First Chaos, Then Clarity

Sterling also spoke to Anders by phone and confirmed that it was his voice on the tapes. Clippers team president Andy Roeser met with Anders, as well. Silver kept in constant contact with Anders throughout his investigation. He also consulted with several owners as he deliberated. Time was of the essence. The scandal was dwarfing everything, including an exciting, hard-fought first round of the playoffs as well as announcements of the league's postseason awards (which were postponed this week). The greatest part of the NBA season was being sullied.

Sterling never seemed to fully understand that the walls were caving in on him. Saturday was his 80th birthday. He and his wife stayed in San Francisco the entire weekend. He was planning to go to the game on Sunday until Silver called on Saturday and asked him not to. Shelly sat courtside and later flew home on the team plane. Sterling and Roeser, who has worked for him for over 30 years -- first at his real estate corporation, then with the Clippers, watched the game together in San Francisco.

Roeser was in an impossible position. On the one hand, his job was to serve and counsel his boss. On the other, he knew what his boss had done and said was deplorable. Roeser hired an outside consultant to help craft a statement to respond to the tapes on Saturday. They discussed and weighed three different messages. The first was to cop to everything. Say that Sterling was sick, that he needed help, that he apologized and felt terrible for offending anyone. The second was to dispute the veracity of the tapes, question the motives of the woman on the tapes and why they were released, and argue that what's said on them misrepresents Sterling's true feelings. The third was to say very little except that the team would cooperate with the NBA investigation. Roeser felt the third message was the best option. Sterling did not. They went with defiance, and they stuck Roeser's name on it.

"We have heard the tape on TMZ. We do not know if it is legitimate or it has been altered," the statement read. "We do know that the woman on the tape -- who we believe released it to TMZ -- is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by the Sterling family alleging that she embezzled more than $1.8 million, who told Mr. Sterling that she would 'get even.' 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. He is also upset and apologizes for sentiments attributed to him about Earvin Johnson. He has long considered Magic a friend and has only the utmost respect and admiration for him -- both in terms of who he is and what he has achieved. We are investigating this matter."

It was profoundly tone-deaf and widely decried. Rivers was furious that the statement had been attributed to and released by a representative of the organization for which he served as senior vice president of basketball operations. It expressed a position neither he nor any of the people he knew who worked for the Clippers -- including, of course, the players -- held.

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