Blake Griffin and Chris Paul be wearing different uniforms when the NBA season starts up again? With the Los Angeles Clippers losing corporate sponsors by the hour, the franchise must now face the very real possibility that its marquee players could demand to be traded to other teams in the offseason. And in the case of Paul and Griffin, the team would almost have to oblige. So far the entire Clippers roster has continued participating in the current playoffs, even while making statements of protest regarding owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments. That’s been expected, as boycotting playoff games would be throwing a season away. But once the postseason is over, all bets are off.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers has already suggested in television interviews that he’s unsure if he’ll return to the Clippers next season. He’s still under contract the team could try to prevent him from being hired elsewhere, though the NBA could overrule that given the circumstances. But the situation for the players is more complex. Stars like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are not only under multi year contract, they also each carry massive salary cap ramifications for their team and for any other team they might be shipped to. That means if either or both demand a trade and threaten to boycott next season’s games until such a trade can be facilitated, the number of NBA teams who could take on such a hit on their salary cap is limited.
And yet if either player announces at the end of the playoffs that he wants to be traded, the Clippers would have little choice but to find a trade partner or two so they can ensure their best assets aren’t going to waste. Short of an actual trade, the only way the Clippers could make their stars happy enough to stay would be to remove Sterling from the picture. But short of Sterling deciding to sell the team or being forced to by his fellow owners, the most prominent members of the Clippers organization could find themselves at an impasse the minute the playoffs are over.