked their heads in wonderment as this big, bouncing, balding billionaire bellowed into the microphone during a rally attended by nearly 5,000 fans.

The fans were issued T-shirts that read, simply: “It’s A New Day.”

Hurricane Steve barreled out of an arena tunnel like a bull unleashed in the streets of Pamplona. Eminem’s raucous “Lose Yourself” blared as he fervently clapped his hands, slapped high-fives with fans and double-pumped his fists as if he’d just been called to come on down as the next contestant on the “Price is Right.”

“When he came through the crowd, I literally had goose bumps,” said Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin, who was joined by coach Doc Rivers and teammates Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Matt Barnes and others on stage. “I don’t know if there’s one good word to describe him. I know all our guys are excited about the energy he brings. It’s completely different.”

Ballmer’s price to acquire the team from banned-for-life former owner Donald Sterling was huge, a record $2 billion. This for a franchise that for most of Sterling’s 33 years of ownership was labeled as the worst-run organization in all of sports.

But that started to change over the last few years. Sterling paid Griffin. He paid Paul. He paid to get Rivers from Boston to ensure keeping Paul. Before that he paid $50 million to build a state-of-the-art training facility in L.A.’s upscale Playa Vista neighborhood. There were other signs of fiscal change, too, that raised curiosity within the organization.

Former Clippers center Chris Kaman was drafted sixth overall by L.A. in 2003 , playing there for eight seasons before being traded to New Orleans in the deal that gifted Paul to the Clippers in December 2011, following the lockout. In a 2012 interview, a year after the trade, Kaman reflected on how far the franchise had come:  “The worst possible franchise in NBA and all sports history … to one of the top ones.”

He then quipped that such a transformation could really go the distance, “if Sterling sold the team.”

Well … hey.

Ironically, after decades of stinginess, the surfacing of Sterling’s better judgment in running the team has set up the giddy Ballmer with the most talented, most championship-ready roster in the franchise’s history in L.A. Paul and Griffin are locked in for the next four years. Rivers isn’t going anywhere. Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO from Seattle, promised Clippers fans the team isn’t going anywhere either. He said he loves Seattle, but he loves L.A., too, and he won’t move the team “for a hundred reasons.”

He said at least a hundred more things that drew applause as his booming voice grew hoarse.

It is a new day in Clipperland. A much different day.

Hurricane Steve will take it from here.

Morning Shootaround — July 27


VIDEO: LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers visits China

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Lakers got the right man for the job in Byron Scott | USAB roster vulnerable without Love? | Turner and Celtics find perfect fit in each other | Finding Gregg Popovich in the summer

No. 1: Lakers got the right man for the job in Byron Scott: — It absolutely took forever for the Los Angeles Lakers to find what they feel is the best fit for their new coach. And there’s good reason for it. Had things played out differently in free agency, LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony might have had a say (along with Kobe Bryant, of course) in who replaced Mike D’Antoni. That’s not saying it would not have been Byron Scott. But there is no guarantee. Ultimately, as Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com points out, the Lakers got the right man for the job:

It was no secret that if they ended up pulling off a coup and landing LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony or both, they wanted to entice the superstars to come by letting them have a say in who would coach them.

All the while, however, they kept Scott in the loop, bringing him back for a second interview June 10 prior to free agency and then again for a third talk July 16 after the Anthony/James dream had died and L.A. instead filled up its roster with the likes of Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer and Ed Davis.

Which brings us to the second question that needs to be asked: Why Byron?

It wasn’t just about his ties to the Showtime era, but that surely helped. It wasn’t just that he was around the team all last season as an analyst for the Lakers’ television station, Time Warner Cable SportsNet, and had an intimate knowledge of what went down, but that helped too.

The Lakers franchise also wanted to establish a clear defensive identity after being atrocious on that end of the court last season, and Scott’s credentials include a strong defensive-minded reputation.

But really, the Scott hire comes down to one man: Kobe Bryant. L.A. invested close to $50 million in Bryant over the next two seasons when he’ll be 36 and a 19-year veteran and 37 and a 20-year veteran.

