LOS ANGELES – The interim chief executive officer of the Los Angeles Clippers testified Tuesday coach Doc Rivers told him he will quit if Donald Sterling remains the owner of the team.
Interim CEO Richard Parsons testified at a trial to determine whether Sterling’s wife, Shelly, can sell the team for $2 billion to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer as the NBA looks to force Donald Sterling from the league over racist statements made to his girlfriend.
“Doc is troubled by this maybe more so than anybody else,” Parsons said about Rivers, who is black. “If Mr. Sterling continues as owner, he does not want to continue as coach.”
Parsons said he fears there would also be an exodus of key players, including captain Chris Paul.
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Under questioning by Ballmer’s lawyer, Parsons said the departure of Rivers would “accelerate the death spiral” of the Clippers.
It wasn’t immediately clear what effect the new information might have on the rather narrow question under consideration in court — whether Shelly Sterling can sell the team under the family trust.
Parsons said he doesn’t believe anyone will offer as much money for the team as Ballmer. That opinion was seconded by witness Anwar Zakkour, an investment banker who helped broker the deal for Ballmer’s purchase and said he never expected a bid so high.
Explaining why Ballmer would have bid over the value of the team, Zakkour said, “It was a trophy asset.”
Zakkour added, “This is the highest price ever achieved for a sports team. However way you count it, this is an amazing price that anyone should be satisfied with.”
Parsons and Zakkour said if the league seized the team and put it up for auction, the price would drop because there would be less certainty about its future.
Sources said Ballmer and Donald Sterling, with multiple attorneys present, met for about 90 minutes Monday at Sterling’s Beverly Hills home.
Outside court, Sterling’s lawyer, Bobby Samini, said the billionaire would persist in his opposition to the sale because “he feels he was wronged” by the league.
Later Tuesday, Sterling fired off another legal volley, filing a new lawsuit against his wife, the NBA and league commissioner Adam Silver that alleges fraud, breach of contract, unfair business practices and infliction of emotional distress. He claimed, among other things, he was tricked into being examined by psychiatrists to establish whether he was mentally competent.
Shelly Sterling’s lawyer, Pierce O’Donnell, told media Donald Sterling is being driven by “a perverted egotism.”
Meanwhile, the dispute includes yet another piece of litigation: Donald Sterling’s federal antitrust lawsuit. That action, still pending, claims the league treated Sterling differently from other owners. Sterling has said he believes he can win up to $9 billion in damages.
• The Chicago Bulls announced the signing of guard Aaron Brooks, 29, a graduate of Franklin High School in Seattle. Brooks, who played for Houston and Denver last season, signed for a veteran’s minimum exception, the Chicago Tribune reported.
• In a move that could help in pursuit of a trade for Minnesota’s Kevin Love, Cleveland traded guard Carrick Felix and cash to Utah for three players with non-guaranteed contracts, guard John Lucas III and forwards Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy.
The trade will allow the Cavaliers to clear $3.3 million in salary-cap space, room to potentially sign Love or other players.