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Inside the Clippers’ final days with Donald Sterling as owner — The Undefeated

Inside the Clippers’ final days with Donald Sterling as owner — The Undefeated

It isn’t unusual to see Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers and proprietor Steve Ballmer speak hoops earlier than a recreation. Ballmer sometimes peppers Rivers with questions on his beloved Clippers as if he’s a member of the media. Rivers shares particulars and sometimes throws in a joke that makes the fun-loving Ballmer smile.

It’s a method totally different dynamic from what Rivers had with the group’s earlier proprietor, Donald Sterling. Rivers advised The Undefeated he has not spoken to his previous boss since TMZ launched audio on April 26, 2014, of Sterling making racist feedback to his then-girlfriend.

“There isn’t a have to,” Rivers stated. “I don’t know why or what he was considering or no matter. … It doesn’t matter to me. It’s already been accomplished and stated. I haven’t heard from him. It’s not like I’m mad. However why? We don’t want to speak.”

5 years in the past, on April 29, 2014, the controversial proprietor was banned for all times by the NBA for his feedback in what was one of many strongest penalties in American sports activities historical past. He was later pressured to promote the group.

At the moment, the Clippers have been additionally pursuing an NBA title. They have been the No. three seed within the 2014 Western Convention playoffs dealing with an up-and-coming Golden State Warriors staff within the first spherical. The Clippers took a 2-1 lead within the best-of-seven collection with a 98-96 victory in Oakland on April 24. However two days later, their momentum got here to a crashing halt after Sterling’s remarks turned public.

Information traveled quick inside the group. Recreation four was the next day. How would Rivers & Co. reply to their proprietor being concerned in one of many largest scandals in sports activities?

The Undefeated seems again on the franchise’s final days underneath Sterling, 5 years later, via the recollections of those that endured it.


Members of the Los Angeles Clippers take heed to the nationwide anthem earlier than Recreation four of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff collection towards the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, April 27, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. The Clippers selected to not converse publicly about proprietor Donald Sterling. As an alternative, they made a silent protest. The gamers wore their pink Clippers’ warmup shirts inside out to cover the staff’s emblem.

AP Photograph/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Sterling has an extended historical past of racist conduct and had been sued on two events for allegedly declining to lease flats to African People and Hispanics. He was additionally sued in 2009 by former Clippers basic supervisor Elgin Baylor, who accused him of age and racial discrimination. There’s additionally a well known story of the Clippers proprietor as soon as going into his group’s locker room after a recreation whereas gamers have been dressing and telling his associates, “Take a look at these lovely black our bodies.”

Rivers stated he first caught wind on April 23, 2014, that Sterling had made some controversial feedback however was advised by a Clippers government they “weren’t an enormous deal.” Rivers alerted his gamers throughout a staff assembly on the 4 Seasons Lodge in San Francisco that the story was anticipated to return out, however he didn’t have particulars to supply.

Blake Griffin: “We keep in mind having a gathering and Doc was saying what was occurring. When he defined it, I don’t assume everybody understood the magnitude of what it was going to be.”

Doc Rivers: “I used to be misled in that entire factor, and that may be a story for the e-book someday. However I used to be advised there was a narrative popping out and it wasn’t an enormous deal beforehand. I had an opportunity two days earlier than to take a look at it. However they informed me it wasn’t an enormous deal.”

Ryan Hollins: “Doc stated that Sterling stated one thing silly with racial undertones to a lady, nevertheless it was not anticipated to be that massive of a deal because it ended up being.”

Rivers: “I took this job. I knew there was going to be danger. I clearly didn’t know there was going to be that sort of danger.”


Head coach Doc Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers speaks to the press after a recreation towards the Golden State Warriors in Recreation Three of the Western Convention Quarterfinals in the course of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Area on April 24, 2014 in Oakland, California.

Rocky Widner/NBAE by way of Getty Pictures

At 10 p.m. PDT on April 24, 2014, TMZ launched a recording by which a married Sterling made racial feedback to his girlfriend V. Stiviano, criticizing her for placing footage on social media with well-known African People, together with former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson and then-Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp.

TMZ reported that the personal taping of Sterling’s racist rant happened on April 9, 2014, after Stiviano posted an image of her with Johnson on Instagram.

