Piece by piece, interview by interview, word by word, the full weight of NBA moral and financial diligence is crushing down on Donald Sterling right now, and we shall see if he is able to comprehend it.

Every loaded gesture is all about sending one essential signal: Sterling must agree to sell the Clippers as soon as possible or else he will become even more of a pariah and the Clippers will become a shunned and barren franchise.

Is that enough for Sterling to come to terms with his true, wretched status after the release of that infamous and abhorrently racist recording?

The NBA and its other 29 owners are hoping that Sterling will be smart enough to realize that this is the only endgame now.

In this photo taken on Friday, Oct. 25, 2013, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, center, and V. Stiviano, right, watch the Clippers play the
In this photo taken on Friday, Oct. 25, 2013, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, center, and V. Stiviano, right, watch the Clippers play the Sacramento Kings during the first half of an NBA basketball game, in Los Angeles. The NBA is investigating a report of an audio recording in which a man purported to be Sterling makes racist remarks while speaking to Stiviano. NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement Saturday, April 26, 2014, that the league is in the process of authenticating the validity of the recording posted on TMZ's website. Bass called the comments "disturbing and offensive." (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ( Mark J. Terrill )

So the news: The NBA says commissioner Adam Silver will make an announcement on the Sterling issue at a news conference on Tuesday in New York -- a few hours before Game 5 between the Warriors and Clippers at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Silver will almost certainly suspend Sterling indefinitely in the "best interests of the game," and there will be other strong sanctions -- probably a $1 million maximum fine, and the commissioner will not mince his words about the possibility of a lifetime ban because of Sterling's words, presuming the NBA believes Sterling said them.

Here's one person who is pretty sure that it is indeed Sterling spewing repugnant racist thoughts on that tape: His coach and most powerful employee, Doc Rivers.

"Yeah, I believe he said those things," Rivers said on a conference call Monday, after canceling his team's practice to give his players room to breathe amid this international controversy.

"Yes, is the answer ... I haven't given him his due process, I haven't given him the opportunity to explain himself, and quite honestly right now I don't want him to -- to me. I'll wait for that further judgment."

This is all happening as many of the NBA's most important figures lined up to say that Sterling can't be allowed to remain in power, as several major sponsors announced they would pause or discontinue their relationships with the Clippers, and as all NBA observers wondered about the atmosphere for Game 5 at Staples.

Warriors coach Mark Jackson suggested that fans should simply refuse to attend the game to protest Sterling's purported words, and there must be worries that the possible protests could take on a far more ominous tone than that.

But a swift and decisive action on Tuesday might forestall some of the need for any extra reaction, and that is the NBA's responsibility right now.

The Sterling Scandal already has rocked and potentially irrevocably altered this playoff series.

The NBA power brokers can't leave this up to the Clippers coaches and players, who issued silent protests on Sunday by turning their warm-up shirts inside out and wearing black arm bands and socks ... then turned in their worst, most listless performance of the playoffs in a Game 4 loss to the Warriors.

The players are still employees of Sterling, they're in the middle of an incredibly important point in all of their careers, and they aren't the ones who need to settle this.

It's on the NBA -- the commissioner, the 29 other owners, the consensus wisdom and hard practical logic of this entire league.

Can they force Sterling out immediately? Probably not, because Sterling is a 1/30th partner in this operation, not an employee, and other owners are leery of all-out punishment within the brethren.

However, the owners know they can't leave this open-ended, not with a series to play and with a league to get back in order. They can't leave anyone in doubt about this kind of racist garbage, especially Sterling himself.

There is precedence in the sports world: The Cincinnati Reds' Marge Schott and the Cleveland Cavaliers' Ted Stepien received extremely harsh penalties for things they did or said.

This isn't a First Amendment issue, by the way. The NBA is a league, not a government, and Sterling operates the Clippers within the overall rules and agreements of that partnership.

My sense is that there has been movement the last few days to push Sterling out over moral and financial concerns, and that if he rejects the push, the pressure will only expand geometrically.

Simply put, it's bad business to include a partner whose views are despicable to most of the NBA's very important employees, rich clients and millions of fans.

Frankly, Sterling has been an embarrassment for decades, the NBA has tried to downplay and avoid it, but now that audio tape has thrown Sterling right to the front and center, where nobody can avoid it any longer.

After this, who would want to join the Clippers? Who would want to stay there?

Who would want him in their league? Not the NBA, not anymore, and the league has to let the world know that as soon as possible, starting Tuesday.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.

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CLIPPERS: Donald Sterling, above with V. Stiviano, faces likely punishment from NBA on Tuesday. PAGE 6
WARRIORS: Jackson suggests fan boycott of Game 5. PAGE 6
THOMPSON: Harrison Barnes' background has helped him handle adversity. PAGE 6