Clippers happy to move forward

Updated: April 30, 2014, 10:47 AM ET
By Arash Markazi | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- Rochelle Sterling, the estranged wife of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, attended the team's 113-103 playoff win over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night after asking coach Doc Rivers if he would be fine with her attending.

Flanked by a handful of bodyguards, Rochelle Sterling, normally a courtside fixture at Clippers games, watched from a suite and quickly left the arena with her security detail as soon as the game was over. Rochelle -- or Shelly, as she's more commonly known -- sat courtside Sunday in Oakland for Game 4 of the Clippers' first-round series against the Warriors in the wake of racist comments made by her husband to girlfriend V. Stiviano that were posted by TMZ on Friday.

The Clippers lead the best-of-seven series 3-2.

"It's a tough one for Shelly, really," Rivers said. "She didn't do anything wrong. You have compassion for her. I kept hearing about the girlfriend, and Shelly's the wife. You know what I mean? I talked to her today, and she's been through as much as anyone as well.

"She asked if she could come, which I thought was a very nice gesture, and she just wanted the players to know that she loved them and she told me to tell them. I thought, why not?"

On Tuesday, Donald Sterling was banned for life by the NBA and fined $2.5 million in response to racist comments the league determined he made in recorded conversations. Commissioner Adam Silver also said he will try to force the controversial owner to sell the franchise.

Rivers said he didn't believe the sale or transfer of the franchise would lead to Rochelle Sterling becoming owner of the team.

"I don't know, it doesn't sound like it to be honest," Rivers said. "And I think she knows that but she still wanted to be here. I don't know if that's right or wrong, but I thought it was right."

Many Clippers players have gotten to know Rochelle Sterling during their time with the team and didn't have an issue with her being at the game.

"Coach talked about it in our locker room how I'm sure it's been tough on her also," Chris Paul said. "She came to our game to support us in Golden State, and for us it's tough, but I can't imagine how tough it is for that family, so we'll let them get through that. I think the biggest thing for us is getting back to basketball and doing what we love."

Rochelle Sterling didn't talk to the media Tuesday but tried to distance herself from her husband when she spoke to ESPN on Sunday.

"I don't condone those statements and I don't believe in them," she said. "I'm not a racist. Never have been, never will be. The team is the most important thing to my family."

Paul said he was nervous about what fan reaction would be for Game 5 but became emotional when he and the team ran out to a sold-out crowd, most wearing black, chanting, "We are one!"

"When we ran out for warm-ups, it was one of the most emotional things I've ever been a part of," Paul said. "We have a tough locker [room] and all of us are tough, but it almost brought a tear to your eyes to feel the support from our fans. It was seriously amazing running out for warm-ups and seeing all the people lined up, to see our fans. In Golden State, I said I wasn't sure what we would come back to, but it was emotional, it was very emotional, and I can't thank the fans that came out to support us enough."

Paul and Blake Griffin didn't comment on the Sterling controversy publicly before Tuesday, choosing to let Rivers speak on the team's behalf. After the game, both players said they were happy with Silver's decision and to have the ability to move forward.

"Adam did react swiftly, and it was a great day for everyone," Paul said. "We're happy about moving forward. ... We didn't know until we got out of shootaround, but it seemed like a burden was lifted off of everybody and we could get back to playing basketball."

Griffin expected the league would come down hard on Sterling but acknowledged that he was surprised Sterling was given a lifetime ban and would be forced to sell the team, subject to a vote of the league's other owners.

"I had faith that the commissioner and the NBA were going to take some action but I honestly didn't think it was going to be as big as it was," Griffin said. "But I think it definitely made sense and it was the right thing."

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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