Doc Rivers on Donald Sterling audio: It was a distraction
The Sterling audio came out late on Friday April 25, when the Clippers were up 2-1 in their series with the Golden State Warriors. The Dubs beat up a distracted Clippers team 118-97 that Sunday to tie the series, though the Clips won two of the next three to capture the series in seven games.
“This was a distraction,” Rivers said of the Sterling comments in an interview with ESPN’s Michael Wilbon. “The first [team] meeting after this came out … when I looked at [the players’] faces, they were angry, they wanted to DO something. … As a coach, I had to think about it. I’m not going to kid you, I walked out with my [Clippers] gear on, because I need the players to see me with the gear on, but it wasn’t easy to wear the gear on that day. Because at that moment, you’re representing something else, and that was hard.”
However upset they were, the players only put together a small demonstration before Game 4. They took off their warmups and dropped them at center court. They also wore their undershirts inside-out to cover the team logo and name. There was a possibility of them doing more for Game 5, but NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life, which was a satisfactory punishment for most.
Rivers has been an admirable leader for the Clippers. He maintains an excellent perspective and has the respect of his players. And he didn’t let Sterling’s comments prevent him from coaching his team to a series victory when most would not have been able to do so.