Despite all that’s gone wrong in Laker Land since Phil Jackson retired in 2011, Bryant still remains as a box office draw and a future first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Whichever coach the Lakers decided on would have to mesh well personalitywise with Bryant first and foremost and, beyond that, play a system that would help Bryant continue to be productive even as Father Time is taking his toll.

It was no accident that Bryant publicly endorsed Scott for the job during his youth basketball camp in Santa Barbara, California, earlier this month.

“He was my rookie mentor when I first came into the league,” Bryant said. “So I had to do things like get his doughnuts and run errands for him and things like that. We’ve had a tremendously close relationship throughout the years. So, obviously I know him extremely well. He knows me extremely well. I’ve always been a fan of his.”

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CP3 boycott talk is doomsday scenario


VIDEO: What happens to the Clippers if they have to play without Chris Paul next season?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — If the Donald Sterling affair didn’t have your undivided attention before, it should now.   

The Los Angeles Clippers’ ownership drama has taken a sinister turn. Clippers superstar and Players Association President Chris Paul is throwing out the possibility of a boycott if Sterling remains owner of the team.

The mere mention, in a probate court hearing, of Clippers president and coach Doc Rivers wanting to go elsewhere if Sterling stays was bad enough. But Paul leading a boycott of his team is a doomsday scenario no one wants to see. If Paul, All-Star Blake Griffin and the rest of the Clippers refuse to take the court when training camp begins, this situation takes on an entirely new dynamic.

Paul and Rivers have discussed what might happen if Sterling remains in control of the team that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has agreed to purchase for $2 billion. Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com caught up with Paul Thursday after he finished up coaching his AAU team in Las Vegas:

“That’s something me and Doc are both talking about,” Paul said Thursday after coaching his AAU program, CP3. “Something has to happen, and something needs to happen soon — sooner rather than later.”

Interim Clippers CEO Dick Parsons testified earlier in the week in state court that Rivers told him on multiple occasions that he doesn’t think he wants to continue coaching the team if Sterling remains in control of the franchise.

“We’re all going to talk about it,” Paul said. “We’re all definitely going to talk about it. Doc, Blake [Griffin], DJ[DeAndre Jordan]. It’s unacceptable.”

“Unacceptable” is the most appropriate term for the ongoing hijacking of the Clippers’ championship window. They didn’t deserve to have their 2013-14 season irreparably damaged in April when Donald Sterling first was caught on tape making racist and derogatory comments, remarks that led NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to ban him from the league for life.

Paul’s dual role as leader of the Clippers and the players’ association requires him to take a dramatic stand if  Sterling is in control of the team when training camps start in early October. Solidarity is a must. A potential boycott may be the only leverage available to players to voice their disappointment in a matter that is going to be decided in the courtroom,  not on the court.

The Clippers considered a boycott when the news of Sterling’s comment broke during the first round of the playoffs in April, but decided to play instead and stage a formal protest by not wearing the Clippers name across their chests during warm ups before Game 5 against the Golden State Warriors.

“It was a real consideration,” Jamal Crawford told us on the Hang Time Podcast after the Clippers’ season ended. “We were all ready to stand strong and do whatever had to be done.”

Rivers is the one who convinced Crawford and the rest of the Clippers to play on. Now, this talk about Rivers bolting and the players boycotting if Sterling remains illustrates the seismic shift in the mood around the organization as the court proceedings continue. Parsons, appointed by the NBA to be the interim CEO of the Clippers, testified in court that the franchise could fall into a “death spiral” if Clippers fans, sponsors, players and coaches flee the scene should Donald Sterling remain the owner.

The closing arguments in the current legal fight — determining whether Sterling’s wife, Shelly Sterling, was within her rights to sell the franchise to Ballmer for that record $2 billion — come Monday in probate court. That’s when we’ll find out if the agreed-upon sale to Ballmer will proceed or all involved will be plunged into even deeper legal waters. (And even if the sale is allowed, there’s a good chance that Donald Sterling will appeal the ruling.)