A few of Sterling’s racist audio excerpts launched by TMZ included:

“It bothers me rather a lot that you simply need to broadcast that you simply’re associating with black individuals. Do you must?”

“You’ll be able to sleep with [black men]. You’ll be able to deliver them in, you are able to do no matter you need. The little I ask you is to not put it on the market on that … and to not deliver them to my video games.”

“I’m simply saying, in your awful f—— Instagrams, you don’t should have your self with, strolling with black individuals.”

“… Don’t put him [Johnson] on an Instagram for the world to should see in order that they need to name me. And don’t deliver him to my video games.”

A surprised Rivers lastly listened to the audio simply earlier than it was launched.

“One in every of our PR guys heard it an hour and a half earlier than it got here out and he stated, ‘Doc, I feel you have to see this video,’ ” Rivers stated. “And I went to see it and I used to be incensed. I used to be pissed. I didn’t actually know what to do.”

Rivers shortly referred to as a late-night group assembly on the lodge to speak concerning the Sterling report. Sporting a Clippers T-shirt, Rivers entered the assembly room, the place incensed gamers have been ready.

Griffin: “We just about came upon precisely what it was with everybody else.”

Willie Inexperienced: “All of us acquired the information concurrently the stories have been popping out. We have been shocked to listen to it, and all of us heard rumors. To listen to the precise phrases that he stated have been surprising.”

Hollins: “When it got here out, I used to be blindsided. We didn’t comprehend it was going to be like that. We have been informed that he made some feedback that have been racially charged, however we didn’t know what they have been. I assume the one which struck us was the Magic Johnson stuff, the black man within the constructing. Once we heard these phrases, these phrases harm. These phrases pierced.”

Rivers: “I allow them to know I used to be black too. It was humorous. They have been pissed at everyone, together with me. That is likely one of the issues that broke the ice. I stated, ‘By the best way, guys, my identify is Glenn Rivers. I’m from Maywood, Illinois, and I’m black.’

“The opposite factor I stated is I want you to belief me. I’ll permit you guys to decide on what you need me to say, however I want you to belief me and have one voice. If I’ve discovered one factor about racism, and I’ve been by means of numerous issues with racism, they by no means need to go after the man that claims these things like Sterling. They need to go after the persecuted. Everybody needs to understand how the persecuted will reply fairly than specializing in the man that did one thing.”

Matt Barnes: “What he stated was extra of a shake-my-head state of affairs than being mad. I assumed he lastly received caught up with this bum-a– chick nobody appreciated. So far as the racial feedback, I’ve heard a lot worse and have had worse carried out to me, so it wasn’t that massive of a deal. I assumed he wasn’t the one proprietor that felt that approach. He was simply the one one dumb sufficient to get caught saying it.”

Chris Paul: “I keep in mind assembly as a staff and Doc asking us how we needed to deal with it. We agreed that we might have only one voice and let that voice with Doc. I completely agreed with that.”

Rivers: “I used to be so involved that somebody from our workforce would say one thing loopy after which they have been the story. And that’s what we talked about. From DJ [DeAndre Jordan] to Blake, they determined what they needed to do. They let me be the voice, and that was big for us as a result of we received by means of that with out another controversy.”

After the Sterling information broke, Rivers stated Sterling and then-Clippers president Andy Roeser weren’t out there. Roeser later took a depart of absence on Might 6, 2014, and by no means returned to the place.

Hollins: “I used to be within the elevator with the person [Sterling] proper after it got here out. It was awkward. I shook his hand like regular. To me, the information didn’t change something for me. We knew. Everybody knew his mindset. Man, that elevator journey took some time. He was preventing somebody on the elevator. He didn’t perceive. He was like, ‘That is enterprise as standard.’ He was saying he was going to be at [Game 4]. ‘See you tomorrow.’

“To today, he won’t see the severity. He doesn’t see it as racism. For Donald’s mindset, it was like, ‘That is for me and that is for you.’ This isn’t essentially that I’m higher than you. It was like, ‘That is what you do and that is what I do.’ ”

Rivers: “I used to be on my own. … I had nobody to run stuff by. And lots of people don’t know that [NBA commissioner] Adam [Silver] texted me saying, ‘That is my personal quantity. Textual content me each second that you simply want one thing.’ That was large.”


Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers warms up previous to the sport towards the Golden State Warriors in Recreation 4 of the Western Convention Quarterfinals at Oracle Area on April 27, 2014 in Oakland, California. The Clippers wore their shirts inside out in protest of David Sterling.

Noah Graham/NBAE by way of Getty Photographs

The Clippers practiced on the College of San Francisco’s Struggle Memorial Health club on the eve of Recreation four on Saturday, April 26, 2014. The venue was the house of former Dons and NBA legend Invoice Russell, who confronted a number of racial discrimination whereas enjoying for the Boston Celtics.

Rivers advised a media horde that Sterling’s racist statements weren’t going to distract his workforce. Paul and Griffin additionally addressed the media. And whereas Rivers voiced that his gamers wouldn’t be distracted, it was fairly the opposite. They have been getting so many calls and texts from household and pals that it was unimaginable for them to dam it out.

Paul: “There have been an entire lot of individuals in our ears. Everyone’s telephone was going loopy, saying this and saying that. They have been telling what you need to and shouldn’t do. For us, we have been making an attempt to remain collectively as a lot as potential. And no matter we did, we needed to do it collectively as a staff.”

Hollins: “It was so awkward, man. You are attempting to give attention to the job at hand. Then you will have a recreation to play. There was a number of power elsewhere. It was sort of bizarre. And truthfully, it divided our staff. It divided lots of stuff we have been doing. Lots of people received too targeted on it. Different individuals of their thoughts weren’t too targeted on it. After which basketball was there. You’re getting torn elsewhere, after which your family and friends are saying sure issues. However I don’t assume we aired all of it the suitable means.”

Griffin: “So far as distractions go, I don’t know if there might have been a much bigger factor. Everyone was calling for us to do one thing. At one level I needed to cease answering questions from individuals I used to be shut to only as a result of it was the playoffs. Doc was all the time speaking to us about protecting your field. You bought your loved ones, however every part else goes outdoors the field. That was loopy as a result of individuals have been calling for us to boycott, after which we needed to decide.”

There was an uncomfortable buzz in Oracle Area on April 27, forward of Recreation four. There have been rumors that Jordan and Barnes particularly, and maybe the Clippers as an entire, would boycott the sport. Warriors ahead Draymond Inexperienced additionally advised The Undefeated that he heard the Clippers gamers thought-about not enjoying. The Warriors have been within the different locker room awaiting phrase on what the Clippers have been going to do and deliberate to help them.

Barnes stated Rivers left it as much as the gamers to determine whether or not they needed to boycott and simply requested that they make a uniform determination. Finally, the Clippers gamers decided as an entire that their quest for a title was greater than Sterling.

Draymond Inexperienced: “I keep in mind the awkwardness of the entire time from when it was launched to resulting in the sport. … Everybody appeared antsy. An important factor was everybody was standing with them. Guys on our staff have been standing with them. It was a tragic state of affairs. Clearly, it didn’t simply have an effect on them, though they have been enjoying on the group he owned. It was greater than that. It was about our tradition as an entire. It was loopy.”

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Warriors guard Klay Thompson: “I felt dangerous for these guys. They have been in a troublesome place. … It was undoubtedly a risk that they boycotted the sport, and it will’ve been utterly justified.”

Jordan: “I wasn’t going to play. I felt like that was a illustration of us. And for me, clearly being a black participant, I didn’t need to go on the market and symbolize that. That isn’t what I’m about. My teammates, I’ll hold their names to myself, however they agreed with me on that — they usually weren’t all black.

“I wasn’t being unfavorable or something, however I used to be standing for one thing greater than myself. However finally, once you’re a participant arising, you’re not like, ‘Oh, I need to compete for this.’ You need to do it in your teammates. So finally, that swayed me to go on the market and battle for my guys.”

Griffin: “We by no means performed for Sterling anyway. It wasn’t like we have been going out representing Sterling. We have been representing our households, the town of Los Angeles and our followers. All of it took care of itself in the long run. We took the suitable stand.”

Willie Inexperienced: “The most effective factor for us to do was play. We had a gathering, we determined to return out, play and characterize the town of Los Angeles and one another. We stayed collectively and tried to win.”

