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Don't Let NBA Playoffs Get Lost In Sterling's Shadow


The Donald Sterling saga continues. By now, you probably know that the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers was caught making racist comments on a tape and then fined two-and-half million dollars by the NBA, and banned from the game for life. Well, yesterday the league took the first steps to strip Sterling of his ownership of the Clippers.

Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis joins us now as he does most Fridays. Hi, Stefan.


SIEGEL: And bring us up to date on the sterling story.

FATSIS: Well, the NBA's advisory and finance committee, which is a group of 10 owners, voted unanimously yesterday to move ahead with stripping Sterling's ownership. Commissioner Adam Silver next has to bring formal charges. Sterling will have a chance to respond. Then the league's board of governors will hold a hearing. A three-quarters vote, or 23 of the 30 owners, is needed to terminate his ownership. This could happen within a few weeks. If it does, the league would then manage a sale of the Clippers. After paying off team debts, Sterling would keep the profits. He paid $12.7 million for the team in 1981. They're worth north of $600 million today.

SIEGEL: Meanwhile, the New York Post reported yesterday that Sterling has prostate cancer.

FATSIS: Yeah, how this is going to affect the process is anybody's guess. Through one of its newest team owners and one of its few owners of color, India-born tech businessman Vivek Ranadive of the Sacramento Kings, the NBA has been pushing this message that we hope Sterling does the right thing and sells. But Sterling's M.O. in the real-estate business has been to buy and hold and never sell.

He's 80. He's sick. He's notoriously litigious. At this point, he just might want to stick it to his fellow owners.

SIEGEL: Now, during the time that the Sterling story has commanded so much attention, the NBA postseason has been very interesting. And first, the Clippers have been playing basketball in those playoffs. How are they doing?

FATSIS: Their point guard, Chris Paul, is the president of the players union. He was instrumental in helping to pressure the league to take swift and decisive action against Donald Sterling. That he could do with a sore hamstring. Playing to his usual all-star ability, he could not do last night. He scored just nine points on three of 10 shooting as the Clippers lost to the Golden State Warriors 100 to 99. That series is now tied at three games apiece. A deciding game seven will be played tomorrow in Los Angeles.

SIEGEL: And two other game sevens will also be played tomorrow, Memphis at Oklahoma City and Atlanta at Indiana.

FATSIS: Yup, it's going to be the first time that the NBA has had three game sevens in one day. Atlanta is the lowest seed in the Eastern Conference. They're trying to knock off the dysfunctional number one seed, Indiana.

But the more headline-worthy story was a headline in the Oklahoman newspaper earlier this week: Mr. Unreliable, the paper wrote, referring to Kevin Durant, and his subpar performance in the first six games against Memphis. You know, and it was subpar, but only by Durant's absurd standards as one of the game's best and most consistent players.

In any case, T-shirts were made that said: Reliable. The newspaper apologized for the headline. And Durant scored 36 points as the Thunder blew out the Grizzlies last night. As someone on Twitter noted, the paper should have gone with you're welcome as today's headline.

SIEGEL: Now on tonight's schedule, there are three elimination games. That means that in this first-round series a lot of them have come down to the wire.

FATSIS: Yeah, only two are done and one was predictable, the defending champion Miami Heat sweeping Charlotte. The other was not so predictable, the Washington Wizards ousting Chicago in five games. This is a basketball revival of sorts in D.C, led by young stars Bradley Beal and John Wall. According to a story in today's Washington Post, one of the reasons has been a regular, mandatory team dinner and outings, bowling and stuff like that.

And if this sounds like an old chestnut of a story, Robert, it is. But at least this one had some balance in the form of veteran Andre Miller, who said: It helps a little bit but not too much. In other words, being better at basketball helps more...


SIEGEL: OK, thank you, Stefan.

FATSIS: Thanks, Robert.

SIEGEL: Stefan Fatsis is a panelist on Slate's sports podcast, Hang Up and Listen. He joins us most Fridays to talk about sports and the business of sports.



This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stefan Fatsis began talking about "sports and the business of sports" with the hosts of All Things Considered in 1998. Since then he has been a familiar weekly voice on the games themselves and their financial, legal and social implications.
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