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DALLAS — Magic Johnson said Friday that none of the current Los Angeles Clippers players would play for the team if Shelly Sterling, the estranged wife of team owner Donald Sterling, retains her 50% ownership stake in the team.

"Those guys are not going to play for anybody (named) Sterling," Johnson told USA TODAY Sports and two other reporters at the Omni Dallas Hotel. "It's just how it is. It's hard to separate the two. ... It's going to be hard for them to sell that to the fans and definitely to the players."

USA TODAY Sports reported on Thursday that Shelly Sterling intends to remain a 50% owner of the Clippers, even though the NBA banned her husband for life in the wake of his racist remarks that were tape recorded and released by the website TMZ. Shelly Sterling said she would remain a passive owner and does not want to be involved in running the team.

But Johnson said it is impossible to separate Shelly Sterling from her husband, even though her voice was absent from the audio recording. He noted past allegations about deplorable living conditions by tenants who lived in properties owned by the Sterlings.

"When they accused them of (being) slumlords, that was both, it wasn't one person," Johnson said. "It was both of them. ... They will never recover from this. All the sponsors pulling out, they will pull out for good if she is owning it. It's not going to be the same."

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When asked to characterize his level of interest in buying the Clippers, Johnson said he wanted to wait until the team is officially up for sale before he states his interest level. Johnson has said that he one day wants to own an NBA team.

"First of all, we have to all remember that that is a long way away," Johnson said. "The board of governors first has to vote him out. Donald Sterling is going to fight it. You know that. It is going to be a long time.

"I have other things to do before I just say my level of interest. The team has to be up for sale. And I think that is going to be eight months to a year. Once it's official, that it's really up for sale, we'll take a look at it."

Johnson praised Kevin Johnson, the former NBA standout and current mayor of Sacramento, and Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers for their poise and leadership throughout a controversy that resonated beyond the sports world. And Johnson said he was proud of the leadership exhibited by Clippers point guard Chris Paul and Miami Heat star LeBron James for "rallying the whole league, all the players."

Johnson said that it wasn't only the Clippers who would have sat out playoff games had NBA Commissioner Adam Silver not imposed a harsh punishment on Sterling, who also received a $2.5 million fine.

"Everybody was going to boycott," Johnson said.

Johnson, who was in Texas on Friday with his wife, Cookie, to receive the Roger Staubach Award, was pleased with the sanctions imposed by Silver.

"It's a shame all of this happened," Johnson said. "But since it did, they should just sell the team and live a wonderful life because they are going to get a billion-plus for the team. It's not like they are giving up something because they are going to get paid for this team."

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