UPDATE: Tuesday, April 29 at 7:45 a.m. ET by Ethan Norof
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, Rivers will "never" return to the Clippers if Sterling remains in place. The report also notes that some players could demand to leave the team if Sterling keeps ownership.
---End of update---
When asked whether he would be back to L.A.’s sidelines in 2014-15 if Sterling were still the owner, Rivers said, “Don’t know yet. And I’m just (going) to leave it at that,” per ESPN’s Marc Stein.
The deplorable comments have weighed heavily on everyone, from other NBA owners to coaches, players and fans, but Rivers is directly involved in the controversy. The former Boston Celtics head coach has also been personally victimized by hatred and bigotry in his past, per The Detroit News’ Vincent Goodwill:
People forget Doc had his house burned down by a racist arsonist. It's tough to block stuff out. Tough to go back "home" to LA— Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill) April 27, 2014
Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com added the following insight via Twitter:
I have known Doc Rivers more than 20 years. Can't recall ever seeing him more mad. About what was said, about the timing. Very bothered.— Scott Howard-Cooper (@SHowardCooper) April 26, 2014
In the midst of everything that has come out, the Clippers are still fighting to win a first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors.
Prior to Game 4, Clippers players held a silent protest by huddling at center court and shedding themselves of their pregame warm-up uniforms, per The Associated Press (via NBA.com). Underneath, they were wearing red shirts that had been turned inside out to hide the team logo. Players also wore black socks and black wristbands/armbands.
Although the Clippers showed up to play, it was (understandably) clear from the outset that they weren’t mentally prepared to compete. They committed four turnovers early in the first quarter, trailed 39-24 heading into the second and never closed the gap.
Doc:"I just know its my job as a coach to get them ready and I didn't do it. I thought I did the right stuff to get them ready but I didn't"— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) April 27, 2014
With the series tied at two games apiece, L.A. will head back to Staples Center for Game 5. Doc noted, however, that home court may no longer be an advantage, per ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande:
Doc Rivers: "We’re going home now. Usually that would mean we're going to our safe haven. And I don’t even know if that’s true."— J.A. Adande (@jadande) April 27, 2014
Both Rivers and his players are trying to focus on the task at hand: winning playoff games. They’ve worked all season long to get to this stage and chase a championship, but off-court distractions may ultimately detract from that goal.
With regard to Rivers not knowing what his future holds, Kurt Helin of NBC Sports' Pro Basketball Talk wrote the following:
The cynical response here is I can think of seven million reasons Doc River will be back with the Clippers next season, and each has George Washington’s picture on it.
But Sterling’s latest public mess changes things. Rivers never signed up to coach for Sterling, really, but now he has to answer why he did? Rivers admitted he had some idea of Sterling’s background but really hadn’t researched it much. He saw a basketball opportunity to help take a team to the next level and maybe challenge for a ring. And to get paid handsomely while doing it. He took it.
Doc has the unenviable task of getting his guys ready to play. He’ll also need to clear his own head to the point where he can focus on coaching—no easy feat.
At this point, nobody can change the past or predict the future. At the very least, Rivers is on board to coach the Clippers for the remainder of the 2014 postseason. Rallying past the Warriors would be the first step toward their title aspirations, but no one can blame them if their minds aren’t fixated on basketball.