LOS ANGELES — Doc Rivers would much prefer to focus on basketball.
Instead the fallout from the Donald Sterling fiasco keeps landing in his lap.
At the press conference he is required to give just more than 90 minutes before his team tips off in a crucial Game 3 of their playoff series with the Thunder, the first question Rivers is asked is about Richard Parsons — the league appointed CEO who will run the Clippers until the ownership situation with Donald and Shelly Sterling is sorted out.
“We did talk a couple times, (Friday) morning we did talk and it was really nice,” Rivers said. “I don’t know Dick very well, but from what I heard from everyone who knows him and talking to him today I think he’s a very good hire for us.”
And so it went through the press conference, questions alternating between how the Clippers will try to get Blake Griffin going or defend Kevin Durant, and then how he and the players are dealing with the fallout of team owner Donald Sterling being suspended for life and the franchise being in limbo in the wake of a tape of racist comments he made being leaked. The league has started the process to force the Sterlings to sell the team, both Donald and his wife have separately said they will fight this.
When asked if the appointment of Parsons as CEO allowed him and the team to move on and just focus on hoops, Rivers gave an honest answer.
“I would love to feel that way but we all know that’s not true,” Rivers said. “But from my standpoint we’re focusing on basketball and if something else comes up it comes up and you just gotta deal with it. But it’s not like I’m going to sit around and wait for it to come, I’m going to sit around and coach my team. Then if something comes up you just deal with it. That’s basically what I’ve told our guys. You know what? Life happens. And you just got to deal with it.”
It seems every day there is a new revelation, a new addition to the story. The latest is a second recording of Sterling’s comments (this one taped by a “friend” if his) where he basically says he made those racist comments because he wanted to sleep with mistress V. Stiviano (let’s just call it an odd relationship and leave it at that), and also that the league can’t force him to sell (the league has seeming solid legal footing on him, his wife may be a different story).
While interest in the initial shocking story may be subsiding some there are more waves to come — the league’s owners likely will vote to strip Sterling of the team this summer, then there will be the lawsuits to block it all.
Then there is Shelly Sterling — who attended the game Friday night at Staples Center — saying she is going to fight to keep the team in the family (she owns half the team in a trust with Donald). Magic Johnson went public Friday telling the USA Today the players will not play for Shelly — he is both right and self serving in that. Right because members of the players’ union have basically said as much (and other reports have players saying that privately). Rivers has said he’s not sure if he’ll return if she still owns the team next year. All that said, for Magic — who with his business partners wants to buy the team — to come out and say something pushing the team’s sale is clearly him promoting his own self interests.
Rivers and the players are still caught in the middle.
“It’s still a very murky situation and I don’t think that’s going to change for a while. It is what it is and we’re going to deal with it,” Rivers said.
Rivers is doing his best to shield his players on this, to take the questions and deflect the attention, to let them actually focus on the games. How well that is working is up for debate, but Rivers is certainly doing all anyone could ask.
But he knows, the players know, this is not going to end soon. It almost certainly will follow them into next season if it heads into the courts as the Sterlings have promised.
And that’s not going to let him or his players just focus on basketball.