Los Angeles Clippers players have continued to chase their goal of winning a championship through the Donald Sterling ordeal. According to Sporting News' Sean Deveney, however, league agents say future free-agent clients around the Association won’t sign with the Clips until the embattled owner is gone for good.
"I know I have players who just won't go there now, not until Sterling is gone completely," one prominent agent said, per Deveney. "If there is even a chance that you're going to help that guy make even one dime, a lot of guys are not going to go play there. It is going to be something they will have to deal with when July comes around."
As long as Sterling remains the owner, free agents may ultimately choose to sign contracts elsewhere even though the Clippers are an elite team in the championship conversation. Their appeal as a contender has waned in the wake of the fiasco.
"I don't think the whole thing winds up with Sterling back in charge, that is just hard to imagine," another agent told Deveney. "There's the chance, though. There's a chance you wind up working for Sterling. That’s the problem."
Players will face a moral dilemma if the Clippers organization shows interest in them during the offseason. Will they decide to join up with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, or will the notorious owner’s presence thwart contract talks?
"I can tell you that there are players who will cross them off the list before free agency even starts," the first agent said, per Deveney. "This was really personal for some guys. It's just hard and not everyone is going to want to walk into that situation. The damage has been done."
Shelly Sterling, Donald's estranged wife, is also prominently involved. She said in an interview with ABC's Barbara Walters (h/t ABC's Michael Rothman) that she will "absolutely" fight to keep her ownership stake of the team.
Per ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne, when asked what it would be like if Shelly Sterling retained ownership, head coach Doc Rivers said, "I think it would be very difficult. 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."
In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Sterling said he was "baited" into making the comments and claims that he's "not a racist."
Those sentiments certainly ring hollow, though, considering that he waited so long—until ownership of his team was threatened—to issue a public apology.
Will free agents spurn the Clippers during 2014 offseason?
Signing free agents is just part of the equation, though. For instance, Rivers reportedly will "never" return to the organization if the team isn't sold, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
That's an outlook that may weigh heavily on Paul. The All-Star floor general said he "can't imagine going through this with anyone leading us other than Doc," per ESPN's Arash Markazi. Losing the coach after just one year would be a tough pill to swallow.
The Clips will have a handful of roster spots to fill this summer and may have trouble keeping the man patrolling the sideline.
There are still plenty of questions that need answers. The future is clouded with uncertainty, but one thing is certain: There will be plenty of twists and turns with the plot of this story. An arduous legal battle lies ahead.