Deadlines for the sale to be finalized have shifted with each and every legal turn. The initial date was July 15, before the extension to Aug. 15. The NBA will resume termination proceedings if the sale is not closed by Sept. 15. That could provide Paul and his teammates just weeks to decide what they’re going to do before training camp begins.

Based on what he said in Vegas, Paul is still formulating a plan. But it seems as if he and the rest of the Clippers are ready to dig in for a long, hard fight.

Back to court in the Sterling affair

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Any hope that a Monday meeting between Donald Sterling and Steve Ballmer would provide some sort of resolution to the Los Angeles Clippers’ ownership saga, currently tied up in probate court, should be tempered with a cold dose of Sterling reality.

Nothing with this comes quickly or definitively.

The process of separating Sterling from the Clippers has had more starts, stops and resets than anyone could have imagined when Shelly Sterling signed an agreement on May 29 to sell the team for $2 billion to Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO.

Monday’s meeting, after court adjourned, between the Clippers’ current owner and the team’s possibly future one sent a buzz around the basketball world. But, by now, we all should realize that Donald Sterling’s mood and mind changes on a dime. There is no need to read too much into “friendly” talks between the two men. Not when there is so much that could change throughout the course of this probate hearing, which continues Tuesday and Wednesday with closing arguments scheduled for Monday.

The most optimistic of observers held out hope that a settlement might have been reached after the meeting. That is, undoubtedly, the preferred outcome of many.

But just last week NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he was not certain that new ownership would be in position at the start of the 2014-15 season. The sale agreement between Shelly Sterling and Ballmer mandated that the sale close by July 15, with a possible one month extension built into the deal. If the matter isn’t resolved by Sept. 15 the NBA has the option of resuming the termination proceedings and the sale of the team.

Our David Aldridge asked and answered the bigger and perhaps even better question before Monday’s meeting: What happens if Donald or Shelly Sterling is still in charge of the Clippers when training camp starts?

There is another provision that allows the parties another year to consummate the sale, subject to Ballmer’s and the league’s approval. That would, of course, mean that Shelly or Donald Sterling, depending on what the probate judge decides, could still own the team when training camps begin in October.

The NBA has said that that won’t happen, and that if the probate judge rules in Donald Sterling’s favor, it will quickly reinstate the termination hearing originally scheduled for last May, when the league sought to take the team from Donald Sterling after it determined he had made racist remarks in a conversation with a girlfriend. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Donald Sterling from the league for life and fined him $2.5 million.

The termination hearing was postponed after the league helped Shelly Sterling find a buyer for the team. Ballmer outbid several well-heeled prospective buyers for the Clippers, who set a record for highest price paid for an NBA franchise. Only the sale of Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 for $2.1 billion is higher.

But when I asked Silver at his news conference last week if he could say with certainty that neither Donald nor Shelly Sterling would still be in charge of the team at the start of next season, he could not.

“No, I cannot say with certainty, and I can’t say with certainty because it’s in the hands of the probate court right now, and Donald is in the process of suing us for lots of money, and we’re defending ourselves against those lawsuits,” Silver said, referring to the $1 billion lawsuit Donald Sterling filed both against the league and Silver in June.

“The only thing I’ll say, and I appreciate that [Sacramento Mayor] Kevin Johnson, who’s been representing in essence the players in this matter and direct discussions with the players and the Players Association understand it’s very difficult to say anything with certainty in a situation like this,” Silver continued. “I can say with certainty we are doing everything in our power to move Donald out as an owner in the NBA, and as I said, if the probate ruling doesn’t go in our favor, we’ll recommence our procedures under termination.”

So while the Monday get-together made for promising headlines, it should be noted that there are reportedly no more talks planned, per The Los Angeles Times.

Plus, there is so much more ground to cover in the probate hearing. The chief financial officer of Donald’s properties said in court Monday that Sterling needs the sale to go through to pay off some $500 million in loans — or he’d have to sell off a large part of his real estate empire.