Barnes: “Not enjoying was briefly mentioned, however I feel all of us got here to the belief that we’re by no means enjoying for Donald within the first place. … Plus, we felt we had a championship-caliber workforce that yr. … I’ve zero regrets.”

Hollins: “We might’ve not performed. However I didn’t be a part of the league for Donald Sterling. There are such a lot of extra racist individuals; he was simply the one which acquired caught. I play for my household. I play for my metropolis. It was bizarre. That’s how I feed my youngsters, doing this. For those who had a racist boss, you’re not going to take part [in your job]? It was simply humorous. Individuals have been telling me to surrender on a pair million dollars, a pair hundred thousand, or no matter it is perhaps, in my profession for somebody who’s racist.”

Paul: “It was bizarre. It was sort of eerie. There is part of you that’s saying don’t play. Then there’s a half that claims for those who don’t, you may be letting one another down. We aren’t enjoying for them. We’re enjoying for one another. It was totally different.”

The Clippers appeared solemn as they ran out for warm-ups to a sold-out crowd earlier than the sport began. Sure, they have been going to truly play within the nationally televised recreation on a Sunday regardless of the Sterling cloud hovering over the staff. The Clippers made a press release once they took off their warm-up jackets with “Clippers” on them and tossed them at midcourt. The gamers then engaged in warm-ups donning long-sleeved purple T-shirts turned inside out so the staff nickname wouldn’t be seen.

The Clippers’ blue jerseys stated “Los Angeles” on the entrance, and the gamers wore black socks and armbands. The Warriors routed the Clippers, 118-97, in Recreation four to even the collection at 2-2.

The Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers battle for the rebound in Recreation 4 of the Western Convention Quarterfinals in the course of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Area on April 27, 2014 in Oakland, California. The Clippers’ blue jerseys stated “Los Angeles” on the entrance and the gamers wore black socks and arm bands in protest of David Sterling.

Rocky Widner/NBAE by way of Getty Photographs

Griffin: “I simply keep in mind the chaos, however with each state of affairs I attempt to keep in mind one thing constructive. I simply keep in mind popping out right here taking our warm-ups off and turning them inside out. I keep in mind getting the cheers from the followers right here, and at the moment that didn’t [usually] occur. It was type of in the midst of us clashing.”

Hollins: “I don’t know if throwing our shirts off did something, truthfully.”

Paul: “It was straightforward to say it was onerous to play as a result of we obtained smacked. However I don’t keep in mind an excessive amount of about that recreation.”

Hollins: “It was Recreation four, and we have been higher than Golden State then. We have been going to return in and maintain enterprise and mess all the things up. However they didn’t maintain something again. They allow us to have it. That they had that power.”

Jordan: “Do I remorse enjoying? No, I don’t remorse enjoying. We obtained our a– whooped up in Golden State anyway. I’m glad I performed as a result of these group of men, they are going to be related for all times.”


NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addresses the media concerning the investigation involving Los Angeles Clippers proprietor Donald Sterling and accusations that he made racist remarks to a girlfriend on April 29, 2014 in New York Metropolis. Sterling, a billionaire, can be banned for all times within the NBA.

Spencer Platt/Getty Pictures

Rumors have been circulating that Clippers gamers have been contemplating sitting out of Recreation 5 on April 29, 2014, in Los Angeles. Gamers on different groups across the league have been contemplating sitting out as nicely. NBA sponsors have been threatening to go away their partnership with the league. In the meantime, a number of present and former NBA gamers, together with former NBA star and then-Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Steve Nash, Tyson Chandler, A.C. Inexperienced and Norm Nixon took half in a union rally in L.A., prepared to answer phrase of Sterling’s punishment anticipated that day.

The strain was on Adam Silver, who had changed longtime NBA commissioner David Stern on Feb. 1, 2014. Silver got here down exhausting on Sterling, saying the Clippers proprietor was banned for all times from any affiliation with the NBA and the Clippers and was fined an NBA most $2.5 million. NBA house owners later gave the wanted vote to drive Sterling to promote the staff.

Most of the Clippers gamers obtained the information at their follow facility.

