Doc Rivers: 'We can move forward'

Updated: April 30, 2014, 12:23 AM ET
By Arash Markazi | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- Doc Rivers said he and the players on the Los Angeles Clippers agreed with NBA commissioner Adam Silver's decision to ban team owner Donald Sterling for life in response to racist comments the league says Sterling made in a recorded conversation.

"I thought Adam Silver today was fantastic. He made a decision that really was the right one that had to be made," Rivers said Tuesday before the Clippers played the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of their first-round series. "I don't think this is something we rejoice in or anything like that. I told the players about the decision and I think they were just happy there was a resolution and it's over or at least the start of it. I was just really proud of them and I've been proud of the players in the NBA overall, I've been proud of the ownership throughout the league and I think we're all in a better place because of this."

Rivers said the team was practicing when Silver made his decision and he informed the team of the ruling during their film session on Tuesday.

"I kind of said it and told them what Adam had said and honestly there was nothing in the room at that time when I said it," Rivers said. "There was complete silence. I said what I thought I needed to tell them and then we went right back to film."

There had been some discussion about Rivers' future with the team but after Silver's ruling, which includes forcing Sterling to sell the team upon the approval of three-fourths of the league owners, Rivers said he may not have much of a decision to make.

"I haven't thought about it," Rivers said. "I hadn't thought about leaving or staying. This should not be about me or what I'm doing or what I'm going to do. I love coaching. I've enjoyed these guys. I don't have an answer because I've given it zero thought. Obviously Adam's decision, if there was going to be one, makes mine easier."

Rivers viewed Silver's decision as the first step of the healing process for the Clippers after TMZ first published audio tapes of Sterling making racist comments to his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, Friday night.

"We can move forward," Rivers said. "We have to. You always have to move forward. You learn over and over that when something like this happens with the burden or racism, it always falls on the person that has been offended to respond and I've always thought that that's interesting. I felt the pressure on my players. Everyone was waiting for them to give a response. I kept thinking that they didn't do anything yet they have to respond, so Adam responded and I thought that was the sigh of relief that we needed.

"Is it over? No, it's not over, but it's the start of the healing process that we need and the start of our organization to try to get through this. I know we have a game, but I do think this has been more important and I think our players have done the best they can possibly do in this situation."

[+] EnlargeDoc Rivers
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images"Is it over? No, it's not over, but it's the start of the healing process that we need," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of Donald Sterling's lifetime ban.

Rivers acknowledged that Clippers players considered boycotting the game if Sterling was given a slap on the wrist by the league. It was one of the reasons he canceled practice on Monday to allow his players to regroup and relax with their families after Sunday's blowout loss.

"They were waiting for a decision and that clearly could have happened," Rivers said. "That was one of the reasons I didn't have practice yesterday in a clear practice situation. When you get blown out like we got blown out you probably should have a practice. I just didn't think it would make any sense to do it. I thought they needed to go home and be with their families and breathe a little bit. Knowing that Adam was going to have a press conference today, I just felt like we knew there was going to be some kind of resolution. I was almost happy his announcement was during our practice. During the announcement, none of the players were watching it, they were practicing and preparing for a game. Afterwards is when they found out. I think that all turned out good."

When Rivers was asked how he felt still working for Sterling, Rivers said, "I don't know if I am. That's the point of this. That's why Adam did what he did."

Rivers was then asked if he could work for Sterling if he kept the team and he said, "I don't think he will."

"I think Adam has made that clear, unless there's something different than a lifetime ban," Rivers said. "A lifetime ban is a lifetime ban so I think that's already been decided and yes, I do think that's the right decision. The next step is where do we go. If you think about it, I'm coaching a team and I actually don't know who to call if I need something, so the quicker that this is done, the better for everyone. Having said that, it's going to take time and we all have to be patient."

The Clippers continued to wear black socks on Tuesday but did not do anything else as they did Sunday, when they wore their warmups inside out. Most fans wore black and a new intro video stressing "We Are One" was played before the game. Rev. Jesse Jackson was on the court pregame. He greeted Clippers captains Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and also chatted with Rivers. He watched the game courtside next to Paul's brother, CJ.

"I do believe this will be a safe haven for us and our crowd will be amazing tonight. I think that will help them," Rivers said. "The fourteen guys that we dress, they did nothing wrong and they need support and I think that will happen."

"I told them how much I admired them and how they handled this and just to let them know this was some closure but there's still work to do. I thought they set a very good example around the league on how they conducted themselves."

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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