From here on out, everything the Los Angeles Clippers as a team – which means the players and head coach Doc Rivers, separated from the racist being of their owner, Donald Sterling, stands the test of separating what’s important and what isn’t, by trying to win a basketball game followed by another; winning in the playoffs, even thinking about a championship, while trying to make it about themselves and the fans, not the guy who owns the rights to the franchise from the NBA.
Because that’s how it should be called: The NBA owns the team more or less, and gives out franchise rights to multi-millionaires. Sometimes these guys turn out to be racist. Sometimes they always were, but people were living to live with a certain level of it, until it hit everyone in the face in a way that could no longer be ignored.
And that’s something Clippers players need to live with right now. Maybe their 21 points loss at Golden State had nothing to do with the whole Sterling scandal. Maybe their minds were completely focused on the game. They did the black socks thing, held a team meeting and wore the long sleeve jerseys upside down, not showing the name of the organization. Right now, there’s not much else they can do.
But trying to make the separation in their own minds between the owner of the team and the team itself: The fans, players, staff and head coach, who has already said that this whole scandal means he doesn’t really know what he’ll do next season, is extremely difficult.
Does team preparation; Watching video, looking at strategies and plays on the board, overall practice before the game; become something they do automatically, without having everything going on outside and probably inside their building as well, or is every moment of being at work a problem for them to deal with?
It’s impossible to compare athletes who play in the NBA to others who have regular jobs. The stakes are different, the money is different, the motivation and reason for being there is completely different. But basketball players like to stick it to the boss if it turns out the man signing their paychecks is also someone who prefers his front row seats be filled with people of the “right” ethnic background, and more importantly the “right” color.
How does this end for the Clippers? They still have a series to win, or try to at least, if their hearts are still in it. The West is stranger than we thought, and thinking about the Clippers mounting a championship challenge doesn’t sound far fetched at all. Or it didn’t until Sterling’s ugly insides were revealed. Now? No one knows. Maybe they’re broken, or given up. Maybe this makes them stronger. Both outcomes won’t surprise anyone.