SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — Former NBA Commissioner David Stern prefers to look at the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers for a record $2 billion and not the decades of Donald Sterling's "interesting" ownership that came before it.
Speaking on Thursday at a media availability before he is to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Stern said the unprecedented offer from former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to buy the troubled franchise "is an exclamation point on the health of the league."
Stern said that the price being paid for the Clippers "is just the next step" in a process that has brought stability to franchises like the New Orleans Hornets, who were seized by the league in 2010 when owner George Shinn couldn't pay his debts. The renamed Pelicans are now ensconced in New Orleans, as are the Bucks in Milwaukee and the Kings in Sacramento, all under new owners.
The Clippers should be next, now that a California probate judge has cleared the way for Shelly Sterling to sell the team she co-owned with her husband to avoid having the franchise seized by the league. While praising new commissioner Adam Silver's handling of the matter, Stern insisted he couldn't have acted under his own tenure because Sterling managed to sidestep definitive legal judgments in two cases where he was accused of racism. (Still, Silver waited just four days, needing no such cover from the legal system, before fining Sterling $2.5 million and banning him for life for racist comments to a girlfriend.)
Asked if he wishes he had done more, Stern said: "There were challenges."
"It was an interesting ownership period," he said. "I'm not going to say anything now that will disturb the waters that will hopefully calm a bit between Adam and Mr. Sterling."
Stern headed a group of 10 Hall of Fame inductees who will be honored on Friday night by the Springfield shrine. Also in the class of 2014 are former NBA stars Alonzo Mourning and Mitch Richmond and NCAA championship-winning coaches Nolan Richardson of Arkansas and Gary Williams of Maryland.
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