Heat in full support of Clippers, anxious for league response to Sterling

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: The Heat staged a silent protest before Game 4 in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE — LeBron James and his Miami Heat teammates are in full support of their friends, colleagues and competitors in Los Angeles as the NBA players, fans and owners league-wide — along with the entire sports world — await word from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on the fate of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

As much as James and the Heat were focused on their chance to close out the Charlotte Bobcats in Game 4 of their first round playoff series Monday night at Time Warner Cable Arena, they were just as tuned into the ongoing drama surrounding Sterling, whose alleged racist comments to his girlfriend that were caught on tape by TMZ have created a global firestorm.

They staged their own silent protest before the start of Monday’s game. Silver is scheduled to address the media Tuesday afternoon in regards to the league’s investigation into the Sterling matter.

James didn’t mice his words on the topic in the locker room before tip-off. He’s as anxious as anyone to see how the league will respond.

“We’re all in suspense and in waiting,” he said. “It’s a waiting game right now. We believe in the NBA. We believe in Adam Silver. Justice should be served.”

If the growing reaction from around the league, and the rest of the free world is any indication, that’s exactly what could happen.

Warriors coach Mark Jackson called for the fans to boycott Game 5. “If it was me, I wouldn’t come to the game,” he said. “I believe as fans, the loudest statement they could make as far as fans is to not show up to the game.

“As an African-American man that’s a fan of the game of basketball and knows its history and knows what’s right and what’s wrong, I would not come to the game tomorrow, whether I was a Clipper fan or a Warrior fan.”

Lakers President Jeanie Buss weighed in with a statement released by the team.

“The comments and sentiments expressed on the tape are reprehensible and disturbing, and certainly are the opposite of how the Lakers feel about the league’s players and fans,” she said. “I have full confidence that Adam Silver and the NBA will handle this situation appropriately.”

Her words came minutes after a long and emotional statement from Clippers coach and vice president of basketball operations Doc Rivers, who passed on an proposed meeting with Sterling Monday. His team is locked into an intense first round playoff series of their own against the Golden State Warriors and the Sterling sideshow hasn’t helped their cause:

“I would like to reiterate how disappointed I am in the comments attributed to [Donald Sterling] and I can’t even begin to tell you how upset I am and our players are. Today, I had a meeting with the members of our organization. When you are around all these people, you realize they are just as upset and embarrassed by the situation and it does not reflect who they really are. That was what I got from all of them. They are now a part of this and they are upset at this. But, they are all going to hang in there and so are we – I can tell you that as a group and as a team. From our fans’ standpoint, I want to say that they have been amazing, I can tell you that. We need unbelievable support right now from other people and I’m hoping we get that. My hope is that whatever the fans do, it is as one. I think that is what we all should do.

“We want to make the right decisions here. We’re doing our very best to try and do that. We know that fans are in a dilemma as well. We want them to cheer for their players and their team. It will always be their players and their team. From the fans that I have heard from, that’s how they feel. ‘This is my team. These are my players that I’m cheering for and that’s not going to change.’ I hope STAPLES Center is packed and people are cheering for the players. The players are now in the middle of this, and they have to deal with it.

James said he has spoken to his good friend Chris Paul, the Clippers’ All-Star point guard and the president of the players’ union. He wouldn’t share any details but did say they had been in extensive contact.

There’s no doubt in his mind that the Clippers were impacted by the drama in their Game 4 loss to the Warriors Sunday.

“Big time … Big time,” he said. “I don’t care what people say, I believe it was all in their minds. You try to focus on the game but … that wasn’t the Clippers team I’m accustomed to watching. And I think a lot of that [Sterling fallout] had to do with it. Don’t take no credit away form the Warriors. They played exceptionally well, too. But we are in support of the Clippers and whatever they decide to do. We are in support of the Clippers.”

If anything, Rivers seems much more ambivalent about his future with the organization, depending on what happens with Sterling. During a Monday afternoon media session he would not commit to returning as coach for the 2014-15 season. And he seems to have gotten angrier and even more emotional as the gravity of the situation has sunk in.

The Clippers have become a global news item, far beyond the sports world, but for all the wrong reasons.

More from Rivers in his statement:

“We are all trying to figure out everything as it goes and just do our best and we hope that it is the right answer. I’m still going to do my best and do what I think is best for the team and for everybody in this case. It is very difficult because there are so many emotions in this. This is a very emotional subject, this is personal.

“My belief is that the longer we keep winning, the more we talk about this. I believe that is good. If we want to make a statement – I believe that is how we have to do it. I think that is the right way to do it, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t wrestle with it every day and every moment. That is the difficult part.

“We are all doing our best here. Our players are doing their best. There are a lot of people involved in this. From one man’s comments, a lot of people have been affected and the conversations that we’re all having do need to be had.”

The most intriguing conversation yet to be had will come Tuesday afternoon when Silver steps up to the microphone and details the findings from the league’s investigation.

Folks from Los Angeles to Miami, NBA players in particular, can’t wait to hear what the Commissioner has to say.


VIDEO: SI’s legal analyst Michael McCann talks to Jared Greenberg about the Sterling situation

17 Comments

  1. anthy14 says:

    It amazes me that all these guys who want Sterling’s head are what…..absolute purists? they’ve never had a racist thought or a racist remark in their lives? REALLY??? Boycotting a game, playing with black socks, turning your jerseys inside out, playing the game running on your hands, etc. isn’t going to change a guy like Sterling or many of the other racists that are currently in the NBA but haven’t made the remarks openly. Didn’t the Clippers know Sterling was who he was when they signed the million dollar contracts? All of a sudden it’s a huge concern by the players? C’MON!!! Why don’t the Clippers give him back all the money he’s paid them and quit the team if they really feel that strongly about it. Sounds ridiculous you say? Well, it’s a matter of pride and the cloth you’re cut from. if you feel strongly about something, then truly take a stand. but don’t take a stand and take this Bigot’s money at the same time. What does that say about you? Suspend him for a very long time and play the damn game!

