The concerns over Crawford hint at a much bigger issue underlying every move the Clippers may or may not make this summer.
That is, no matter what Doc Rivers and company do from a basketball standpoint this offseason, everything will be affected and overshadowed by the fallout from the Donald Sterling debacle.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver did well by the players (and, ultimately, by the league) in banning Sterling for life and fining him $2.5 million for the racist remarks of his that were leaked to TMZ and Deadspin in the middle of L.A.'s first-round series against Golden State. Sterling, through his lawyer, has already refused to pay the fine while vowing to fight the league in court for the due process from which he feels he's been deprived, per Sports Illustrated's Michael McCann.
That potential fight merely precludes the hard part for the league: stripping Sterling of his most prized possession and sorting through the lengthy list of potential suitors to find the proper successor.
The gears are already churning in that regard. The league's Advisory/Finance Committee met just days after Silver's announcement and resolved to reconvene soon to further hash out a plan for pushing Sterling into basketball exile. A vote among the 29 other owners on Sterling's future figures to come relatively soon, though even that could take several months to organize.
And that's to say nothing of the legal mess that such proceedings could and probably will spark. Angelenos should know. They've been privy to Sterling's litigiousness over the years.
They've also recently seen how ugly things can get when a league office tries to pry a reviled owner from his franchise. It took Major League Baseball, led by commissioner Bud Selig, nearly a year of pressure, much of which was applied through bankruptcy courts, to convince Frank McCourt to sell the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Sterling figures to be a much tougher nut to crack. He's more stubborn than McCourt; he's not involved in concurrent divorce proceedings like McCourt was, and he doesn't need the money like the then-debt-ridden McCourt did.
Like the Dodgers of yesteryear, though, the Clippers could find themselves paralyzed by such legal wrangling and the instability it instigates at the highest levels of the organization. The Dodgers' hands were largely tied when it came to upgrading the roster in any significant way.
And as much as the players and coaches who were already there did to block out the distraction caused by that dispute, its effects ultimately trickled down onto the field and into the stands, from which Dodgers fans fled in order to send a clear message to McCourt.
The same may well happen to the Clips if Sterling drags this business along until the bitter end. Plenty of the team's fans are already dubious about the prospect of supporting the team when their money would still wind up in the pockets of a despicable bigot.
Moreover, the Clippers can ill-afford to let their moment pass. They have one superstar (Griffin) just entering his prime and another (Paul) in the midst of his. Unlike MLB, the NBA's rules and regulations don't allow teams to buy up other team's stars as they see fit, as the Dodgers did in their blockbuster trade with the Boston Red Sox back in 2012.
As such, it's not as though new owners, however deep their pockets may turn out to be, could simply splash the cash around and expect the Clippers to get better as a result. There are all manner of salary cap considerations for the team to take into account.
In the meantime, the longer this situation drags on, the more difficult it'll be for the Clippers to attract marquee free agents, and the more likely it is that the those off-court concerns take their toll on the team's on-court performance.
In all likelihood, solving the Sterling problem this summer will be a pipe dream for both the Clippers and the NBA. This could take months, if not years, for the courts to sort out, lest the two sides find a way to settle on their own.
Until it's resolved, L.A. will be hard-pressed to maintain its current competency, much less take the next step up the ladder of title contention, without being undermined by matters more befitting of a soap opera than of a sports scandal.
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