That bit of news may provide some additional hope for those looking for a quick resolution to this mess. But there are almost certainly more twists and turns coming. That’s the reality.


VIDEO: Doc Rivers talks about the Clippers’ spring and summer roller coaster, courtesy of the Sterling affair

Morning shootaround — July 16


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played July 14

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Hornets, Stephenson reach deal | Reports: Wolves, Warriors renew Love trade talks | Parsons clarifies comments about Houston | ‘The Greek Freak’ at point guard? | Silver: Clips sale may not happen soon

No. 1: Report: Stephenson headed to Hornets — The Charlotte Hornets opened free agency by taking a big swing at landing restricted free-agent swingman Gordon Hayward of the Jazz, but Utah matched the Hornets’ offer sheet last weekend. Swing No. 2 appears to be a success for the Hornets this time, though, as they have agreed to terms on a three-year deal with Indiana Pacers standout (and unrestricted free agent) Lance Stephenson, as first reported by Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. This marks a big loss for the Pacers — who had the best record in the East last season — but there had been talk that contract negotiations between Stephenson and Indiana had broken down of late. Bonnell has more on the move for Charlotte:

Following an all-night negotiating session, the Charlotte Hornets have come to an agreement to sign Indiana Pacers shooting guard Lance Stephenson, the Observer has learned.

Under terms of the agreement, Stephenson will make $9 million in 2014-15 and $9 million in 2015-16. Stephenson will get a slight raise in 2016-17 if the Hornets pick up the team option.

Stephenson fills an obvious need, as the Hornets were weak offensively at the shooting guard and small forward positions. The 6-foot-5 Stephenson had a breakthrough season statistically, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He also shot 49 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range.

However, he has a quirky personality that seems to have limited his market when he became an unrestricted free agent July 1.

The Pacers had offered Stephenson $44 million over five seasons, and reportedly did not come off that number. Stephenson thought he was worth considerably more.

But the question becomes how Stephenson’s quirkiness might play out once he signs a lucrative contract extension. He famously blew in opponent LeBron James’ ear in the playoffs. He was fined for flopping this season and was charged with 14 technical fouls, fourth-most in the NBA.

It is not the Hornets’ habit to take frequent risks on high-maintenance players. Trading for Stephen Jackson worked out for two seasons before they traded him on to the Milwaukee Bucks. Now they have drafted P.J. Hairston, a player who lost his NCAA eligibility over improper benefits and who recently was cited for punching a teenager during a pickup game at a Durham YMCA.

Hornets owner Michael Jordan has said one of his team’s greatest strengths last season was the character of the players on the roster. Did that embolden the front office to pursue Stepehenson? Is Stephenson now a threat to that chemistry?

Certainly the Hornets faced competitive pressure in the Eastern Conference. The Cleveland Cavaliers improved dramatically with the addition of James, so that’s a non-playoff team in the East that now looks like a post-season lock. While the Heat lost James, they weakened the Hornets with the signing of Josh McRoberts.

It’s possible the Hornets would have struggled just to make the playoffs this season without upgrading the roster with a move like Stephenson.

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Silver: Sterling ouster moves slowly


VIDEO: Commissioner Adam Silver talks about the Sterling case

LAS VEGAS – It’s possible Donald Sterling still will own the Los Angeles Clippers next month. It’s even possible, NBA commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged after the league’s Board of Governors meeting here Tuesday, that the publicly disgraced Sterling and his estranged wife Shelly still might own the team when the league opens training camps in October for the 2014-15 season.

As troubling as that might be in terms of public perception, given Sterling’s racially bigoted comments back in April, and as incendiary as that could become as an issue with the NBA’s players, Silver said the methodical pace of the probate trial in Los Angeles between the Sterlings could further delay the Clippers sale to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

“No, I cannot say it with certainty, and I cannot say it with certainty because it’s in the hands of the probate court,” Silver said.

“I can say with certainty, we are doing everything in our power to move Donald out as an owner in the NBA. If the probate ruling doesn’t go in our favor, we’ll recommence our procedures under termination.”

