LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he declined a chance to speak with owner Donald Sterling, who is alleged to have made racist comments in a recorded conversation.
“I was asked, do I need to talk with Donald, and I passed, quite honestly,” Rivers said Monday. “I don’t think right now is the time or the place, for me, at least. I just took a pass.”
Sterling is purported to have told a woman not to bring black people to his games or associate with them.
“Yeah, I believe he said those things. But I still want to make sure,” Rivers said during a conference call. “As far as believing those things? I heard what he said. Until someone tells me differently, you usually listen to what people say. I haven’t given him his due process. I haven’t given him an opportunity to explain himself and quite honestly right now I don’t want him to. I want to wait for that further judgment.”
The coach canceled practice Monday, a day after a 118-97 loss to the Golden State Warriors that evened their playoff series at 2-2.
“I just felt like they needed to breathe. They’ve been inundated with this,” Rivers said.
Still, he said pretty much the entire team was at the club’s practice facility.
“I’ll go down and say hi to them and talk to them, make sure they’re in the right place. Right now it’s more than basketball. This is a non-basketball decision that I thought I had to make and I thought it was right decision. If you get your life better, then you can probably do your work better. They need to do that.”
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Los Angeles.
“These last 48 hours or so have been really hard for our players and everyone,” Rivers said. “I’d just like to reiterate how disappointed I am in the comments attributed to our owner. I can’t tell you how upset I am, our players are.”
Warriors coach Mark Jackson suggested that Clippers fans should boycott the game.
“I believe if it was me, I wouldn’t come to the game,” Jackson said. “I believe the fans, the loudest statement that they can make as fans is to not show up to the game. … To me, it will make the noise of it not being tolerated. That this is a different time. It’s unfortunate, and we cannot allow someone with these feelings to profit.”
Rivers said he knew Jackson was speaking from his heart and that everyone has their opinion.
“I don’t share that. I hope it’s packed and people are cheering for us, the players. And they were cheering for the players before this happened. But if they feel differently, who can say they’re wrong? And I’m not the one that’s going to say that, I can tell you that.”
Rivers said it’s still to be determined whether he or a player will address the crowd.
“Again, we don’t know the right answer,” Rivers said. “We want to do right here. We want to make the best decisions here. If we feel that’s something will help our fans, then it will be done. If we feel it’s something they don’t need, we won’t do it. The tickets have already been sold. The fans, they’re in a dilemma as well. We want them to cheer for their players and their team. Because it’s still their players and their team, and it will be their players and their team. I think from what I get from the fans I’ve heard from, that’s how they feel, like, ‘This is my team, these are my players I’m cheering for, and that’s not going to change.’ I hope that continues.”
Rivers said the controversy has been tough on his players.
“What other players are going through ‘Should I be playing’ thoughts in the middle of a playoff series? I sympathize for my players. They didn’t sign on for this. Yet here they are and they’re in the middle of it and they have to deal with it. They didn’t do anything wrong and they’re in the middle of it, and they didn’t ask to be. I feel terrible for them. I’m going to try to do whatever I can to make them OK.”
Rivers also released a statement Monday, saying that he knows where his focus, as well as that of his players, will need to be if his team is to continue their playoff run, and ultimately make the right statement.
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