LOS ANGELES — Despite saying he was “mentally exhausted,” Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers is pleased he and his club can move forward after NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued a lifetime ban to team owner Donald Sterling.
“You learn over and over that when something like this happens, with the burden of racism, it always falls on the person who was offended to respond,” Rivers said. “I felt the pressure on my players. Everyone was waiting for them to give a response. I kept thinking they didn’t do anything, yet they have to respond. So Adam responded. And I thought that was the sigh of relief that we needed.
“Is this over? No it’s not over, but it’s the start of the healing process that we need, and it’s the start for our organization to try to get through this.”
Rivers and Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson addressed about 100 media members before Game 5 at Staples Center. Rivers spoke about 17 minutes, while Jackson followed for about 10 minutes. The locker rooms for both teams, per NBA custom, were not open prior to the game.
Both coaches said they heard the news that Silver dropped the hammer on Sterling while their teams were practicing earlier in the day.
“It was during a film session, and I just in the middle of it just kind of said it,” Rivers said. “It was complete silence.”
Rivers also shot down any speculation he would leave the club if Sterling remained owner.
“I hadn’t thought about it, leaving or staying,” Rivers said. “And this isn’t about me. Honestly, I don’t have an answer because I hadn’t given it zero thought. Obviously, Adam’s decision, if there was going to be one made, makes mine easier.”
Rivers added that he believed his club was better focused for Game 5 than it was for Game 4 on Sunday, when the Clippers suffered a 118-97 loss to the Warriors in Oakland, Calif.
“The basketball part of it we’ve prepared them as best as (we) could,” Rivers said. “Emotions drain energy, and I know that and I felt that the other night. And when you watch it on tape, we were slow on everything, and that’s because of all the emotion that has gone into this. Quite honestly, I didn’t think our guys had enough in the tank, but I think they’ve been able to breathe a little bit more the last day and a half. I’m hoping they’re up for the task.”
Jackson acknowledged that his players considered walking off the court at the tip-off Tuesday night if the NBA didn’t take appropriate action against Sterling.
Clippers point guard Chris Paul, the president of the National Basketball Players Association, issued a statement that read, “In response to today’s ruling by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver, my teammates and I are in agreement with his decision. We appreciate the strong leadership from Commissioner Silver and he has our full support.”
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