It was Shelly Sterling’s swift sale of the franchise for $2 billion to Ballmer, to which Donald allegedly acquiesced, that prompted the NBA to cancel its termination hearing among the other owners. Only later did Sterling balk at the arrangement and file lawsuits against his wife and the league.

The termination mechanism in the NBA’s constitution and by-laws still is available to Silver and the owners. But the probate trial in L.A. – with Donald challenging Shelly’s right to remove him as a co-trustee of the family trust and to sell the team, based on two doctors’ findings that the 81-year-old billionaire was mentally incapacitated – is grinding slowly.

And based on Sterling’s broken relationship with the league and his plan to sue the NBA for $1 billion, another courtroom decision could thwart or delay any forced transfer beyond the tentative Sept. 15 deadline.

“It’s possible that some court would step in and stop us,” Silver said during the news conference. “I think it’s highly, highly unlikely because we are absolutely acting within our rights. And I think what’s transpired in probate court so far has made it even clearer that we’re acting not only within our rights but doing what is right and appropriate in this situation.”

The NBA has monitored the probate trial, to the point of having a lawyer in the courtroom reporting back regularly to the league. Silver said his sense was that, once the judge hears all testimony, a ruling could follow quickly. But no end date currently is known.

Three days after Sterling’s ugly comments about blacks were made public, Silver imposed a lifetime ban on the man who has owned the Clippers since 1981. He fined Sterling $2.5 million and said that, with his “offensive and hurtful views,” Sterling had violated league rules and damaged the NBA as a business enterprise. The Board of Governors supported Silver’s recommendation that Sterling be forced to sell.

Silver said he has talked both with Kevin Johnson, the Sacramento mayor and former all-NBA point guard who is representing the players in this process, and with some players directly to let them know the timeline of Sterling’s ouster might be delayed. In the days after Sterling’s comments, a number of players reacted angrily. The Clippers staged a symbolic on-court protest and there was at least talk of boycotting a playoff game.

Silver said, however, that those with whom he has spoken have been patient. “They understand it’s very difficult to say anything with certainty in a situation like this,” the commissioner said.

Asked if the NBA considered lessening Sterling’s lifetime ban – which blocks him from even attending games as a spectator – to expedite the Clippers sale, Silver said the league had been open to that early in the process. But there was no follow-through. “I never received any proposals,” Silver said.

Silver touched on a variety of topics that flowed from Tuesday’s four-hour meetings and other league sessions going on in Las Vegas this week:

  • The competition committee met for 10 hours Sunday and Monday, discussing the draft lottery, the playoff system, conference and division structure and details of the centralized replay system to be used starting in 2014-15. Silver said a trial run would start in September using WNBA games. Replays will be cued up at the league’s division in Secaucus, N.J., but game officials in each arena still will make the determinations.
  • The popularity of the summer league in Las Vegas – with attendance up 25 percent, Silver said – has the league open to ideas for a greater role in the nation’s gambling capital. One possibility, mentioned without details as a brainstorm from the competition committee: A midseason tournament of some sort.
  • Negotiations of the NBA’s national TV contracts continue, with Silver expessing confidence that relationships with the current partners would be maintained, perhaps with some additions. He understood the desire by players and their agents to make decisions on contract length this offseason according to an anticipated bump in TV revenues and, thus, a boost in the salary cap. Several, including LeBron James, have signed two-year deals.
  • Silver sees the league’s collective bargaining agreement, which was hammered out only after a rancorous lockout in 2011, working fine in 2014 free agency. “I think for the league, all the speculation, all of the chatter around Carmelo [Anthony] and what other players would do, Pau Gasol, [has been] very exciting,” he said. “You want to strike the right balance. I think a certain amount of free-agent movement is positive. It creates a sense of renewal for a lot of markets.”
  • The board approved a slate of minority owners for the Milwaukee Bucks to join majority owners Wes Edens and Marc Lasry, who purchased that team in April for $550 million. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, rumored to be interested in a piece of the franchise, was not mentioned at the meeting, Silver said.
  • As for James’ decision to go back to Cleveland, Silver said he was “moved” by the first-person essay on SI.com in which the four-time MVP shared his love for home and northeast Ohio. But Silver added: “What I heard from a lot of owners in the league was, ‘I wish my city was his hometown.’ “

