May 08, 2014
By Kenneth D. Miller
Assistant Managing Editor
Their human dignity challenged by the racial epithets of embattled owner Donald T. Sterling, the predominantly African American Los Angeles Clippers NBA basketball team will return to Staples Center on Friday May 9 with a new mettle and mindset.
Two weeks after Sterling was banned for life from the NBA and forced to sell the team, coach Doc Rivers has become part ambassador, part physiologist, father and brother to his millionaire players in his quest to keep Los Angeles’ new marquee team on a championship mission.
Rivers, who is in his first season as coach of the team after arriving from Boston where he spent nine seasons and captured an NBA title with the Celtics, has long been considered a great coach, but now is a symbol in basketball similar to what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was to the civil rights movement.
He refused to speak to Sterling prior to the owner’s ban, pushed his team to a gut wrenching seven games series victory over the defiant Golden State Warriors and this week began their Western Conference semifinals series with the high flying Oklahoma City Thunder with an emphatic game one victory 122-105 in OKC.
Meanwhile Sterling has vowed that he will fight the sale of his team, creating yet another inconvenient, and unnecessary obstacle for a team that has been so emotionally tormented that it is unconceivable they are still playing.
Point guard Chris Paul scored 32 points and passed for 10 assists in the game one win over the favored Thunder, star redhead Blake Griffin added 23 and newly crowned Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford finished with 17 for the Clippers, the only team from the city that wears Los Angeles on the front of its road uniforms.
How the Clippers proceed from here is anyone’s guess, but after their team owner casted them off as slaves, degraded not just them as individuals but also their entire race and culture they have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Thus they begin their second series playing loose and with a giant chip on their shoulders.
To a man and a team they have adopted the slogan “We Are One”, a rallying cry that began the day Sterling was banned.
The city of Los Angeles has joined them. This team that has never won an NBA championship. The team with the Black mascot, the team that has long been the laughing stock of the league because their owner didn’t want to spend money to compete. This team that has been the ugly stepsisters to the storied Lakers.
This is the team that now is capable of erasing all of that if they can continue on and win an NBA championship.