  2. Game Time says:

    Oh course Jackson would tell the fans not to come to game 5. Did he happen to say that for game 4? Just wondering.

  3. theholyspectator says:

    nba is like a soap opera

  4. Kevin McDonagh says:

    @BS

    I get that rallying behind the team is very important at a time like this but Sterling is probably the guy that would benefit the most from fans doing that as ticket prices and money made from LA Clipper games goes directly to him and funnels down. I think a boycott of the games is the only way to send him a message because then it affects money and that is something he will notice.

  5. Bigman says:

    How can you play or win for such owner ? They are playing for the fans, for themselves, but at the end of the day, the credit goes to the owner, the money goes to him, and he said he doesn’t like to see them at his game. Ridiculous !

  6. MADOCHE says:

    Can’t wait to read that Sterling is out of this league.
    This can be my last visit on nba.com if he remains the owner of the clippers.

  7. koku says:

    first it could be remarked that all teams were playing in black socks as their statement.
    second…if they now would join dani alves by eating bananas then finally it could become one of the last big fights against racism because it would go over the borders of one sport.

  8. Rhedz03 says:

    It would be nice if by any chance clippers win the Finals and then when adam silver hands the trophy to coach doc rivers, rivers will grab the mic..call sterling and hand him over the trophy…then all players will take off their uniform and throw it on the floor and all of them players walk out including doc rivers..leaving sterling, adam silver and some coaching staff in the middle of the court. And then for the finali…the crowd boos sterling.

  9. Farmer Johnson says:

    i wonder if selling the clippers to the seattle guys would work? WELCOME BACK SONICS!!

  10. squala96 says:

    I definitely see Sterling being fined and perhaps banned from live games for a certain period. Sorry to say, but racist remarks are not grounds for him to relinquish the ownership of the Clippers. He will continue with this team and unfortunately, they will stay in LA, at least until he dies.

    @pflow3000: You’re right about the players not having to be liable for the conduct of their morally inept owner. Even if I don’t like most of them, they did earn their place this season.

    @Michael Devaney: Even if players are paid millions, Sterling doesn’t reserve the right to make any derogatory comments, whether or not it’s directly aimed at them. It’s a form of abuse and no amount of money can atone for it.

  11. Common Sense says:

    No Doubt! But I agree with Laker Fan(wow that sounds weird coming from me)the sad part is that he is spinning this horrible situation to benefit his team. He honestly doesn’t care, he only cares about winning

  12. pflow3000 says:

    1. Bringing up Obama is ridiculous. This is about this story not how you feel about his tenure. He was asked the question so he answered. 2. Jackson is wrong to ask to boycott games. These players worked too hard their entire careers to get to this point to be hijacked by comments that they have no control over. There are also the fans who support their team for the love of the game and do not need to be punished. 3. Any die hard fan already knew Sterling was racist. There was a history there. The league had never stepped up before. He has been ignored by the league thinking it would bury itself if they looked the other way. 4. Is it illegal to be racist? No but it is socially unacceptable and you certainly can’t discriminate accordingly. He hasn’t done that in the NBA although it’s proven he has in real estate. 5. Much more is being overlooked for now, illegal tampering (both parties have to know they are being recorded in California), infidelity, gold-digging (also not illegal but viewed as morally wrong), and existing lawsuit. Add to it the motive and its bad all over. Bottom line is he stinks as owner and boss (ask Elgin Baylor) so players and coaches should just do their job. The league should suspend him like other league have done (Marge Schott) and hopefully convince him to leave their league.

  13. SWAGMCDADDY says:

    SWEG

  14. Ruby Saavedra says:

    Dude STFU we are talking basketball!! You gain some perspective and get off your political soapbox . Freaking whining about drones

  15. B$ says:

    I understand where Mark Jackson is coming from as far as calling for a boycott, but I feel like the fans should do the exact opposite. I think a more impressive statement would be to rally behind their team with even more vigor! Stand up to this guy and his ignorant view on race, and show your Clippers team that they have the fans’ support 100%. The fans are there for the players not the owner. How awesome would it be to see the Clippers go all the way!? Then when the Larry O’Brien trophy is presented, Sterling can stand there and look them all in the face, let the boo’s from the crowd rain down on him.

  16. Look, I know you basketball is your livelihood but there are so many problems w this story…

    Nobody’s outraged about Sterling’s adultery (maybe that would mean making a judgement call on lifestyles?? and we don’t do that in the NBA!).

    He pays his players millions of dollars…and the some. Who cares if deep down he doesn’t like them? I wouldn’t if that were me.?

    Will the Clippers be seized from him and given to Magic Johnson to make amends for racial hurt??

    And the biggest JOKE – Obama chiming in. This is a man who kills innocent men, women, and children every day in the Middle East and South Asia (brown people) w drones and he has the nerve to chime in?? Doesn’t he have more important things to do like killing LESS people? But to you he’s the leader of the “Free World.”

    Get some perspective!

  17. Ben says:

    I think Mark Jackson got it wrong to call for a boycott of a game when he is coaching the away team at that game. It makes it seem as though he is saying it to advantage his team. That would have been better if it came from someone else.