Spurs, Heat Have Questions (And More Offseason Queries)

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.cm

VIDEO: The GameTime crew discusses what’s next for the Spurs

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The San Antonio Spurs won their fifth championship since 1999, but it took 15 years for the most stable franchise in pro sports to play in back-to-back NBA Finals. What’s left to accomplish?

That’s right, back-to-back titles.

That’s only one reason to expect Spurs captain Tim Duncan to continue his brilliant career for at least a 18th season. The talk has always been about Kobe Bryant chasing Michael Jordan‘s six rings, but it’s now Duncan in his twilight years who has the greatest chance to get it done.

So why in the world would Duncan, his body holding up as strongly as his production, hang ‘em up now?

Versatile forward Boris Diaw, high-octane point guard Patty Mills and reliable-when-needed forward Matt Bonner are the only players not under contract for next season. While Diaw and Mills have raised their stock and will be attractive free agents, it’s certainly not out of the question that they’ll be back in the silver-and-black.

Even if the Spurs lose one, or both, their Big Three — plus Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and a couple new reinforcements for the bench — will have the Spurs as a favorite to make it three consecutive Finals appearances.

Duncan, 38, just completed a phenomenal postseason, averaging 16.3 ppg on 52.3 percent shooting and 9.1 rebounds while logging 32.7 mpg. That followed up a regular season in which he played in 74 games while coach Gregg Popovich again masterfully managed his playing time.

So, again, what would be the motivation to retire now? A man of similar body type, the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, won a championship with the Lakers at age 40 and played in The Finals at age 41.

While Duncan, for whatever reason, hasn’t come out and stated that he’ll be back despite still having one year and $10.3 million left on his contract, he has smiled through interviews while making statements lightly-sprinkled with hints that he has no plan of joining San Antonio resident David Robinson on the golf course quite yet.

Fortunately, the anticipation for a definitive answer won’t take long. Duncan has a June 24 deadline, that’s one week from today, to notify the Spurs of his plans.

The Miami Heat’s future won’t be resolved quite so soon. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can all opt out of their contracts and become free agents. What they decide to do will be the biggest story of the summer and whatever they decide will produce ripple effects across the league.

And that brings us to the biggest story lines of the summer:

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Morning shootaround: June 13


VIDEO: Daily Zap for June 12

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Duncan breaks two records | Higgins out as Hornets president | Sterling hires investigators | LeBron’s decision won’t hinge on title

No. 1: Duncan rewrites postseason history — Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said his all-time great power forward Tim Duncan won’t care about the two postseason records he set in Thursday’s Game 4. He might not just yet, but once he leaves the game — whenever that will be — those records will probably be quite meaningful to him. Duncan passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most career minutes in postseason history (he now has 8,869) and he moved ahead of Magic Johnson for most career postseason double-doubles. Duncan’s 10 points and 11 rebounds gave him his 158th. Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express News has more:

While Duncan is far more concerned with securing the last victory the Spurs need to earn their fifth championship, he admitted to being honored after passing a pair of all-time greats in Thursday’s 107-86 victory over Miami: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most career minutes in NBA postseason history, and Magic Johnson for the most playoff double-doubles.

Duncan, who scored 10 points with 11 rebounds, now has 8,869 minutes and 158 double-doubles in 233 playoff games.

“I can appreciate you saying the names and having passed them in anything,” he said. “It’s an honor to be in that position. Having won (Game 4) helps, obviously, but the focus is on winning one more, and once that is done I can look back and say hey, that’s truly an honor.”

Abdul-Jabbar feels similarly about Duncan, sending a congratulatory note via Twitter: Congrats to #TimDuncan on passing me for the most minutes played in the NBA Finals – I appreciate the fact that you did it with class!

