The Golden State Warriors claim they had plans in place for a memorable boycott of last night's game in Los Angeles, and would have walked off the court upon tip-off had Adam Silver not banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life.
The Mercury News reports that the plan, hatched during the morning's shootaround by Jermaine O'Neal, Stephen Curry, David Lee, and Draymond Green, would have been to go through warm-ups and introductions as usual, but the second the ball was thrown in the air for the tip, the Warriors would have walked off the court and back to their locker room.
"It would have been our only chance to make a statement in front of the biggest audience that we weren't going to accept anything but the maximum punishment," Curry said. "We would deal with the consequences later but we were not going to play."
The Warriors say this would have gone down had Sterling been punished with anything short of being forced to sell the team. Had Silver not announced the lifetime ban about eight hours before tip-off, the Warriors say they would have approached the Clippers about walking off the court too.
Of course, it's easy to claim you would have boycotted the game after the fact. But from NBPA comments, it sounds like the union had tentative commitments from player reps from all six of last night's teams to refuse to play if Sterling had remained in power.
"We didn't want to jump to conclusions, but we were prepared that if this decision came down, we were prepared to move forward that way," NBPA vice president Roger Mason Jr. said. NBPA vice president Roger Mason Jr. said." We didn't think that this was just a Clippers issue, so we didn't want to put the pressure on Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and that team. We wanted to band behind our brothers to do the right thing."
Again, who knows if they really would have gone through with it. This was all just spitballing before Silver's announcement, rendering the point moot. ("I think they had the trust that there would be" a suitable punishment for Sterling, Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.) But the players' solidarity over the last few days was very much a major factor in the owners' decision to oust Sterling. He's being forced to sell now not because this is the worst thing he's said or done (it's not), or because this is the first time there's hard evidence against him (it's not), but because it's the right business move. With sponsors dropping out and fan and media outrage swelling, just the specter of a player boycott, and the huge financial and PR disaster it would have been, was probably enough to sway any holdouts in the league office. This was a brief and rare victory for player power in the NBA, but the fact that it came at the expense of the worst of the owners makes it extra satisfying.