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Agents say players will not go to Clippers if Sterlings still own team this summer

May 12, 2014, 3:25 PM EST

Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles Clippers - Game 3 Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles Clippers - Game 3

Doc Rivers knows he is close. Whatever happens in the final three games against the Thunder (and maybe beyond that) Rivers knows that his Clippers team is a legitimate contender, one of the four best teams in the NBA, and a team just a couple of roster tweaks away from maybe being THE team to beat next year.

However, making those roster tweaks may not be that simple if Donald or Shelly Sterling still own the team.

While frankly it should have been this way for years, many NBA players now see the Clippers as a toxic organization in the wake of Sterling’s racist comments, one they will not go near until an ownership change. While the league is pushing to make that happen soon, it likely is not done by this summer.

Sean Deveney at the Sporting News did an excellent piece speaking to multiple agents about the Clippers and sending free agent players there.

“You have to appreciate all that the NBA has done in this situation, what Adam Silver and the other owners are trying to do,” one prominent agent said, requesting anonymity because of possible future interactions with the team. “They came down hard on the guy, as they should have.

“But I know I have players who just won’t go there now, not until Sterling is gone completely. If there is even a chance that you’re going to help that guy make even one dime, a lot of guys are not going to go play there. It is going to be something they will have to deal with when July comes around.”

July 1 is the start of NBA free agency.

While Donald Sterling publicly apologized for his racist rant, while his wife Shelly has tried to distance herself from him and what was said, both of them are also gearing up for a legal fight. This is going to drag out and it’s hard to see how it’s resolved before free agency begins.

“I don’t think the whole thing winds up with Sterling back in charge, that is just hard to imagine,” another agent told SN. “There’s the chance, though. There’s a chance you wind up working for Sterling. That’s the problem. And there is also a feeling like, ‘Hey, the league let this guy do his thing for 30 years and they’re only doing something about him now? Why would I go there?’”

It’s easy to say that now. It will be different once the money is on the table. A lot of people have rock solid principles until the money is on the table.

Unfortunately for him, this all falls on Rivers. Assuming he doesn’t quit (he might, but it’s unlikely if the sale is moving forward), Rivers will go into July with a plan, he will have Chris Paul and Blake Griffin (who can’t break their contracts) to help him recruit. It’s a great pitch: Come to a warm-weather team in a great city where you will get the chance to contend.

And when the response is “Sterling still owns the team” Rivers can do nothing but shrug.

  1. mogogo1 - May 12, 2014 at 3:19 PM

    No question that top players would avoid them. But to say “no” player would go there is a stretch. Hitler could be the owner and if the money was right there would be guys who would take it. It might be max contracts to non-max guys, but I guarantee there’d be a full roster.

    • apkyletexas - May 12, 2014 at 8:11 PM

      Every player in the league has been helping Sterling make money for the past 30 years, and will be until the sale is finalized. It’s called revenue sharing. If you don’t want to help him make money, you have one option – retire.

    • campcouch - May 12, 2014 at 8:58 PM

      I’ve worked for some pretty heinous dudes,but as long as they didn’t affect my personal life or my cash,I didn’t care. I won’t lie. Millions to play basketball? I’d play for him. Doesn’t mean I have to go to lunch with the guy,then again he seems to know where to find skeezers so we might have to kick it once a month.

  2. fm31970 - May 12, 2014 at 3:33 PM

    I hope EVERY player can and will refuse to play there while Sterling owns the team, but if his ownership is truly the breaking point, Rivers or anyone else employed by the Clippers (players excluded, since they can’t just “retire”) must resign if they want to keep their integrity. It’s all well and good to say it’s disgusting (and make no mistake, it is), but if that’s what you truly believe, your actions should reflect that belief, even if that means quitting your job. Not easy to do by any stretch, especially for those not making $7M/year, but it would set a great example and show their is a huge price to pay for making racist comments like Sterling’s.

  3. udleerc - May 12, 2014 at 3:35 PM

    So you mean i have a shot to make it to the nba. Im no racist and i dont agree with what sterling did but if i was a free agent and the clippers were the only team that offered me a contract i would not hesitate to go there

  4. therealhtj - May 12, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    So if Sterling stays, it’s essentially back to business as usual before the CP3 heist?

  5. hwatt - May 12, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    agents are full of it. If a top-4 team in the league wants you, and you see Doc and CP3 there doing their thing, the talent will come. All the players have enough common sense to know Sterling will be out of there eventually. But it’s not going to be during this summer, maybe 2 or 3 summers from now, with all the protracted legal stuff coming up. But if agents didn’t run their mouth they’d have to find real jobs so… whatever

  6. sal11 - May 12, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    As a Celtics fan, I’d love for next season to go down the tubes for draft pick purposes. But I think this is overblown. The Clippers already have over $70 million committed next season for 8 players: Paul, Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, JJ Redick, Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes, and Reggie Bullock. This isn’t the NFL where they have to fill 53 roster spots. They’ll get one of the mid-level players fighting to get the MLE from a contender. And again, they only need to get one. The rest of their roster will be made up of draft picks and minimum salary guys. Maybe the Sterling Stench will turn guys like Kevin Love, Carmelo, etc., but that’s not viable for the Clippers this summer anyway. They have their core in place and I can’t imagine they won’t be able to find a few more willing bodies.

    Now, if Paul and/or Griffin suddenly says they want out? THEN I’ll have the 2015 ping pong balls dancing in my head.

  7. hungryhungryhibbert - May 12, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    they will if they get more money offered guaranteed! The clippers players needed to boycott the playoffs if they wanted they really felt insulted. Instead they did some lame jersey thing that was really lame REALLY LAME … didn’t nba go to revenue sharing anyway?? why would this be a problem for the sterlings.

  8. jcrileyesq - May 12, 2014 at 5:16 PM

    If the owners vote to remove him and his family goes thru, then it would be in the courts hands and the players would still come and play for the Clippers. Now if by some chance the owners vote to keep Sterling things will get really interesting.

  9. drs76109 - May 12, 2014 at 5:20 PM

    Wonder if Doc Rivers will quit the team.

    • redbaronx - May 12, 2014 at 6:10 PM

      @drs76109 – Doc has done a good job of keeping his thoughts private, but if I were to put a bet on it, I would bet that he’d leave the team. He doesn’t look happy about this and the comments he has made lead you to believe that even if Shelly Sterling is still in place, that is unacceptable to him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he decides to leave if the Sterling’s wage the all out legal battle they have been promising and refuse to sell.

      The Sterling’s might find out the hard way that money doesn’t buy everything and the harder they try to maintain control, the harder it will be to bring staff and players to the Clippers.

      • TheMorningStar - May 12, 2014 at 8:06 PM

        Golden St. would leap at the chance to sign Doc, but i suspect if Miami does not win the championship this season Spolstra is out; would Doc then take his (coaching) talents to Miami? He certainly would be closer to his family and that is a huge deal to him.

      • redbaronx - May 16, 2014 at 7:52 PM

        @TheMorningStar – I have no idea what makes you think Spoelstra’s job is in jeopardy. They love him in Miami. Particularly Pat Riley!

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