Clippers relieved, but still navigating through uncharted waters
Clippers coach Doc Rivers knows it’s not over, that the events of the past several days will continue to follow him and his team through the playoffs and beyond.
No matter what happens Thursday night in Game 6 of the Western Conference first-round series against the Golden State Warriors, there are still unresolved issues — and the Clippers will be in the middle of them.
"We’re not through this," Rivers said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. "We’re still in it. I really believe that. There are so many other questions that have to be asked. There are so many moving parts to this. Even internally here, there are things we have to find out.
"Like I told my guys yesterday, ‘This is going to be with us. Let’s just keep winning and deal with it, but it’s not going anywhere and you’ve just got to embrace that.’ "
The Clippers won Game 5 on Tuesday night, beating the Warriors 113-103 at Staples Center after NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the banishment of owner Donald Sterling, who was banned for life.
It was a sense of relief for Rivers and his players, but it’s not fully behind them. They’re still coping, still navigating through unchartered waters.
Somehow, though, they got through the first wave.
"You got through them because you had to," Rivers said. "We had no choice in it. We were kind of pulled in it and we’re in the middle of it, so you have to deal with it.
"I was really proud of my guys. For the most part, they hung in there. To have enough energy to play in the game last night and win the game was very impressive."
The Clippers won because center DeAndre Jordan had the best playoff game of his career (25 points, 18 rebounds, four blocked shots), because Warriors guard Steph Curry had an off night shooting (17 points and just 10 shots attempted) and because they were able to blunt every charge by Golden State in the fourth quarter.
"D.J. has to be there every night," Rivers said of Jordan, who was scoreless in Game 4 at Oracle Arena in Oakland. "He’s so important to us, and that’s what I’ve been telling everyone all year. His importance almost can’t be measured because he does so many things with his athleticism, his energy, his defense. He bails us out so many times defensively."
But Rivers conceded that things aren’t back to normal, not yet. The Clippers can focus on basketball again, but they know there will still be questions about ownership and responsibility and the future.
"As far as being back to normal, I doubt that that is true," he said. "But I did feel like once the game started, as the game went on, we were back to playing basketball as a group. From a coaching standpoint, I was really happy about that."
Sixth man is best man
Although it’s not official yet, Doc Rivers said he understands why guard Jamal Crawford will win the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award for the second time in his career.
"I don’t know if there’s a more lethal weapon in the league that you can bring off the bench," Rivers said. "And the fact that he’s done more than that, to me, is why he’s won it.
"He’s done this in the past over the last couple of years where he’s been so good offensively. But I actually think he won it because the voters saw him doing other things for the team — playing defense, running the team at the point guard position where Chris Paul was out. He’s been the perfect utility player."