The Phoenix Suns were rocked by allegations of racism and misogyny from owner Robert Sarver on Thursday, but as the NBA launches its investigation into the matter, the team still has a season to play. The 4-3 Suns have had an uneven start to the season as they attempt to defend their Western Conference championship, and a scandal like this surely won’t help matters. Team leaders Devin Booker and Monty Williams preached patience as the league investigates the situation, but one Sun, in particular, has a bit of firsthand experience in these matters.
Chris Paul was a member of the 2014 Los Angeles Clippers, then owned by Donald Sterling. During the first round of the postseason, Sterling was caught making racist comments on tape. Commissioner Adam Silver acted swiftly to remove Sterling from the NBA, but Paul had the unenviable task of leading the Clippers through the postseason while the cloud of Sterling’s actions hung over the team. He didn’t equate the situations on Thursday, but rather emphasized the importance of togetherness as a team amid these difficult circumstances.
“I feel like situations are different,” Paul told reporters. “We dealt with that in that time when all that happened. I think right now, like Book said, we’re not insensitive to everything that was said or whatnot, but we don’t know all the details. So the NBA will do its investigation, and in that time, all of us on our team will continue to play and do what we do.”
“I’ve been through a few situations in my time in the league,” he continued. “The powers that be, they look into it. They do their investigations or whatnot, but I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned through all these years is that us as a team, we’ve got to talk. It’s not about what everybody else is saying or everybody else is telling you to do or you should do. It’s about how we feel as a team, as a unit, coaching staff, everybody within the organization.”
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Paul’s 2014 Clippers made it through the first round before succumbing to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second. Phoenix’s on-court ambitions this season are a good deal grander. After coming within two wins of the championship, the Suns are hoping to take that final step this season and emerge with the Larry O’Brien trophy. The allegations against Sarver present an enormous obstacle on that front, but the Suns are fortunate to have a player like Paul, with some degree of experience navigating these murky waters, to guide them through the season.