As the ashes of the fire started by Donald Sterling descend from the skies and settle on the Los Angeles Clippers, the question remains, what are they going to do about it?
Forget Sterling. He has owned the Clippers since 1981 and under his leadership, the team has made the playoffs precisely seven times, including this season. Doc Rivers is the 17th coach since Sterling’s reign began. The franchise was named “the worst in sports” by Sports Illustrated in 2000. Sterling has alienated numerous people in his tenure, including the beloved Elgin Baylor, who sued Sterling for race and age discrimination himself.
He is a bona fide “one percenter” who lives in a world of beach houses, Ferraris, $2,000 sunglasses, and private jets. Accountability to him means that he remembered to tip the valet at whatever country club he frequents. His background is quite quizzical to be honest, and makes him even more unorthodox.
Sterling is a non-athlete with minimal knowledge of the game, and strangely enough, the son of Jewish immigrants. Coming from a group of people who have experienced hate more than just about anyone, one would expect more sensitivity and tolerance from Sterling. Then again, wealth is his chosen religion, and he will continue to worship at the altar long after this controversy has been forgotten.
The Clippers have a choice now. Will they fold up and let the controversy get the best of them, or will they use their outrage to eviscerate the Golden State Warriors? The series is going well, and there is no reason why Rivers should not use this to his advantage. Make Sterling into an object of motivation. Use his commentary as fuel to add to the fire of every Blake Griffin dunk, DeAndre Jordan block, or beautiful pass by Chris Paul.
This series is about making the NBA Finals, not the ramblings of a man who has as much business in an NBA locker room as Jane Fonda does at a Vietnam veterans reunion. The Clippers’ success in the last three years can be attributed to his pocketbook, but the players on the floor are doing the winning and losing. African-American players are playing at a higher level than any team the Clippers have ever put on the court.
If Rivers and his squad can win this series and ignore the hoopla, it will be a great indication of their internal strength. Anyone in their path better watch out, because the chip on the Clippers’ shoulders just got a little bit heavier.