RIVERS: ‘WE CAN MOVE FORWARD’
LOS ANGELES – The message was clear from Clippers head coach Doc Rivers: the healing process has begun.
“We can move forward. We have to,” Rivers told the media Tuesday evening in a news conference prior to Game 5 of the Clippers’ matchup with the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center.
It was as important as any other gesture Rivers made in the near 20-minute, televised event in the wake of the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s ruling earlier in the day that called for a lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine for Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling after his purported racist remarks were captured on an audio recording and released publicly four days earlier.
Rivers, who addressed the media in the immediate aftermath when the story broke prior to Game 4 and conducted a 28-minute conference call on Monday, spoke Tuesday without notes or a prepared statement.
“These last three or four days have been very difficult for everybody involved,” he said. “No matter what their race is it’s been difficult. I thought Adam Silver today was fantastic. I thought he made the decision that really was the right one and had to be made.”
Silver’s announcement came down around 11 a.m. Pacific Time, while the Clippers were in film session at the team’s practice facility prior to shootaround. In the middle of it Rivers informed the team of the sanctions levied against Sterling.
“I just kind of said what happened,” Rivers said. “Honestly, there was nothing in the room at the time I said it. It was complete silence. I said what I thought I needed to tell them and we went right back to film.”
Asked what specifically he said to his players, Rivers said, “A lot of it was how much I admired them and how they handled this and just to let them know that this was some closure. But there’s still work to be done. I just thought they set a very good example around the league on how they conducted themselves.”
Point guard Chris Paul, who is also the President of the Player’s Association, said all members of the Clippers’ roster support the commissioner’s decision.
“In response to today’s ruling by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver, my teammates and I are in agreement with his decision,” Paul said in a statement. “We appreciate the strong leadership from Commissioner Silver and he has our full support.”
There has also been an outpouring of support around the league for the Clippers and their players, including a lengthy press conference at City Hall in Los Angeles where L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Sacramento Mayor and former Phoenix Suns point guard Kevin Johnson, Steve Nash, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Roger Mason Jr. and others spoke in reaction to the Silver’s ruling.
For Rivers, who said it was emotionally draining and repeatedly called it a difficult and unprecedented situation, his main priority was doing what he thought was the best course of action for the players and organization.
“I leaned on a lot of things in trying to help our guys get to this decision,” Rivers said when asked if the players considered boycotting the game. “We did talk about at first, not playing. I thought the black socks and the shirts and all that were fine. At the end of the day, I try to lean back on people that I’ve learned from and from Wayne Embry, I talked to a lot of people. My father who is no longer here would have told me to ‘go do my job. Don’t let anyone stop you from doing your job because of what they think about you. You can make a bigger statement by doing your job well in front of adversity.’
“I know my father would have said that and so I don’t know if he was right or I don’t know if I’m right, but the decision I made was what I thought was right for the team. And that’s all you can do and that’s all they can do. The burden shouldn’t be on them to have a right or wrong response. They didn’t do anything wrong, so no one should vilify them for making the choice. No matter what choice they made they shouldn’t have had the burden of making a response.”
And after the Tuesday’s ruling, the players and NBA can worry less about making responses, and instead move ahead.