Clippers stars fear ousting of Donald Sterling will drag on
Players say they would have to make tough decisions if disgraced owner remains at the helm come the start of next season
The Los Angeles Clippers had not even digested the final loss of their tumultuous season before they had to consider the growing possibility that owner Donald Sterling will not leave quietly.
After a month of play-off pressure and incredible off-court drama, a 104-98 loss to Oklahoma City ended the Clippers' best season in franchise history. But their summer could match the tumult of recent weeks, given Sterling's apparent resolve to fight his lifetime NBA ban for racist remarks.
"I don't think that's an ideal situation for us to start next season with that still going on," All-Star forward Blake Griffin said.
If Sterling and his long- estranged wife, Shelly, manage to postpone their ousting with legal manoeuvres, several Clippers are not sure whether they would still play for the team. They hope they do not have to find out.
"Personally, I think the longer it lasts, the worse it's going to be," Griffin said.
"I think something should happen, and I think it should happen quickly. I think guys need to make decisions. I don't think anybody wants this to drag out - except for, you know, one or two people. I think it just needs to be swift. We can make our decision, they can make their decision, and make a change."
A few weeks after the players dumped their warm-up jerseys at centre court in Oakland in a gesture of solidarity against Sterling, the Clippers are clearly hoping they will not have to return in the autumn with the saga still ongoing. "I don't anticipate that being how it's going to be," Griffin said. "And if it still is, I'll make a decision then, but it's not something that's ideal."
Guard J.J. Redick predicts the process of removing Sterling will be lengthy, saying the Clippers realise "things will be in flux for a while." "I can't imagine a scenario where we start the season next year and he's the owner and all is kosher," Redick added. "He may be the owner when we start the season next year still, but I would imagine that there would be some legal proceedings ongoing if that's the scenario."
Coach Doc Rivers, the franchise's shepherd through the last few weeks, made it clear he plans to return to the Clippers.
"I told them we're going to have our day," Rivers said. "This is not the end. This is the beginning for us. ... I'm under contract. I have no plans of going anywhere, as far as I know."
Although Griffin, Chris Paul and their teammates were devastated by their final losses to the Thunder, Los Angeles will have plenty to savour. Although the Clippers had legitimate dreams of NBA title contention after acquiring Rivers from Boston last June, they'll have to settle for another division title and another learning experience on their path to a championship.
"We definitely have to go through this," Griffin said. "Winning - nobody has the formula. The more I lose, every time I lose, every time we lose as a team, it's like I figure out how not to do it. I don't want to keep this up, but it is a necessary adversity that you have to go through as a player to get to where you want." The Clippers' 57-25 record was the best in franchise history, and their 113 wins over the last two years dwarf any other two-year stretch for a long-struggling franchise. Los Angeles won the Pacific Division for the second straight year and the second time in franchise history.