Yet a suspension of any length is bound to be blasted as insufficient in numerous corners, given the widespread, rising anger at Sterling's alleged comments, with the Clippers' locker room serving as the epicenter of the fury.
Another primary goal, as conveyed Sunday by National Basketball Players Association adviser (and Sacramento mayor) Kevin Johnson at a halftime news conference in Oakland during Game 4, is taking the strongest possible action as quickly as possible in hopes of shifting the media's focus back toward the ongoing playoffs.
Q: Sterling has had ample time since the story first broke to come out and tell the world that it's not his voice on the tape. Isn't that all the confirmation the NBA needs?
A: No. Far from it.
Silver made it clear in his Saturday night remarks to the media in Memphis that Sterling, like anyone in the NBA family, must receive the full benefits of "due process" before Silver can issue any ruling.
Step 1 on that front, both in fairness to Sterling and to insulate the league against future lawsuits, is determining whether the tapes are authentic recordings of Sterling or if they were doctored in a way to change the context of the racist statements made. Step 2 would be to interview Sterling to ask him to explain himself.
It's believed that the NBA would also like to interview the woman heard in the recordings, identified as V. Stiviano. The woman's attorney, Mac Nehoray, did not directly respond to an inquiry from ESPN about whether his client was cooperating with the NBA.
But Nehoray said in a statement on Sunday that the audio tapes released Friday night by TMZ are "in fact legitimate" and come from a 15-minute segment of an approximately one-hour audio recording of Sterling and Stiviano. He asserts that Stiviano did not release the tape to any news media.
Nehoray also said Sunday that, because of the recent civil litigation brought by Sterling's wife, Rochelle Sterling, against his client, she would have no further comments on the matter. In addition to liability in the civil case, Stiviano also could be subject to legal action for recording Sterling without his knowledge, which is illegal in the state of California, although it is not yet known who made the recordings or how these unknowns will affect the NBA's investigation. (Some legal experts maintain that because of California law, basing any punishment on the recordings could prove problematic if Sterling retaliates with legal action.)
How the NBA goes about determining the authenticity of the tapes, as well as the context in which they were made, could likewise prove difficult without the cooperation of Stiviano, or an admission from Sterling, because the original recordings are in TMZ's hands. A statement from Clippers president Andy Roeser released Saturday implied that Sterling might have been set up to make such comments, or that the tapes might have been doctored. The statement did not directly dispute that it was Sterling's voice on the recordings, except to say that "what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings."
Yet one league insider insisted to ESPN.com that Sterling is indeed "on his way out if the tape is legit," despite all of the tricky variables to consider.