Despite the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs gifting us with some of the most exciting and entertaining basketball we have seen in years, the unfortunate story over the past couple of days has been the racial remarks and fallout from Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Tuesday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver handed down a lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine for Sterling for his comments as the NBA community united against the disgraced owner. Without going further into the comments themselves or the appropriate punishment, as it has been discussed endlessly, there is one team who may be more interested in this saga than the others and that is the Boston Celtics. The Celtics have a number of reasons to keep a close eye on the Clippers situation as it continues to unfold.
One man right at the center of the Clippers drama is the former head coach of the Celtics, Doc Rivers. Rivers, the man who had spent nearly a decade in Boston and was the leader of the 2007-08 championship team, was a huge part of the Celtics’ franchise and his departure was the first move in a busy offseason for the Celtics, who parted ways with their coach as well as veteran legends Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Rivers has become one of the most respected and well-liked coaches in the NBA and now, while his team battles with the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs he has been faced with huge adversity.
Due to Rivers still being under contract at the time of the move to L.A., the Celtics were able to essentially “trade” their coach for the Clippers 2015 unprotected first-round draft pick. While it remains likely that this pick will be well into the 20s (this season the Clippers finished with the third-best record in the league, resulting in the 28th pick), there are now some questions over the future of the team that could affect the value of that selection.
While Silver was quite clear in his lifelong ban of Sterling, the billionaire owner of the Clippers is unlikely to simply walk away and sell the franchise without a fight. Most would expect some form of legal battle to ensue if the league does try to force him into a sale, which could go on indefinitely. With the players already going through a silent protest prior to Game 4, as well as numerous comments from NBA stars saying they would not play for the Clippers while Sterling was around, any delay in the team moving on could cause major issues on the court. In fact, Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles reported that Rivers was unsure if he could stay on next season if Sterling remained as owner.
Rivers said he isn’t sure he could continue as the team’s coach and executive vice president of player personnel with Sterling as the owner.
“For me, I honestly don’t even want to answer that question, because I don’t know,” Rivers said. “This just happened … I don’t want to be part of this story. I don’t have an answer one way or the other on that. We’ll just wait and see.”
The odds are that the Clippers will once again be a powerhouse next season and that Rivers will stay on, but there will be an uneasy period from now until this matter is resolved that will hang over the team. The Celtics, like the rest of the NBA, will be watching closely to see what the final outcome is in Los Angeles as the Clippers try to move on from this dark time in the team’s history.