By Saturday, most of us had heard or read about the audio recording, allegedly of Clippers' owner Donald Sterling, and the verbal vomit that spewed forth from his orifice into the national discussion. The spotlight focused like a laser on Sunday's Warriors v. Clippers Game 4 and it became the most important game of the weekend, not because of the incredible assemblage of basketball talent and skill on the court, but because of a decrepit, racist slumlord.
Donald Sterling was not in attendance at Sunday's game at Oracle Arena. He missed out on the enthusiastic welcome that I know Oakland would have given. He missed out on watching the Clippers players discard their Clippers branded warm-up gear mid-court and practice with their shirts inside-out. He also missed out on the Warriors routing the Clippers and tying the first-round of the Western Conference Playoffs, 2-2.
Donald Sterling was not at yesterday's game, but he ruined it anyway.
The Warriors played their brains out yesterday, that much is certain. Warriors' coach Mark Jackson finally realized that he could not continue to send out a starting line-up dictated by the Clippers' strengths — the big men. Instead, he put the five players that would best suit those of the Warriors — fast and agile. By sitting center Jermaine O'Neil and moving David Lee to center and starting Draymond Green at power forward, the Warriors went small and it worked. The Warriors scored 27 points on the fastbreak, compared to eight from the Clippers. Steph, finally able to find room to move, scored 33 points, going 10-for-20 on field goals and 7-for-14 on 3-pointers. Andre Iguodala, largely absent offensively in the first three games, came alive, putting up 22 points, going 6-for-8 on field goals and 2-for-2 on 3-pointers. The Warriors finally were who we thought they were and once they got started, the result was almost never in doubt.
The Clippers, though, were not themselves. I don't know how much of this was projecting and seeing something that wasn't really there, but the Clippers just seemed distracted and defeated. It could have been that they were cowed by the greatness of Steph Curry's hot hand. It may have been that they were simply caught off-guard by the smaller Warriors line-up and were unable to keep pace.
Or it could have been something else.
The Clippers players and coaches are in an impossible position. These are proud professionals who, through natural gifts and single-minded dedication, have reached the pinnacle of their field. And now they are forced to face the fact that their employer is a racist who wouldn't welcome the majority of them to his games were they not playing and making millions of dollars for him. These are players who are striving to reach the ultimate goal in their profession--an NBA Championship--but know that Donald Sterling benefits the most if they do. And because they are the faces of the franchise, the burden of "making a statement" has unfairly fallen upon them. I still hope they will refuse to take the court in L.A. for Game 5, but by placing all the pressure on these 14 young men, the 29 billionaires who own the other NBA franchises, and who hold all of the power in the association, are getting an undeserved free pass.
I can't believe it, but I feel bad for the players of an L.A. team. I don't want to feel bad for them. I want to feel the irrational disdain and revulsion that an unhealthy Bay Area sports fanaticism creates in an otherwise semi-functional human being. But Donald Sterling has done it. Because of that wretched creature, I feel bad for Blake and Chris and DeAndre and Doc and all the rest of the players, staff, and everyone else employed by the Clippers. And for that, among more significant reasons, Sterling has got to go.
Warriors in six still on schedule.
Game 1: Warriors won, 109-105
Game 2: Clippers won, 138-98
Game 3: Clippers won, 98-96
Game 4: Warriors won, 118-97
Game 5: Tuesday, April 29 at L.A., 7:30 PM
Game 6: Thursday, May 1 at Roaracle Arena, time TBD (Warriors win series)
Game 7: Saturday, May 3 at L.A., time TBD (there will be no Game 7)