SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers would prefer to be talking about how well Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have played against the Golden State Warriors. Or how his team has defended Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Or just about anything that has happened on the court in the first-round playoff series.
Instead, Rivers and his players spent Saturday talking about how they would respond to an audio recording of a man identified as Clippers owner Donald Sterling telling his girlfriend not to bring black people to games.
“The fact that I had to spend 45 minutes in a meeting instead of watching film did not make me happy,” Rivers said.
Whether the comments — which drew sharp criticism and calls for action from around the NBA — effect the Clippers in Game 4 against the Warriors is all that worries Rivers right now. Los Angeles leads the series 2-1 and has looked every bit like a championship contender in winning the past two games.
Chasing a title is the reason Rivers said players decided against protesting or even boycotting the game. They want to win for each other, he said, and not for Sterling or anyone else.
“For me, I want to focus on my guys. I came here for them. They came here for each other. Our goals have not changed,” Rivers said passionately after the Clippers’ practice at the University of San Francisco. “It’s like one of the players said, `Hey, when I was a kid, I had a goal to win a world championship. It was to do that. It wasn’t to win a world championship for someone.”‘
Clippers point guard Chris Paul, the president of the National Basketball Players Association, released a statement through the union that said “this is a very serious issue which we will address aggressively.” Paul and Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin declined further comment on the issue after practice. Other players were not made available as Rivers said he would speak for the team.
“A lot of guys voiced their opinions. None of them were happy about it,” Rivers said. “This was a situation where we’re trying to go after something very important for us, something that we’ve all dreamed about all our childhoods. Donald or anyone else had nothing to do with that dream, and we’re not going to let anything get in the way of those dreams.”
Sterling, a real estate owner who has a decades-long history of alleged discrimination and offensive behavior, made his team the center of NBA attention for all the wrong reasons again.
In a recording posted on TMZ’s website, a man reported to be Sterling questions his girlfriend’s association with minorities. Clippers President Andy Roeser said in statement that the team did not know if the tape is legitimate or has been altered.
Roeser also said the views expressed on the recording do not reflect Sterling’s beliefs and that the woman on the tape — identified by TMZ as V. Stiviano — “is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by the Sterling family alleging that she embezzled more than $1.8 million, who told Mr. Sterling that she would `get even.”‘
Sterling has not commented on the situation.
Left in the aftermath was Rivers and his players facing more than 50 reporters at the Clippers’ practice Saturday. A day earlier, only about a dozen were at the team’s hotel for the interview session.
Most players ignored the added attention. Jamal Crawford looked over and laughed. Hedo Turkoglu jokingly shouted and smiled as he attempted shots.
All that the hoopla meant for the Clippers as a team, Rivers said, was one monumental “distraction” before its biggest game of the season.
“In a weird way, I’m sure Golden State is having a ball right now because we’re not talking about them,” Rivers said.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who played for the Clippers from 1992-94, said “there’s no place” for Sterling’s alleged remarks but his team would remain focused on the game. His players echoed those sentiments, saying they wouldn’t be deterred by one man’s beliefs — no matter how offensive.
Rivers also said the audio recording would not serve as motivation for his team.
“We’re playing Golden State, and Golden State is our enemy right now,” Rivers said. “That’s where we’re going to keep it, and that’s where we want to keep it.”