The veteran guard and Miami resident has remained in touch, and in tune, with team and league matters, however. He's frequently visiting the Heat locker room, when he hasn't been traveling the country in his role as vice president of the NBA players association, and he's remained close to several Heat players. That includes James Jones, another member of the players association's executive council, and LeBron James, who has been one of the most outspoken players during the Donald Sterling scandal.
First, James said there was no place for Donald Sterling in the league.
Then, on Saturday, he made it clear that Shelly, Sterling's wife, doesn't belong in it, either.
And while James has consistently expressed strong support for the actions new commissioner Adam Silver has already taken, including a lifetime ban of Sterling, the four-time MVP hasn't been all that specific about what he'll do if the forced sale of the Clippers runs into snags.
During the open-forum segment on Jim Rome on Showtime—which airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on the pay cable network—Mason, Jr. seemed to speak for him.
Rome asked what would happen if Sterling is still in the Clippers picture when next season starts.
"If it’s not handled by...the start of next season, I don’t see how we’re playing basketball," Mason said. "I was just in the locker room with LeBron...At the end of the day, you know we have leaders. We have player reps, we’ve got executive committee members...Leaders of the teams, they’re all saying the same thing, ‘If this man is still in place, we ain’t playing.’"
"So, your guy LeBron, you think he would not play if Sterling were still in there when the [next] season started?"
Mason replied that he was "just in the locker room three or four days ago. LeBron and I talked about it. He ain’t playing if Sterling is still an owner."
What about Shelly Sterling?
"No Sterling deserves to be an owner of that franchise any longer," Mason said. “And I’ve gone down the line from LeBron to the other guys in the league that I’ve talked to and they all feel the same way. There’s no place for that family in the NBA."
James wasn't available for comment Tuesday, as the Heat did not practice after flying back from Brooklyn with a 3-1 advantage in their second-round series. But he will likely be questioned prior to Wednesday's Game 5, when he holds his usual media availability.
Would he go through with something that dramatic, if the league was trying to get the Sterlings out? Would he give up his salary to make that sort of statement?
There's no way to know for sure until it happens.
But James has shown an increasing interest in taking social and political stands over the past couple of years, from organizing a team photo in support of the late Trayvon Martin to shooting a commercial for Healthcare.gov.
Sunday, after practice at Baruch College in Manhattan, he shared more of his philosophy with reporters.
"If you feel like it's right for you to speak out on certain situations," James said. "If you don't feel like it's right or it's authentic to you, then don't do it. Don't fake it. If it's an issue that you feel like means a lot to you, and you feel like there should be some rightdoing or wrongdoing in the situation, then speak out on it. And if you don't feel that way, then don't do it. You shouldn't be forced to do it."
James said the same applies to giving back to communities.
"I do it because I love to see smiles on kids' faces, and I love to be an influences to kids," James said. "And that's why I give back to my community and all over the world. But if it's not authentic to you, then it's going to seem so fake, and it's not going to be real. It's whoever you are. It's the individual."
He cited Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali and Bill Russell as athletes who spoke out.
"Muhammad Ali went to jail for speaking out on an issue," James said. "Those issues are way bigger than what we're going through today. But at the end of the day, it's whoever you are as a person, it's not the generation."
James has grown into a person who wants to lead others.
If the NBA doesn't find a way to shrink the Sterlings' presence down to zero, we may learn how much he's willing to sacrifice for his ideals.
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