LOS ANGELES — At 7 on a Saturday morning, four weeks after her life had erupted in scandal, Rochelle Sterling was awakened by a ringing phone.

The voice at the other end was a high-energy buzz. But the man, a stranger, made it clear that he wanted to bid on the Los Angeles Clippers, the basketball team she owned with her estranged husband, Donald Sterling. The man on the phone offered to fly from Seattle to speak with her that afternoon.