Paul: “I keep in mind all these guys going to Metropolis Corridor and saying one thing. It was a bizarre area for us as a result of we weren’t solely the workforce concerned, however we have been enjoying. Doc was making an attempt to not solely lock us in on the collection and the sport however what we have been making an attempt to do, and never use that as an out. I keep in mind the primary recreation again. It was unreal. Everyone wore black.”

Griffin: “Adam Silver, by means of Doc, informed us he was going to deal with the state of affairs, and he did. We did what we have been alleged to do. We have been enjoying for one thing a lot greater than Sterling. It was by no means our intent.

“We acquired collectively and dealt with it the easiest way we might have. As a staff, you begin coaching camp and undergo the ache of the common season. And also you play basketball to get to the playoffs. For us to boycott the playoffs and finally lose a playoff collection, it wouldn’t have been truthful to us. You need to assume considerably selfishly.”

Draymond Inexperienced: “I didn’t assume anybody was going to play. However as soon as Adam made his announcement, it was so robust that at that time there was no purpose for anybody to say something concerning the stance.”

Thompson: “Everybody was actually proud of how shortly Adam Silver reacted. That was nice standing up for all of the gamers on racism, institutionalism and all of that crap. Adam had our again.”

Rivers: “He was the proper man on the proper time. My mama all the time stated, ‘You’re proper the place you’re purported to be.’ That was my mom’s favourite saying. Adam was on the proper spot on the proper time.”

Hollins: “For Adam Silver, that was his strongest, ‘I’m right here.’ As an alternative of being within the background and shying away from troublesome selections, he made an enormous choice shifting on from Donald.”

The Clippers went on to defeat the Warriors in Recreation 5 and gained the collection in seven video games. Nevertheless, their title hopes ended after they misplaced to the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder in six video games within the second spherical.

On Might 29, 2014, former Microsoft chief government Ballmer gained a bidding struggle for possession of the Clippers, buying the group for a then-NBA document $2 billion.


New Los Angeles Clippers proprietor Steve Ballmer, proper, shares amusing with head coach Doc Rivers, second from proper, Chris Paul, third from proper, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, left, whereas talking on the Clippers Fan Pageant on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in LA.

AP Photograph/Jae C. Hong

No present gamers are left from the 2013-14 Clippers staff. Paul was granted a request to be traded to the Houston Rockets on June 29, 2017. Griffin was re-signed by the Clippers to a five-year, $173 million deal that very same summer time however was traded to the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 29, 2018. Jordan is 2 groups eliminated after enjoying for the Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks this season. Willie Inexperienced is an assistant coach with the Warriors. Barnes is retired. And Hollins is a tv sports activities analyst for the Clippers and NBA.

After dropping to the Clippers in that first-round collection in 2014, Golden State has been to the NBA Finals yearly since and gained three championships. Barnes, who was on the Warriors’ title staff in 2017, stated, “I knew then they have been going to be an issue.”

Rivers, in the meantime, is the final man standing on the Clippers and having fun with maybe his best teaching efficiency this season. The Clippers hope to be a serious participant in free company this summer time with the power to signal two main free brokers.

On Wednesday night time, the Clippers are again in Oracle Area to play the Warriors throughout Recreation 5 of their first-round collection.

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Jordan: “We had our alternatives. We had six years to us three, J.J. [Redick] and Jamal [Crawford]. We had actually good groups, however we simply couldn’t recover from the hump. That occurs after some time. Both you retain it going and consider in it or revamp, which finally they determined to do.”

Hollins: “Ballmer has gone all in. Earlier than, Blake, DJ and Chris would get the preferential remedy, the massages, no matter that could be. The 15th man will get that now. The 15th man will get a scouting report, entry to coaching. It’s simply on one other degree. He’s actually invested into the squad. It’s not shocking the success that he’s having. Even the younger guys.”

Rivers: “Once I got here right here, no free agent would say they need to play for the Clippers. Now, each free agent says they need to play in L.A. They usually don’t imply the opposite workforce [the Lakers]they imply each. To me, that may be a massive measure of success of the place the franchise has develop into. The subsequent step is getting [free agents] after which profitable.”

Liner Notes

JJ Reddick “respectfully declined” participation on this story as he’s concentrating on the NBA Playoffs with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA author for The Undefeated. He used to have the ability to dunk on you, however he hasn’t been capable of in years and his knees nonetheless harm.

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