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Cedric Maxwell: Can Doc Rivers Keep Clippers Focused Amid Donald Sterling Controversy?

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BOSTON (CBS) — Boston Celtics radio analyst Cedric Maxwell says the racist comments made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling over the weekend are not just a black eye on the NBA, but the entire sports culture in the country.

Maxwell, who played a season-and-a-half with the Clippers in the mid-1980’s, never had a personal issue with Sterling, but saw him act in ways that other owners throughout the league did not.

“I didn’t really deal with Sterling in that way; when I got to L.A. it was more about he was the boss of the team and I was the player. I never really knew him personally,” Maxwell said on Sunday night’s Sports Final on WBZ-TV. “I knew guys later on who player for him, like Baron Davis (who played for the Clippers from 2008-2011). Donald Sterling would come and yell at the top of his lungs from the first seat telling Davis how bad he was. That normally doesn’t happen from an owner.”

When asked if the NBA should somehow get rid of Sterling, Maxwell wonders how the league could force that process.

“One of the things you look at, he is a multi-billionaire — this is a toy for him,” he said. “In the bylaws of the NBA, I don’t know if you can make an owner sell a team unless he’s not paying the bills. For his bad conduct, I’m not sure where they go in the NBA. For the new commissioner [Adam Silver], this is a monumental task.”

The Clippers have not commented on the situation, but the players staged a silent protest prior to Sunday’s playoff game against the Golden State Warriors. After taking the court, the team huddled together at center court and tossed their warm-ups to the ground. They then went through their pregame routine with their red Clippers’ shirts on inside-out to hide the team’s logo.

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Clippers head coach, and former Celtics head coach, Doc Rivers is the only member of the team to speak out about Sterling, and is doing so to take the focus off of his players. As good as Rivers is at handling off-the-court distractions, Maxwell thinks this one may be too much for even Doc.

“I don’t wish this on Doc, but that’s the personality that can handle this. He’ll try to motivate his players, try to get beyond this, but I am not sure if you can get beyond this as a player,” said Maxwell. “If you’re concentrating on protesting and turning over your jersey, your head is already out of the game.  You have to turn the table and get them back to playing basketball; I don’t even know if Doc Rivers, the master at this kind of stuff, can do that.”

Maxwell said it would be a big statement if Clippers’ players choose to boycott Monday’s Game 4 in Los Angeles, but that fans skipping the game and advertisers ending their relationship with the organization would also send a clear message.

As for the atmosphere in the L.A. locker room, Maxwell said if Sterling shows up to address the team, there is only one way for them to respond.

“I don’t think you even acknowledge him right now,” he said. “The first thing Donald Sterling has to do right now is apologize. He can’t have any excuses. He has to apologize, come out and fully confess what he did and then try to move on. But right now, that’s going to be difficult to do.”

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