From Barack Obama to Doc Rivers, everyone weighs in on Donald Sterling’s alleged comments

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How big has the story of Donald Sterling’s alleged racist comments gotten?

President Barack Obama was in a press conference as part of his trip through Asia, standing at a podium next to the Malaysian prime minister, he had been taking questions on the Russia-Ukraine developments, when a reporter asked him about Donald Sterling.

Obama, a huge basketball fan and not to mention the first African-American president, said this according to Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com.

In case you wondered what this was all about, TMZ released a recording that is purported to be Sterling talking to his girlfriend (he and his wife are basically estranged) where he is angry she posted a photo of herself standing next to Magic Johnson on Instagram. Among the choice comments attributed to Sterling:

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”

“I’m just saying, in your lousy f******* Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people.”

“…Don’t put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.”

That has blown up the NBA and sports world to become THE story to talk about.

In the wake of this it seems everyone has weighed in — including now the president.

The Clippers official statement included this:

“We have heard the tape on TMZ. We do not know if it is legitimate or it has been altered…. We do know that the woman on the tape — who we believe released it to TMZ — is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by the Sterling family, alleging that she embezzled more than $1.8 million, who told Mr. Sterling that she would ‘get even.’”

“Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings. It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life.”

For the record, it is Sterling’s wife who brought the lawsuit saying that the mistress is a gold digger, essentially, and that the wife just wants to protect her community property with her husband of 50 years.

All these reactions has new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on a hot seat, he said this at a press conference Saturday night in Memphis.

“The audio recording posted by TMZ is truly offensive and disturbing, and we intended to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible….

“All members of the NBA family should be afforded due process and a fair opportunity to present their side of any controversy, which is why I’m not yet prepared to discuss any potential sanctions against Donald Sterling. We will, however, move extraordinary quickly in our investigation.”

Magic Johnson said on twitter Sterling will get what he wants:

Chris Paul, the Clippers’ star player and president of the NBA players union, released this statement:

“On behalf of the National Basketball Players Association, this is a very serious issue which we will address aggressively. We have asked Mayor Kevin Johnson to expand his responsibilities with the NBPA, to determine our response and our next steps. As players, we owe it to our teams and our fans to keep our focus on our game, the playoffs, and a drive to the Finals.”

The game’s two biggest stars internationally — LeBron James and Kobe Bryant — weighed in (but Michael Jordan wouldn’t).

During Saturday night’s TNT broadcast of playoff games the crew of Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Kenny Anderson and Eddie Johnson weighed in and called for action.

They are not alone, countless writers and broadcasters have done the same (that includes PBT, where I have said the league needs to at least sideline him in the same way baseball did Marge Schott a couple of decades ago).

The guys in the most awkward position are the Clippers’ players — they are up 2-1 in a hard-fought playoff series with Golden State and have now to deal with this. Some have called for the players to boycott, coach Doc Rivers said they talked about it but didn’t think it was the appropriate response, as reported by Arash Markazi at ESPNLosAngeles.com.

“I don’t know if I’m surprised or not,” Rivers said. “I didn’t like the comments, obviously. We had a great team meeting this morning about it. A lot of guys voiced their opinions. None of them were happy about it. This is a situation where we’re trying to go after something very important for us. Something that we’ve all dreamed about all our childhoods. Donald or anyone else had nothing to do with that dream and we’re not going to let anything get in the way of those dreams.”

If the comments attributed to Sterling are ones he really made, the league and Silver will need to take some kind of action. Everyone, including the President of the United States, are calling for it.

However, there may be a serious limit on hat the league can really do.

Rudy Gobert re-energized ahead of Jazz at Thunder

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Rudy Gobert didn’t hide his disappointment at not making the NBA All-Star Game for the first time despite averaging 15.2 points and 12.9 rebounds while leading the league in field-goal percentage.

But coming off the 10-day break, the Utah Jazz center says he’s re-energized heading into Friday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Just recharge, completely — mentally, physically,” Gobert said. “For me, I was able to get a little bit of sun and feel a lot better when I get back.

“The next two months, I feel like, will be a lot better.”

The Jazz, who have won 13 of their last 16 games, come out of the break sixth in the Western Conference but with one of the NBA’s easiest schedules down the stretch.

Utah plays just eight of its final 25 games against teams that are above .500.

One of those, though, is Friday night’s game in Oklahoma City, which sits third in the West after winning 11 of 13 before the break.

