NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to Punish Donald Sterling Today.

Doctor Evil

Commissioner Adam Silver proclaimed the game in great shape.

On the court, it is. The playoffs have been outstanding — already seven overtime games (an NBA record for one round) and several others decided in the final minutes of regulation.

Silver had no idea then an audio recording, allegedly of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, uttering racist comments was about to interrupt and overshadow a compelling start to the postseason and possibly damage the league's reputation.

Now Silver, less than three months into job since taking over for David Stern, faces his first true watershed moment with players, coaches, owners, fans and sponsors awaiting his next move.

Expect Silver to penalize Sterling as harshly as possible. Silver said the commissioner's office has a broad range of powers under the NBA's constitution and bylaws, which are not public.

"The commissioner is given broad powers to protect the best interests of the NBA, and those powers extend to both the players and the owners," Tulane law professor and sports law expert Gabe Feldman said. "The devil is in the details, and the details are in the confidential NBA constitution and bylaws. My understanding is that the owners have given the commissioner power to discipline."

Silver will probably use the ubiquitous "conduct detrimental the league" clause, and a suspension and fine is a potential, if not likely, outcome.

"Any more severe discipline, including a forced sale or termination of the franchise, is limited to more extreme circumstances that don't apply here," Feldman said.

Gambling and game fixing or financial insolvency are two examples Feldman said he is aware of that fall into that category. Forcing or ordering Sterling to sell the team is a difficult proposition and likely would come with many legal battles.

It's best to remember that Silver works for the owners, or as Feldman said, "When it comes to the commissioner's authority to discipline the owners, the owners understandably want to be careful how much power they give away.

"While it might be Donald Sterling today for something he said privately, every owner has to have somewhat of a concern that they'll forced to give up an incredibly valuable property."

It's one thing to go against the players in collective bargaining and find a way to distribute billions or raise the age limit for the draft. But with 76.3% of the league's players black and 81% players of color, according Richard Lapchick's 2013 Gender and Race Report Card for the NBA, Silver must stand resolutely on the players' side and deliver a punishment that satisfies them.

He looks like a Bond villain. Hopefully he does the right thing today.