The Los Angeles Clippers faced a battle in Round 1 unlike any other playoff team in NBA history. After prevailing over the Golden State Warriors in a gutsy 126-121 Game 7 win, veteran Matt Barnes took to Twitter to express his heartfelt emotions on the matter.
With owner Donald Sterling embroiled in controversy about racist comments made on a leaked recording, the team received input from all sides about how it should react to its owner's bigotry.
The Clippers made a silent protest prior to Game 4 by leaving their warm-up jackets in a heap at center court and wearing inside-out shooting shirts that did not display the team logo. However, they looked decidedly out of rhythm and distracted by the sad controversy and lost 118-97.
Some called for more significant action than that silent protest. In fact, the Warriors reportedly planned to walk off the court after tipoff of Game 5 had the league not imposed a penalty on Sterling before the game, per Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group.
The afternoon prior to Game 5, new league commissioner Adam Silver handed down a lifetime ban for Sterling. With the penalty decided, the Clippers could focus for the time being on stopping Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson instead of agonizing over what form of protest to exercise.
The Clippers claimed Game 5 113-103 and narrowly lost Game 6 100-99. They then battled into Round 2 with a rousing Game 7 performance.
The franchise faces a long offseason of uncertainty about who will own the team and what position Donald Sterling's estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, will have in the organization.
There will need to be a period of healing and reconciliation around the franchise before the full breadth of the fanbase returns, but for now, the Clippers face a mammoth task of a different sort: stopping Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the high-octane Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round.