Losing in the NBA playoffs is always emotional.
It's the end of a year's hard work, after all. The time and effort that was put in from the beginning of the offseason through the final buzzer was all for naught, and sometimes even the most emotionally strong players can't keep the tears from welling up.
J.J. Redick was one such player after the Los Angeles Clippers fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. Redick told reporters, including Arash Markazi of ESPN.com, that the grind of these playoffs had taken its toll:
Not only was the loss to OKC a heartbreaking one, between the officiating controversy that might have changed the outcome of Game 5 and then a hard-fought closeout game two days later, but the whole mess with Donald Sterling also lingered over the Clippers' postseason.
And it hit Redick close to home.
When Redick signed with the Clippers, his contract reportedly was almost reneged upon because he was viewed as athletically inferior by Sterling. It was not because of his tangible numbers—be it vertical jump, 40 times or some other sort of measurable test—but allegedly because of his skin color.
Here's what the sharpshooting 2-guard told USA Today's Sam Amick while remembering that unfortunate scenario:
I've been told both ways: one, that he didn't want to pay me because I was white, and that he didn't want to pay me because I was a bench player. I didn't know (the deal almost fell apart) until after the fact.
I just got a weird phone call from Doc on July 4, and I got off the phone and said to my wife, 'Something's going on.' He's like, 'You better play for me (expletive).' And I was like, 'Yeah, that's the plan. We figured this out two days ago, right?'
That came during the opening round of the playoffs, but the pain rose up once more after the second-round loss. Speaking to Amick once more, the Duke product—and no, that does not prepare him for verbal abuse, contrary to popular belief—had this to say after Kevin Durant led the Game 6 victory for Oklahoma City:
Look, we're human. But I don't want to say (that Sterling) is the reason. I don't want to say that. I really don't believe that, either. I do think that it was a small part of the emotional process that we all had to go through, but we ran into a good team and two guys that played phenomenal all series and we couldn't get it done.
I didn't think it was going to end this early. I'm shocked. There were a lot of us who were emotional. I think for me, you wait your whole career to play with a group of guys like this, and you just don't want it to end. You picture yourself all season hoisting a trophy at the end. You don't picture this.
Kudos to Redick for allowing the focus to shift back to basketball. In an ideal world, that's where all of the attention lies, but this world—even in the United States in 2014—isn't exactly ideal.
Not even close.
"Redick joined the Clippers to win. He, like Rivers and Paul, became a Clipper and remains a Clipper in spite of who Sterling is and everything he represents," wrote Bleacher Report's Dan Favale, and it's a good point.
Problem is, Los Angeles didn't win. Perhaps they will in the future, assuming the NBA follows through and wins what's sure to become a legal battle with the Sterling family.
Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and the rest of the Clippers still make for one heck of a foundation, and the leadership Doc Rivers has shown, both on the sidelines and behind the scenes, almost ensures that LAC will be a hotbed for free agents down the road, so long as new ownership is in place.
Redick, as Favale writes, does remain a Clipper. And he'll still be one next year, when everything starts anew.
But this season, the ending was as bitter as it gets.
Redick, who averaged 12.2 points, 1.3 rebounds and 0.5 assists per game while shooting 45.9 percent from the field and 41.7 percent beyond the arc against the Thunder, ultimately had to experience the anguish of defeat.
And that—coupled with the unfortunate distractions of the Sterling saga, as well as the fact that the Clippers ultimately couldn't show up their owner by winning in spite of the controversy—was just too strenuous for Redick to hold back tears.
Few could have in the same situation.
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