The Thunder, on the other hand, have one of the league’s most challenging schedules moving forward. Oklahoma City plays 17 of its remaining 25 games against teams above .500 including each of the first five out of the break.

The Thunder have won the first two meetings between the teams, including a 122-113 win on Dec. 10 in Oklahoma City.

An Oklahoma City win would clinch the season series for the Thunder after Utah eliminated Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs last season.

The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook has a streak of 10 consecutive triple-doubles. During that stretch, he’s averaged 21.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 13.5 assists.

Utah is hopeful backup point guard Dante Exum, who has missed the last 17 games with a left ankle sprain, will be able to return against the Thunder.

“I think when he’s playing well, he can have a big impact for us and having him back soon is going to help us a lot,” Gobert said.

The Thunder could have forward Markieff Morris available for the first time. Morris signed with Oklahoma City over the All-Star break after being waived by New Orleans following his trade from Washington on Feb. 7.

Morris was averaging 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds for the Wizards this season before suffering a neck injury in late December that has kept him out since. Morris was cleared to play two weeks ago.

“We got a big piece in Markieff that we’re excited for, and we’re going to be ready for the second half after this break,” Oklahoma City’s Paul George said.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan said, “We’ll see,” when asked Thursday if Morris would play against the Jazz.

The Thunder also figure to have both starting forward Jerami Grant and backup point guard Dennis Schroder back after each missed the last two games before the break, Grant with an ankle injury and Schroder after the birth of his child.

Friday’s game is the start of a back-to-back for both teams, with the Jazz hosting Dallas on Saturday and Oklahoma City hosting Sacramento.

 

Raptors fans welcome DeMar DeRozan back with loud, standing ovation

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DeMar DeRozan was the greatest Raptor ever. He was an All-Star, he presided over the best seasons in franchise history, and he’s the one guy who re-signed and stood up for a city that has an inferiority complex around its basketball team.

Toronto fans understood the trade that brought Kawhi Leonard to the team — it’s an upgrade on the court — but their love for DeRozan is real.

They showed that on Friday night when DeRozan returned to Toronto for the first time as a member of the Spurs — he got a raucous ovation upon his introduction.

Early in the game he gave them a taste of what he did for them for years, getting the and-1 bucket on the drive.

Marcus Smart hits halfcourt shot at practice, celebrates with a back flip

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The celebration is more impressive than the shot.

After a tough loss to Milwaukee on Thursday, the Celtics traveled to Chicago to take on the Bulls on Saturday. Friday they had a practice in the Northwestern University facility.

It’s there Marcus Smart drains a halfcourt shot. Impressive. But not nearly as impressive as the backflip celebration.

I did not know Smart had that in him.

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer reportedly tells organization he still wants playoff push

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When the Clippers traded their best player — Tobias Harris — right before the trade deadline, it was a move generally seen as throwing in the towel on this season’s playoffs, but it was applauded around the league because of the haul it brought back to L.A. It set the Clippers up with one max cap slot this summer and a reasonable path to a second one, plus the Clippers landed rookie shooting guard Landry Shamet, Philadelphia’s 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected) and the Miami Heat’s 2021 first-round pick unprotected.

Except then the Clippers not long after traded for Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green — boosting the roster’s depth in needed spots. Not a move a team looking to fall out of the playoffs makes.

That’s because owner Steve Ballmer doesn’t want them to fall out of the playoffs, reports Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Sources say Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has let it be known throughout the organization that he wants to keep making this playoff push. Never mind that such an accomplishment would cost them their first-round pick this season.

The coach and players should never be told to lose games, they need to go all-out every time they are on the court. That goes to the culture of an organization. If a decision is made to focus on the future, then it’s about roster decisions at the GM level. That is what the Clippers did, and there is nothing wrong — or even strange — about the owner telling them to push and try to make the playoffs.

Either way, it works for Los Angeles.

Make the playoffs as the eight seed and the Clippers are likely just the first-round appetizer for the Warriors as they chase a three-peat, but it shows potential free agents the role players on the team have grit and just need a star and leader. Their young stars would gain a little playoff experience. While the Clippers would lose this year’s first-round pick, giving up a late teens pick in what is considered a down draft (especially after No. 1) is not that painful a loss. It’s one less asset to throw in a potential trade (Anthony Davis anyone?), but it’s not devastating.

Miss the playoffs and they get a late-lottery pick and things go as expected.

Make or miss the playoffs, the Clippers are focused on July 1 and landing a couple of free agents, with Kawhi Leonard at the top of the list (and a lot of sources around the league think that’s where they are headed).