SAN FRANCISCO - As the Clippers were preparing for Game 4 of their first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors, they found themselves also having to deal with allegations that Clippers owner Donald Sterling made racist comments about African Americans.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, who were the only Clippers players who spoke with the media after practice Saturday, both stuck with the theme that they were "focused" on playing Sunday and were only "here to talk about the Golden State Warriors."
So it was left up to Clippers Coach Doc Rivers to speak out about TMZ's posting of Sterling's alleged comments in an argument with his female friend V. Stiviano on April 9.
"This is a distraction," Rivers said. "And so my job is to try to lead them the best way that I know how and the best way I know how is to try to get together and unite them to play and to play well. But it is a distraction, there's no doubt about that."
The Clippers had a 45-minute team meeting Saturday, mostly to talk about Sterling. One player told the group they had worked too hard to get to this point, that they played the game for each other and not for Sterling.
When they got to practice on the campus of the University of San Francisco, the Clippers spoke about how they hope to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series with a win in Game 4.
"We talked as a team and we feel like this game on Sunday is maybe more important than the last game was on Thursday," Paul said. "It's a big game for us. We're sure they [the Warriors] felt like they had a chance to win down the stretch. We really need this game."
Griffin was asked several times about Sterling's comments, but each time the Clippers All-Star power forward had the same answer.
"I'm here to talk about Golden State," Griffin said.
Said Paul: "Any other basketball questions, I'm happy to answer. As a team, we said we'd let Doc handle everything."
Griffin was then asked how the team's practice went, considering all that was swirling around them.
"Very focused," Griffin said. "We accomplished what we needed to. We went over some things that we messed up on, we need to get better at. We were locked in. We had a good practice."
Paul reiterated what Griffin said, saying "our team is focused.
"We know that Golden State had two days just like us to prepare for it," Paul said. "It's another big game, and I'm sure the crowd is going to be excited. It was a crazy atmosphere on Thursday and I'm sure it's going to be unbelievable on Sunday."
"Our focus is really one game at a time," Griffin said. "That's been our main focus since Game 1.... Tomorrow is no different. It's going to be a great environment, a great game. We've got to be ready to execute."
Paul spent the last two days resting his injured right hamstring.
He smiled when asked how the time off helped him and his injured teammates Jamal Crawford (strained left calf), Matt Barnes (jammed left big toe) and J.J. Redick (recovering from a bulging disk in his back).
"Needed it. Needed it," Paul said about the down time. "Man, I needed it. It's [the hamstring] better. It's getting there. It'll be ready by 12:30 [Sunday]. I'm just happy we play tomorrow."