- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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SAN FRANCISCO -- For the first time since late Friday night, the smiles returned to the faces of Los Angeles Clippers players and coaches as they went through shootaround before Game 6 of their first-round series against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night.
"This was the best [shootaround]. It was better than the last two, I can tell you that," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "I don't know if we're there completely but we're getting closer ... They're in a better spirit, there's no doubt. They're actually joking again. They're making jokes about their coach again. I think that's good."
The Clippers have had to deal with the backlash of racist comments made by owner Donald Sterling since they were posted by TMZ last weekend, but the league's decision Tuesday to ban Sterling for life and intention to force him to sell the club has allowed the Clippers to refocus on basketball.
"There's still stuff, obviously, and we're still talking about 'it.' I don't know what we call 'it' but I think we're getting closer to playing basketball," Rivers said. "I think the discussion will be here and that's fine by us. I think our guys have been around it long enough now to deal with it and put it in its right place, but I think we're getting closer and closer to talking about [just] basketball."
Rivers and the team commended NBA commissioner Adam Silver's handling of the situation. Silver's predecessor also weighed in. David Stern, whose retirement gave way to Silver's promotion to commissioner, said Thursday that he's proud of his replacement and the job he has done so far.
"He and I worked together for 22 years," Stern, who was appearing at a tech conference in New York, told the Wall Street Journal. "I told everyone he was going to be great at his job and I'm delighted to see that I was right."
Rivers said he didn't have a preference for the Clippers' next owner but several players smiled while talking about the celebrities who have thrown their names into the hat, including Oprah Winfrey, Magic Johnson, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Sean Combs and Rick Ross.
"It's nice," Clippers guard Chris Paul said. "It must be nice to even be in that conversation. I don't have enough money for it."
Added Clippers guard Jamal Crawford: "It just shows we're a prime franchise. Everybody wants to be a part of it. Those are some of the most famous celebrities in the world, and they all want to be a part of what we're doing, and I think that's an honor."
Recent talk that Rivers might not be around for a new owner was met with surprise by the coach, who was asked Thursday if he would leave to coach the Los Angeles Lakers in the wake of Mike D'Antoni's resignation Wednesday. Rivers has two years left on his contract and is in charge of basketball operations for the team, a responsibility that for the Lakers belongs to owner Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak, who recently signed a contract extension.
"I haven't even heard that," Rivers said of the rumors. "That's the first time I've heard that. I'm the Clippers coach, guys. I'm not even even going there [the rumors]. That's the first I've heard that, and I'm going to stay out of that."
17hMatt Walks, ESPN.com