The entire world will be watching closely to witness what the extended fallout will be for Donald Sterling and the Los Angeles Clippers after the owner’s racist remarks. Locally, no team in the NBA may have more of an interest in the outcome than the Boston Celtics.
Currently, the Celtics hold the Clippers' 2015 first round pick. The team acquired the selection as compensation for allowing Doc Rivers to break his long-term contract with Boston and sign a new deal with the Clippers last June.
When the swap was made last summer, the Clippers’ 2015 first round selection was widely expected to land late in the round. A talented core featuring Chris Paul and Blake Griffin nearly ensured the Clippers would be a top team in the Western Conference for years to come, barring injury.
Sterling’s racist rants have changed the probability of that scenario. According to Yahoo! Sports, Rivers reportedly is planning on leaving the franchise if Sterling still owns the team this summer and Rockets owner Leslie Alexander has suggested allowing all of the Clippers players to become free agents this summer if Sterling refuses to sell. (Via Houston Chronicle)
“I thought that there’s got to be a way to disrupt [Sterling] from owning the team,” said Alexander, who after 20 years owning the Rockets is one of the longest tenured owners in the NBA. “I gave him the sword to deal with this. I said, ‘Let the players become free agents.’
If Sterling fights Adam Silver's wishes for him to sell the team immediately, the Clippers’ roster next year may not resemble anything close to this year’s talented group. Rivers could exit as coach, while players like Paul or Griffin could demand a trade if they aren't granted free agency. It’s also highly unlikely free agents from around the league would want to sign with the franchise with Sterling still in place as an owner.
The Celtics would stand to benefit from such a scenario, as the Clippers’ performance in the 2014-15 season would undoubtedly take a serious hit in the standings. That would shift what was expected to be a late first round pick from the Clippers, into a potential lottery selection for Boston.
Danny Ainge has this team well positioned for the future with nine first round selections stockpiled over the next five years, but another high draft pick could do wonders for speeding up the Celtics’ rebuild.
Boston fans already have plenty of reason to be disgusted with Sterling for his deplorable acts. This potential scenario gives them a little more added incentive to root for the demise of his franchise, if Sterling puts up a fight to keep the team.