When Blake Griffin was told about Donald Sterling's incendiary remarks on race, he didn't quite realize how big the fallout was going to be.
"I don't think any of us really knew how big this was going to be, just because we didn't really know the magnitude," Griffin said after the Clippers' Game 5 win over the Warriors. "We hadn't heard anything."
But after the audio recording that contained Sterling's remarks regarding African Americans was leaked by TMZ, the impact resonated nationwide.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million and issued him a lifetime ban from the NBA. Retired and current NBA players weighed in with their disgust. Oprah Winfrey told TMZ "the plantation days are over." And White House press secretary Jay Carney said that President Obama supports the ban.
The Clippers went from focussing on getting past the first round of the playoffs to having to deal with issues of race and bigotry, becoming the mascot for a movement for equality in the midst of the postseason.
Some thought the Clippers should refuse to play. Others thought they should play. Faced with all of this scrutiny, the team turned to its coach, Doc Rivers.
"We had our team meeting and decided what we wanted to do," Griffin said. "We let him speak for us and I thought he did a great job with that."
Chris Paul also praised Rivers for guiding the team through this difficult period.
"I couldn't imagine having another coach who was there to communicate with us and ask us how we were feeling and not just tell us, we're going to do this, we're going to do that," Paul said. "He actually listened to us throughout this entire thing and it was pretty special."
Paul added that he was worried about keeping the locker room together, but has been pleasantly surprised by how the team has united under such pressure.
"Through everything we were tight, and still are," Paul said.
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