Players boycotting playoff games in protest of Donald Sterling was never a real option

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Adam Silver handled the Donald Sterling situation about as perfectly as could have been expected, imposing a lifetime ban on the Clippers owner along with detailing plans to force him to sell the team, thereby exiling him from the NBA altogether.

In case the commissioner had come down less forcefully on Sterling, the players were reportedly considering boycotting games — a move that may have seemed impactful today, but in the long run, would have been extremely short-sighted.

The Warriors detailed their plan, and on paper, it seemed incredibly dramatic. But we’ll never know whether or not this might have actually happened, and honestly, it wouldn’t have made a whole lot of sense.

Donald Sterling is the league’s longest-tenured owner, having purchased the Clippers for $12 million back in 1981. That’s more than 30 years as an NBA owner, while players are often fortunate if their careers last even a third as long.

That’s one reason a boycott¬†would only have served to hurt the players themselves.

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have very few years where championship contention is a legitimate reality, and this happens to be one of them. The West is as wide open as ever, with teams like the Spurs and the Thunder both struggling to advance against lesser first round opponents.

L.A. already has essentially forfeited a playoff game against the Warriors by allowing all of this Sterling nonsense to become a distraction, and a boycott by ether team would only serve to make this first round series even more difficult to win by either side.

Players’ careers are finite, and the opportunities to contend for a title are even more limited. Sterling’s remarks were awful, and it has to be incredibly difficult for the players to focus under these circumstances. But no one signed up to play specifically for Sterling — he may own the Clippers, but players came there either through the draft or free agency simply to play basketball at the professional level for one of the league’s 30 teams.

Maybe in Dallas, free agents choose to sign on with the Mavericks because of Mark Cuban, and how active he is in his team’s pursuit of a winning culture. But most players have very little interaction with ownership, so in the case of the Clippers and the Warriors, they need to be a little more selfish.

The reality is that the players are playing for themselves — their personal legacy, or their personal future earning potential. Choosing to sit out of playoff games in some form of protest would only damage those goals, and would have little impact on anyone else. For that reason, a boycott of any kind was never a real option.

Thankfully, the league’s response was of the appropriate strength so that the players never needed to seriously consider it.