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No. 2: Higgins out as draft approaches — A story literally hot off the presses, the Charlotte Hornets issued a press release shortly after midnight on Friday stating president of basketball operations Rod Higgins “has stepped down.” The strangely timed press release, coming not long after the Spurs wrapped up Game 4 in Miami, said general manager Rich Cho will continue in his position. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer has more details as much more will be learned today:

In an odd and ill-timed press release, the Hornets announced past midnight Friday that president of basketball operations Rod Higgins has “stepped down” two weeks before the Hornets make the ninth, 24th and 45th picks in the draft.

Higgins has effectively run the Bobcats/Hornets basketball ops since June of 2011. He was a key figure in the decisions to sign free agents Al Jefferson and Ramon Sessions.

The Hornets noted in their press release that general manager Rich Cho will continue to report to Michael Jordan and vice-chairman Curtis Polk.

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No. 3: Sterling hires private investigators — The shamed owner of the Los Angeles Clippers has apparently decided to turn his fight against the league ugly. Donald Sterling‘s team of lawyers have hired four private investigators to dig up dirt on the NBA’s 29 other owners, plus former commissioner David Stern and new commissioner Adam Silver. The Associated Press has the details:

Investigators were given a six-figure budget over the next 30 days to examine the league’s finances, allegations of previous discriminatory conduct and compensation to past commissioner David Stern and current commissioner Adam Silver, said the person who spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday night on condition of anonymity. The person wasn’t authorized to talk publicly.

The person said the investigators also are looking into whether other owners made any off-color jokes, or racist or sexist remarks.

“The gloves are off, as they say,” the person said. “Have them dig up all the dirt they can find.”

The person who spoke to the AP said Donald Sterling reluctantly agreed to hire private investigators after this week’s legal proceedings in probate court. The NBA submitted a legal filing Wednesday urging a judge to confirm Shelly Sterling‘s authority to sell the team.

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No. 4: Finals outcome won’t sway LeBron’s decisionLeBron James can opt out of his contract by the end of this month, but his decision won’t be swayed by whether his Miami Heat win or lose the NBA Finals. If they win they will make history as the first team to ever come back from a 3-1 hole. Game 5 is in San Antonio on Sunday night. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com was in Miami:

The Miami Heat would have to make history to come back from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit, but the future of their best player doesn’t hinge on that happening.

The Heat’s success or failure in these Finals will not affect LeBron James’ decision on whether to opt out of his contract by the end of this month, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

James and the Heat would be the first team in NBA Finals history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit and come back and win a title. This is the 32nd time the Finals have been 3-1 after four games.

James, [Dwyane] Wade and [Chris] Bosh can all opt out of their contracts and become free agents after this season. ESPN’s Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst reported Wednesday that discussions have begun within the organization about creating sufficient financial flexibility to make an ambitious run at adding New York Knicks scoring machine Carmelo Anthony this summer in free agency.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Sam Mitchell finalizing deal to join Flip Saunders‘ staff in Minnesota … Top European coach David Blatt is headed to the NBA, just not yet sure whereMetta World Peace accepts assistant head coach job — on a high school girls basketball teamCavaliers coaching search kicks tires on Mark JacksonKurt Rambis could join Derek Fisher‘s staff in New York, but remains a top candidate to coach the Lakers.

GameDay Live: Heat-Spurs Game 4


VIDEO: Old man River Walk (Tim Duncan) and the Spurs looked just as good away from home in The Finals

MIAMI — Didn’t see it coming.

None of us did.

Not like this.

Not from the San Antonio Spurs or the Miami Heat.

Not like this.

In the span of eight quarters the Spurs took the Finals and flipped it upside down and inside out, pushing their lead to 3-1 after Thursday night’s 107-86 thrashing of the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena. The best road team in the NBA this season showed themselves to be every bit of the juggernaut away from home that their record indicates they should be.

