Doc Rivers: "It'd be very difficult" if Shelly Sterling keeps ownership of Clippers


Shelly Sterling, the wife of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, watches the Clippers play against the Golden State Warriors in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on April 27, 2014, in Oakland, Calif.

Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images

As he prepared for Friday's playoff game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Clippers coach Doc Rivers answered questions about what would happen if Donald Sterling's wife, Shelly, retains ownership of the team.

"I think it'd be a very hard situation, if you want me, I'll say that much. I think it'd be very difficult," Rivers said.

Shelly Sterling claims she owns a 50 percent stake in the team alongside her husband, who was banned from the NBA last week as punishment for racially-charged comments he made in an audio recording, reports CBS News' Carter Evans.

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In announcing his decision, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the sanction was intended for Donald Sterling, not his family.

"Mrs. Sterling wants to retain her 50 percent ownership interests," said Pierce O'Donnell, Shelly's lawyer. "The team is owned by a family trust. Donald owns 50 percent, Shelley owns 50 percent. Her desire or goal here is to retain her 50 percent ownership, whatever happens to Donald."

Donald Sterling could be ousted as owner of the Clippers by a three-quarters vote of other NBA team owners, but O'Donnell said his client will fight if the league tries to force her out as well.

"She loves the team. If she could avoid a public battle, she will, but if somebody tries to tell her she has to sell the team or try to seize the team, look out for Shelley Sterling," O'Donnell said.

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Her lawyer said the Sterlings are estranged and his client is considering a divorce, prompting comparisons to the case of former Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt, who fought a nasty divorce battle as Major League Baseball tried to force them to sell their team. Mark Kaplan represented the league in that courtroom and said, this time, the NBA will likely only recognize one owner of the team, not two.

"She does not have a 50 percent interest," Kaplan said. "She has an undivided one-half interest in the 100 percent interest that Donald Sterling has. The fact that she wants to keep what she calls her 50 percent and let Donald be forced to sell his, I don't think it works that way."

Donald Sterling has yet to answer questions about his intentions, but on Thursday, an unauthenticated recording of his voice surfaced, in which he says he doesn't think he can be forced to sell his team.