Wednesday 16 August 2017 / 11:21 PM

Sterling Fiasco Threatens Clippers’ Title Run

Over the last couple seasons Blake Griffin and Chris Paul have transformed the Los Angeles Clippers from league doormat into legitimate title contender. Having won the Pacific Division crown in back-to-back seasons and posting an all-time franchise best record of (57-25), the stage had been set for success in the 2014 playoffs to serve as this team’s official coming-out party.

Enter owner Donald Sterling and his big fat racist mouth to spoil the festivity. Wow, this is some seriously bad timing for an organization that’s truly blossoming (at least on the court).

Sterling, among other things, said in a recorded conversation with his girlfriend that she was not to bring black people to his basketball games and that she was not to take photographs of herself with black people either.

These comments are simply the tip of the iceberg in a growing pile of evidence suggesting that Sterling is not only a bit too loose with his tongue, but that he is a full-fledged bigot and ought not be allowed to own an NBA franchise.

How the league will choose to deal with the accusations still remains to be seen, but the growing sentiment is that he must be forced to sell the team. Whether or not this is actually a legal option is for the lawyers to discuss.

Documentation of Sterling’s racist remarks date all the way back to the early 80s. In 1983, a drunk Donald Sterling asked potential head coach Rollie Massimino in an interview, “I wanna know why you think you can coach these niggers.”

In short, to those who know him, these most recent comments hardly come as a surprise. Nevertheless, the fiasco has thrown a massive wrench into the Clippers’ post-season run.

D should be for Defense and not for Distraction.

 

Players and coaches for the Clippers’ organization have now been put in an extraordinarily awkward “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position. They don’t want to win for a dickhead, but their own dreams and a season full of hard work are on the line as well.

Young players especially will be looking up to their leader for direction. If any coach can guide his team through such a mess, it’s Doc Rivers. He’s done an incredible job of building a strong rapport with his team.

But with no time to waste, Rivers needs to get his team back on track ASAP.

We’d hate to take anything away from the Golden State Warriors’ effort on Sunday night, but the Clippers were clearly affected by the disruptions. At the very least, the inability to focus was a contributing factor in the 118-97 loss that evened up the series at two games apiece.

Doc Rivers made the unprecedented decision to cancel Monday’s practice for non-basketball reasons. He feels that players need a moment to catch their breath, and he plans on sitting down for a man-to-man talk with each of the guys to make sure that their head is in the right place.

When asked about rebuking Sterling’s invitation for a chat, Rivers had this to say: “I don’t think right now is the time or the place, for me, at least. I just took a pass.”

Save the protests for later.

 

Prior to Sunday’s Game 4, Clippers players silently protested against their now estranged boss by turning their warm-up shorts inside out to hide the team logo. While it would have been equally inappropriate for players to have made no response at all, there’s no question that a pre-game protest every night from here on out will upset the team’s chances.

Coach Mark Jackson of Golden State is suggesting Clippers and Warriors fans alike boycott Game 5 and leave the teams to play in front of an empty Staples Center. Personally, I don’t think that such a boycott would bring about the desired effect.

The notion of plucking a few bucks from the coffers of a billionaire sounds great in theory, but robbing the fans and more importantly the players of a fairly contested series isn’t worth the ruckus.

Moving forward, who needs to do what to win this series?

 

Stephen Curry torched the Clippers Sunday night for 33 points, but the Warriors have already proven they can beat the Clippers even without a big night from their star guard.

Los Angeles came into this series a heavy favorite, but with the exception of the 40 point blowout in Game 2, Mark Jackson’s team has held their own. Golden State had to like their chances of pulling off the upset long before the controversy hit the Twittersphere.

Jackson has preached that the Warriors can beat the Clippers by sticking to fundamentals and playing tough defense. Sunday night the Warriors were able to hold the Clippers to just 42.9% shooting after Griffin and Company shot a combined 51.5% in games two and three. Golden State was able to use this defensive pressure to run the fast break. They scored 27 points in the transition game, the most allowed by Los Angeles all season.

A lot of credit has to go to Draymond Green and the incredible job he’s done defensively on Griffin. His success at badgering the Clip’s star forward was rewarded by an insertion into the starting line-up for Game 4. Look for Jackson to start Green again in Game 5, sliding David Lee once again over to center.

The Warriors are riding high on confidence and will be looking to grind down the league’s number one scoring offense (107.9PPG) by playing a tight, trapping defense.

Aside from needing to find a way to overcome mentally, the Clippers can’t rely on Blake Griffin to force shots against well-played defense. Los Angeles will need to slow their game to a playoff pace and be more patient and pass the ball around more when working for good looks at the basket.

In a 2-2 series you can never really call a game “must win”, but a loss tomorrow night at the Staples Center would be a major momentum shift of the pendulum in the direction of the Golden State Warriors.

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Michael Airhart

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