Sunday's Game 4 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors should have been about basketball, but it wasn't. It was about the scandal surrounding team owner Donald Sterling.
Before Sunday's playoff game, both coaches' press conferences were dominated with talk about the racist comments Sterling allegedly made during a phone call. In audio tapes obtained by TMZ Sports, a man who TMZ identifies as Sterling tells his girlfriend that he doesn't want her to be seen in public with African Americans. NBC News has not been able to authenticate the audio tapes.
"Please don't think it's just the Clippers who have been offended by these comments," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "This is a big story that has to be dealt with accordingly. We're offended."
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he "didn't know yet" if he wanted to continue working with Sterling and the Clippers. Rivers, a respected championship-winning coach, would made a strong statement by walking away from a team as talented as the Clippers.
After the coaches spoke, the Clippers locker room opened its door to the media, but players were noticeably more invisible on this occasion. Understandably, players were not interested in speaking publicly about the uncomfortable situation. NBA Commission Adam Silver said Sterling had agreed not to be present at Sunday's Game 4 in Oakland.
Then, the Clippers took the floor and made a statement. Every Clippers player jogged to midcourt, and the team collectively removed its Clippers warm-up jackets and left a pile of Clippers gear at center court in an apparent protest against Sterling.
Once the jackets were off, the Clippers went through their warm-up drills wearing red shirts turned inside-out, hiding the Clippers' logos and name.
After the opening tip, the off-court distractions caught up with the Clippers quickly. Stephen Curry and the Warriors, who were at home in an important Game 4, started hot. A quarter into the game, the Warriors were up by 15 points and had 39 points on the board. That early cushion would lead the home team to an easy 118-97 victory.
But the 48 minutes of basketball hardly mattered on Sunday afternoon. With a win in Game 4, the Warriors evened the exciting back-and-forth series at 2-2. Sadly, the Clippers playoffs will likely continue to be marred by the scandal.
"The players are outraged," said former NBA player and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, speaking on behalf of the NBA's Players Association. Johnson held a press conference at halftime and revealed the players had an emergency conference call in the wake of the recordings.
Johnson said the players wanted "extreme" and "maximum" penalties leveled against Sterling, and the players wished to be involved in the discussions if and when those penalties were being decided.
Silver was also at the game but focused his public thoughts on how the situation was "unfair" to the Clippers players at this pivotal moment in their postseason.
Clippers president Andy Roeser released a statement Saturday, which said in part: "Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings. It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life. He feels terrible that such sentiments are being attributed to him and apologizes to anyone who might have been hurt by them."