The Los Angeles Clippers aren't going to give in during the 2014 postseason. They aren't going to concede to the Oklahoma City Thunder and walk off the court prematurely, not at the expense of pride and the goals they've worked so hard for throughout both their careers and the 2013-14 campaign.
But in 2014-15, everything changes if the Sterling family retains control of the organization.
"Those guys are not going to play for anybody (named) Sterling," Magic Johnson recently said while at the Omni Dallas Hotel, via USA Today's Eric Prisbell. "It's just how it is. It's hard to separate the two. ... It's going to be hard for them to sell that to the fans and definitely to the players."
This wasn't supposed to be a problem.
When NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the sanctions being levied upon Donald Sterling after his racist remarks were made public, the league rejoiced. Remember, those included a multi-million-dollar fine, a lifetime ban and the beginning of a process that would force him to lose ownership of the Clippers.
Not only was the necessary supermajority expected, but unanimity was thought to be the inevitable result of the vote when the 29 remaining owners convened.
Shelly Sterling, however, is throwing a wrench in the proceedings, per USA Today's Brett Schrotenboer:
Shelly Sterling does not want to be the managing owner of the Los Angeles Clippers and does not want to buy out the other 50% share of the team owned by her husband Donald, a person close to the Sterling camp told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday.
But she does want to keep her 50% share in the team, and she is willing to be have an outside buyer come in to take her husband's stake while she stays in the background as a passive owner, as she is now, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the situation.
And that's what the players won't stand for, if Johnson is correct. It's worth believing the legendary point guard who spent his career suiting up for the Los Angeles Lakers, as he maintains relationships with many current players and is particularly close with both Doc Rivers and Chris Paul.
As Bleacher Report's Dan Levy astutely pointed out, "This is the slippery slope Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban talked about in the wake of the first Sterling tape being released. This is as slippery as it gets."
"Silver clearly stated neither the ban nor fine pertained to Shelly Sterling," Levy continued, "So how will the league force her to sell her interest in the team if she isn't the one being sanctioned?"
It's a tricky issue, but it doesn't seem so difficult for those who are directly affected by the ownership of the Sterling family. Magic isn't even the first central figure to broach this subject.
"I think it would be a very hard situation, I'll say that much. I think it would be very difficult," remarked Doc Rivers when asked about Shelly's continued involvement, per ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne. "I guarantee you every person wouldn't be on board with it. Whether I would or not, I'm not going to say, I just know that would be a very difficult situation for everybody."
This was never going to be a clean break. The league's decision was always going to be fought by the Sterling who was actually in the spotlight, and the involvement of his estranged wife is just another wrench in the proceedings.
Here's hoping for a resolution before the Clippers players themselves are actually forced to act.
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