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Sterling approves the sale, ready to move on

Donald Sterling has apparently had a change of heart and will not pursue any legal action to block the sale of the Clippers. Pending a pro forma approval by the league's owners, Steve Ballmer will be the new owner without further drama.

Jeff Gross

If Donald Sterling is to be believed -- and bear in mind, Donald Sterling is rarely to be believed -- he has accepted his fate, signed off on the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and will drop his lawsuit against the NBA and won't pursue litigation against his estranged wife Shelly Sterling, who arranged the sale acting as the sole trustee of the Trust that owns the team.

In other words -- the ownership battle is over in a manner that is almost eerily painless.

A few caveats on this latest development. First of all, the league's Board of Governors (i.e. the 29 other owners) still have to ratify the sale, but that's a mere formality. Ballmer was vetted last year when he was part of an effort to purchase the Kings, and he's exactly the type of owner the NBA wants -- enthusiastic, squeaky clean and filthy rich.

Secondly, the saga was already over for everyone involved except for DTS. The lawsuit he filed against the NBA last week was a joke, asking for damages based on the fact that the league had forced him to sell, when he fact they hadn't forced him to sell -- not yet anyway. I doubt that Sterling will ever pay the $2.5M fine that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver originally levied upon him in the immediate aftermath of the racism scandal, but no one's really going to lose any sleep over that. Sterling had the option of filing suits and dragging the process out and most observers suspected he would. The most promising legal avenue might have been to sue Shelly over her right to make the sale in the first place (an avenue that might also have invalidated the indemnification that Shelly granted to the NBA against legal action from DTS). But Ballmer and the NBA clearly accepted Shelly's legal authority to sell the team, which tells me she was on pretty solid footing. And a lawsuit on that front promised to be at least embarrassing for Donald, since it would have put his mental state under a microscope, given that Shelly's justification for assuming control of the trust was the fact that DTS had been ruled by doctors to be mentally incapable of doing so. Bottom line -- Donald's best legal option wasn't any good.

Final caveat: it seems like it's over based on what Donald is saying, but stick around. Donald Sterling has never really allowed things he says on Wednesday to have any bearing on things he says on Friday. It's entirely possible that he'll completely contradict himself again before I've finished recapping the current situation. Whether it's Alzheimer's or just Donald being Donald, he doesn't seem to have much long term memory.

But as of now, according to both ESPN LA and the LA Times, Sterling is going to drop any litigation and allow the sale of the team. On Tuesday night he told NBC-4 news that he was ready to "Move on" and he and his lawyers reiterated that sentiment on Wednesday night.

And why shouldn't Sterling just accept the sale? He bought the team for $12.5M 33 years ago, and Ballmer is paying $2B -- almost four times more than any NBA team has ever fetched.

When the Clippers were sleepwalking through Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs a month ago it seemed like we were in for a very difficult off-season. The NBA had never acted against Donald Sterling before, despite having plenty of evidence that he was a problem, so why would they act this time? The players would never agree to continue to play for him if the league didn't act. And even if the league did try to get rid of him he would take the battle into court where it would drag on for months if not years.

Yet here we are, still awaiting Game 1 of the Finals and the NBA Draft, and the situation is essentially resolved, wildly in favor of the team and their fans. The new owner will be in place long before the start of free agency, Doc Rivers will have full authority to upgrade the roster, and the focus will be on the goal of winning a championship and making the Clippers "America's team" as Ballmer has stated.

Every time I think it can't possibly be this easy, it gets a little easier.