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The NBA's constitution and bylaws lay out a speedy resolution for termination of ownership, but that does not take into account the possibility that Donald Sterling drags the league into a long court battle over Commissioner Adam Silver's decision to ban Sterling from the NBA for life and force him to sell the Los Angeles Clippers.

At least one person who has battled Sterling in court -- lawyer Carl E. Douglas -- thinks that's exactly what will happen, and the NBA is prepared for that.

"Donald Sterling is a surly, defiant, tyrannical rich guy who is a bully and used to having his way," Douglas said.

The NBA's finance advisory committee, which is considered the league's executive committee, will convene today via conference call to discuss Sterling and the league's next steps.

That committee is made up of Miami Heat owner Micky Arison; Los Angeles Lakers President and governor Jeanie Buss; Oklahoma City Thunder chairman Clay Bennett; New York Knicks owner James Dolan; Boston Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck; Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver; San Antonio Spurs chairman Peter Holt; Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon; Toronto Raptors chairman Larry Tanenbaum; and Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, who is the chairman of the committee and interim chairman of the board of governors.

Each one has voiced support for Silver, who banned Sterling from the NBA for life, fined him $2.5 million and said he will force Sterling to sell the team.

There is a process and timeline the NBA must follow in order to oust Sterling, and that is detailed in its constitution and bylaws: Silver has three days to provide Sterling with the charges, Sterling has five days to respond and then the board of governors will vote within 10 days of Sterling's response.

In a best-case scenario, NBA owners could vote to remove Sterling and force him to sell the team in mid-May. It requires a vote of three-fourths of the board of governors to terminate Sterling's ownership.

But Sterling is expected to throw up a roadblock, filing an injunction to stop the NBA from proceeding. One route Sterling could take is claiming an antitrust violation and saying the NBA is trying to undermine the value of his franchise and injure the competitive process of the league.

Reached by e-mail, longtime Sterling attorney Bob Platt, who is listed as the team's general counsel, said he had no comment.

Lawyers are debating the merits of potential claim, and antitrust attorney Jeffrey I. Shinder said he doesn't think Sterling would have a strong case.

"While a tactical antitrust suit is certainly possible, it should fail," Shinder said.

"Sterling will be hard-pressed to show injury to competition as opposed to his own self-inflicted injuries.

"The repugnance of his conduct and its potential harm to the league and to the Clippers would easily support the NBA's defense of such a suit."


May 1, 2014


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