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Adam Silver says NBA to take 'step back' in dispute between Donald, Shelly Sterling

Adam Silver Adam Silver says the NBA will watch for Shelly and Donald Sterling to settle their dispute (Robyn Beck/Getty Images)

With Donald Sterling following through with his $1 billion lawsuit against the NBA and Shelly Sterling trying to expedite the Clippers' sale, NBA commissioner Adam Silver says the league will "step back" while the Sterling family settles its dispute.

"The next step for the league is to frankly step back and allow this dispute between Donald and Shelly Sterling to play itself out," Silver said at halftime of ABC's telecast of Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday.

Donald Sterling issued a harshly worded statement earlier Tuesday, calling the NBA "a band of hypocrites and bullies" and explaining why he's choosing to reverse course and move forward with his lawsuit against the league. The letter, which included the phrase "I WILL NOT SELL MY TEAM" and took shots at the NBA, was brushed aside by Silver during the ABC interview.

"I have no idea what he's talking about and the focus obviously shouldn't be on me or the NBA," Silver said. "The focus is obviously on Donald Sterling and his conduct. if he wants to litigate, he'll litigate."

But while Donald Sterling fights to keep the Clippers, his wife is trying to sell them as quickly as possible. According to ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne, Shelly Sterling has filed an emergency order from a California court, seeking to finalize the sale to Steve Ballmer.

Silver lamented that the Sterling controversy was overshadowing Game 3 of the NBA Finals, which saw a record shooting display from the Spurs in the first half. 

"It's so unfortunate that [Sterling is] what we're talking about," he said.

Shelly Sterling and Ballmer reached agreement on a $2 billion sale price for the Clippers earlier this month. That agreement includes indemnification for the league from potential legal action brought by Donald Sterling.  Reports have also indicated that Donald Sterling, 80, has been ruled “mentally incapacitated” because of dementia, but Sterling’s legal counsel has pushed back against those statements.

Speaking at his annual Finals press conference before Game 2 of the Finals in San Antonio, Silver acknowledged that Donald Sterling’s pending litigation against the NBA was one of the hurdles that needed to be overcome before Ballmer could officially become the Clippers' new owner.

Silver made it clear that he would not consider lifting Sterling’s lifetime ban or reducing the $2.5 million fine he levied against Sterling.

McCANN: What’s next for Sterling, NBA in lawsuit?

“There is absolutely no possibility that the lifetime ban will be rescinded or that the fine will be changed in any way,” Silver said.

Additionally, he revealed that he spoke with a “distraught” Sterling shortly after levying the lifetime ban, noting that Sterling “was not remorseful at that time.”

The NBA’s Board of Governors is set to meet in mid-July. A vote on the sale of the Clippers is expected to occur at that meeting, but it could happen more quickly, depending on the completion of the sale process and the resolution of Sterling’s lawsuit.

SI.com's Ben Golliver contribute to this report. 

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