All that’s left is the close out. It could come as early as Sunday night in San Antonio, provided the Spurs keep this up. No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in The Finals (0-31). No team has won consecutive road games by 15 or more points in The Finals … until now.

History will be made in this series, one way or another.

But I promise, no one saw this coming.

No one!

The Spurs didn’t.

And the Heat certainly didn’t see it coming!

Revenge of the Spurs

Tony Parker said he likes the term “rematch” better. Call it what you want. But two straight beatdowns on the road gives the Spurs the right to call it whatever they want.

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Silver confident Sterling mess is ‘over’


VIDEO: Adam Silver talks to the media about the Clippers sale

SAN ANTONIO – Adam Silver wasn’t ready to, er, dunk the basketball – it wouldn’t do for the NBA commissioner to be spiking the football under any circumstances – but he stood before a media throng Sunday calm and confident that the Donald Sterling/racist comments fiasco soon would be over.

Six weeks and one day earlier, Silver had faced the first serious challenge of his rookie year as commissioner – Sterling’s offensive remarks had blown up on April 26 and Silver held two news conferences in rapid succession: the first an impromptu session in Memphis for damage control and awareness, the second just three days later to announce the sanctions against Sterling and his eventual banishment from the league.

Fast-forward to Sunday: The Clippers are being sold to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for a jaw-dropping $2 billion (nearly quadruple the largest franchise price in NBA history) and Shelly Sterling, Donald’s wife, has indemnified the league against any lawsuit brought by her husband, which of course he has.

As Silver fielded questions before Game 2 of The Finals, he or any of his constituencies – the owners, the players, even the fans – hardly could have hoped for a swifter, more satisfying outcome.

Though, to be completely accurate and cautious, the deal and the departure of Sterling as embarrassment and antagonist is at the rim, not quite through the net (see, can’t use goal line imagery either).

“We’re almost there,” Silver said. “There is this last piece, and that is the lawsuit that Donald brought against the league and me personally.”

That’s where the indemnification part comes in. “In essence,” Silver said, “Donald is suing himself and he knows that. While I understand he is frustrated, I think it’s over. It’s just a matter of time now and then we will move on to better topics and back to The Finals.”

The topics Silver had to deal with Sunday mostly alternated between Sterling updates and more info on the loss of air conditioning at Game 1 of Miami-San Antonio series Thursday at the AT&T Center.

Regarding the Sterlings, Silver shot down reports that Shelly Sterling might have some sort of ongoing role with the Clippers after Ballmer’s purchase is complete. She would dedicate some of the proceeds of the sale to a charitable foundation over which she would preside, but “that’s her money,” Silver said. It won’t be affiliated with the basketball team.

Silver said the other penalties against Sterling – his ban from even attending NBA games and a $2.5 million fine – definitely remain in place. He said he spoke to the disgraced Clippers owner in a phone call soon after the sanctions were announced April 29 and described Sterling as “distraught” and “not remorseful.”

As for Sterling’s professional history – he had been charged with racially discriminatory practices more than a decade ago in housing disputes and in his dealings with former Clippers GM Elgin Baylor – Silver was non-committal on the NBA failing to act in those instances. He said the league monitored the civil cases brought against Sterling, the investigations by the Department of Housing and Department of Justice and the eventual settlements (without admission of guilt) or, in the Baylor case, no judgment against the billionaire.

“It’s a fair point that in hindsight possibly we should have done more,” Silver said. “Certainly if I had to do it again, maybe we would have done more. But our eyes are open going forward.”

Regarding the extreme heat of Game 1 once the cooling system malfunctioned – and the cramps that sent LeBron James from the game in the final minutes, seemingly sealing Miami’s loss – Silver acknowledged it as “not one of my prouder moments in my short tenure as commissioner.”

But he was at the game, too, and felt that he and Rod Thorn, the league’s head of basketball operations, had the best available info from the AT&T Center maintenance crew. “There was never a point where we were considering either postponing or cancelling the game,” Silver said.

He added: “I’m glad this isn’t single elimination; it’s the best of seven. So it’s too early to say how this Finals will be remembered.”