LOS ANGELES — Donald Sterling, fighting his wife’s planned $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, arrived in court Tuesday to give testimony but sat stolidly as a psychiatrist testified that he’s mentally incapable of handling financial affairs.
Sterling was ordered to take the witness stand after failing to appear for the start of the lawsuit trial on Monday afternoon. His lawyers are challenging the authority of Shelly Sterling under a family trust to unilaterally cut a deal for the team with former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
In order to be able to make the deal herself, Shelly Sterling had two doctors examine her husband and they declared him mentally incapacitated and unable to act as an administrator of The Sterling Family Trust, which owns the Clippers.
The Sterlings sat across from each other in Superior Court as lawyers prepared to question the 80-year-old billionaire in the non-jury trial.
The NBA has moved to oust Sterling from team ownership because of racist remarks he made to a girlfriend, and a neurologist hired by his wife testified Monday that she believed he has Alzheimer’s disease.
A psychiatrist also hired by Shelly Sterling testified Tuesday that he drew the same conclusion after examining Sterling in May.
Dr. James Sparr said Sterling was friendly, relaxed and cooperative until a final question challenged his abilities.
A frustrated Sterling then said, “‘I have to go,’ and walked out of the room,” Sparr said.
Sparr’s report concluded that Sterling showed early signs of the debilitating mental condition and concluded that “he is substantially unable to manage his finances and resist fraud and malfeasance and is no longer competent to act as a trustee of his trust.”
Sterling’s lawyers contend he’s capable of managing financial affairs.
Sterling showed no emotion during Sparr’s testimony.
However, he pulled his wife over as they got up to leave for a break and kissed her. She wiped away a tear as they parted.
NBA owners are scheduled to vote on the Ballmer deal on July 15. It’s also the day that Ballmer’s offer is set to expire — and there is no deal without the judge’s approval of the sale.
If the sale isn’t completed by Sept. 15, the league said it could seize the team and put it up for auction.
Gortat happy in Washington
ORLANDO, Fla. — Feeling appreciated goes a long way with Marcin Gortat.
It helped him make his time on the free agent market this summer short and sweet.
Though one of the most coveted big men available, he barely spent a day mulling offers before he agreed to sign a five-year, $60 million deal on July 1 to remain with the Washington Wizards. The biggest reason was the team showed him the most “love.”
Now, while some free agents around the league are still figuring out the best place for them to play, the 30-year-old Polish center said he’s relishing getting to spend this week watching Orlando Pro Summer League games before he officially can sign his new contract Thursday.
“For the whole free agency I was patient. I was actually pretty calm. I didn’t really panic too much,” Gortat told The Associated Press. “I knew I had a great season. I knew I had a really good result with the team being successful and I knew everything was going to be fine.”
Gortat was looking forward to exploring offers from suitors around the league, but got a surprise visit in Poland from a delegation of Wizards executives and coaches that included head coach Randy Wittman just prior to the start of free agency. Officials weren’t yet allowed to discuss re-signing him, but were there to assist with Gortat’s basketball camp.
Hornets counting on youth
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Hornets are turning to a pair of young, inexperienced power forwards after losing Josh McRoberts in free agency.
McRoberts was the one player coach Steve Clifford said the team couldn’t afford to lose this offseason.
Yet the seven-year NBA veteran is headed out the door.
The Miami Heat announced Monday they intend to sign McRoberts when the NBA’s moratorium on deals being formally struck ends on Thursday.
Clifford hasn’t been made available to the media this week, but it’s expected second-year player Cody Zeller will take McRoberts’ spot in the starting lineup with Noah Vonleh, the ninth overall pick in last month’s draft, likely to see significant playing time.
The Hornets don’t have any veteran depth at power forward beyond their two youngsters.
Zeller, the No. 4 pick in the 2013 draft, played in 82 games with three starts as a rookie and averaged six points and four rebounds per game last season.
However, he showed dramatic improvement in the second half of the season — and said he’s ready to take on a starting role.
“I feel like I did pretty well in the few starts I had,” Zeller said. “I know it’s a lot different starting than coming off the bench just because of the rotations — I figured that out quick last year. It’ll definitely be different but I’m looking forward to it.”