HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — If the Donald Sterling affair didn’t have your undivided attention before, it should now.
The Los Angeles Clippers’ ownership drama has taken a sinister turn. Clippers superstar and Players Association President Chris Paul is throwing out the possibility of a boycott if Sterling remains owner of the team.
The mere mention, in a probate court hearing, of Clippers president and coach Doc Rivers wanting to go elsewhere if Sterling stays was bad enough. But Paul leading a boycott of his team is a doomsday scenario no one wants to see. If Paul, All-Star Blake Griffin and the rest of the Clippers refuse to take the court when training camp begins, this situation takes on an entirely new dynamic.
Paul and Rivers have discussed what might happen if Sterling remains in control of the team that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has agreed to purchase for $2 billion. Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com caught up with Paul Thursday after he finished up coaching his AAU team in Las Vegas:
“That’s something me and Doc are both talking about,” Paul said Thursday after coaching his AAU program, CP3. “Something has to happen, and something needs to happen soon — sooner rather than later.”
Interim Clippers CEO Dick Parsons testified earlier in the week in state court that Rivers told him on multiple occasions that he doesn’t think he wants to continue coaching the team if Sterling remains in control of the franchise.
“Unacceptable” is the most appropriate term for the ongoing hijacking of the Clippers’ championship window. They didn’t deserve to have their 2013-14 season irreparably damaged in April when Donald Sterling first was caught on tape making racist and derogatory comments, remarks that led NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to ban him from the league for life.
Paul’s dual role as leader of the Clippers and the players’ association requires him to take a dramatic stand if Sterling is in control of the team when training camps start in early October. Solidarity is a must. A potential boycott may be the only leverage available to players to voice their disappointment in a matter that is going to be decided in the courtroom, not on the court.
The Clippers considered a boycott when the news of Sterling’s comment broke during the first round of the playoffs in April, but decided to play instead and stage a formal protest by not wearing the Clippers name across their chests during warm ups before Game 5 against the Golden State Warriors.
“It was a real consideration,” Jamal Crawford told us on the Hang Time Podcast after the Clippers’ season ended. “We were all ready to stand strong and do whatever had to be done.”
Rivers is the one who convinced Crawford and the rest of the Clippers to play on. Now, this talk about Rivers bolting and the players boycotting if Sterling remains illustrates the seismic shift in the mood around the organization as the court proceedings continue. Parsons, appointed by the NBA to be the interim CEO of the Clippers, testified in court that the franchise could fall into a “death spiral” if Clippers fans, sponsors, players and coaches flee the scene should Donald Sterling remain the owner.
The closing arguments in the current legal fight — determining whether Sterling’s wife, Shelly Sterling, was within her rights to sell the franchise to Ballmer for that record $2 billion — come Monday in probate court. That’s when we’ll find out if the agreed-upon sale to Ballmer will proceed or all involved will be plunged into even deeper legal waters. (And even if the sale is allowed, there’s a good chance that Donald Sterling will appeal the ruling.)
Deadlines for the sale to be finalized have shifted with each and every legal turn. The initial date was July 15, before the extension to Aug. 15. The NBA will resume termination proceedings if the sale is not closed by Sept. 15. That could provide Paul and his teammates just weeks to decide what they’re going to do before training camp begins.
Based on what he said in Vegas, Paul is still formulating a plan. But it seems as if he and the rest of the Clippers are ready to dig in for a long, hard fight.