Shelly Sterling Muddles NBA’s Plan For Clippers

Shelly Sterling’s desire to control of the Clippers in the wake of her husband’s lifetime ban is a “wild card” for the NBA, a league official tells James Rainey, Mike Bresnahan and Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times. The NBA apparently didn’t consider that she would attempt to hold on to ownership of the team when it meted out its punishment to Donald Sterling last week.

Shelly Sterling believes she’s legally entitled to the team, and doesn’t think her husband’s ban applies to her or her family, according to Rainey, Bresnahan and Fenno. Her stance could pose a serious problem, as union vice president Roger Mason Jr. said last week that he expected that ownership of the team would wind up outside the Sterling family. Still, commissioner Adam Silver said during his announcement regarding Donald Sterling last week that no decision had been made regarding his family, the Times points out.

“This ruling applies specifically to Donald Sterling and Donald Sterling’s conduct only,” Silver said.

Ownership of the team is held in a Sterling family trust, and sources tell the Times that Shelly Sterling has equal ownership with her husband. Each takes control if the other dies, and Donald Sterling, who’s 80 years old, is reportedly suffering from cancer. The matter becomes further complicated if the Sterlings divorce, as Ramona Shelburne of writes, and Shelly Sterling referred to Donald Sterling as her “estranged” husband in a recent statement. Still, Rainey, Bresnahan and Fenno heard from an analyst who said that Shelly Sterling may require Board of Governors approval to take control of the team in any circumstance.

A source said to the Times that the league asked her not to attend this weekend’s games against Oklahoma City in L.A., as she’s planned, but Shelly Sterling’s attorney denies that. Her attorney also denied that she made racially charged statements to tenants and real estate employees as alleged in legal depositions related to a pair of lawsuits against Donald Sterling.

A friend of Shelly Sterling’s spoke with Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times and referred to her as a “victim” in the saga regarding her husband (Twitter link). That appears to be the mindset in Shelly’s camp as she readies for a fight to hang on to a Clippers franchise she believes is hers, Pincus says.

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