OAKLAND, Calif. – Donning a black-checkered suit coat, an excited Golden State Warriors CEO Joe Lacob enthusiastically went up to coach Mark Jackson just outside the locker room to offer congratulations for the Warriors' 100-99 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 6 of their first-round playoffs series. Before Lacob could say another word, a superstitious Jackson responded: "Make sure you wear that jacket in Game 7."
Lacob and Jackson chatted for about five minutes about the Warriors' big win. And it was all about that and not Jackson's future with Golden State, which has been a big topic of discussion nationally.
"Honest to God, that's the media that is doing all this," Lacob told Yahoo Sports. "There is nothing going on until after the season. I refuse to let anyone talk about that. We don't talk about it. We haven't had that discussion. Everybody in the entire organization is reviewed after the season and we make decisions."
Jackson has another year left on his contract after this season and would like a contract extension. The Warriors have received negative attention recently after assistant coach Brian Scalabrine was reassigned in late March and fellow assistant Darren Erman was fired in April. There has also been speculation that Jackson's job could be in jeopardy and that he might be playing for it in this series. But with the Warriors in a Game 7, the earliest Lacob and Co. will discuss Jackson's future is next week.
Much of this Clippers-Warriors series has had more to do with banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling than basketball. But come Saturday at Staples Center in Los Angeles, the focus will be on Game 7, with one team garnering the right to advance to the second round.
"That's why you work so hard to get a high seed as possible and to have home court for situations like these," Clippers forward Blake Griffin said.
Said Jackson: "It's going to be a lot of fun because a lot of people didn't think we'd be here."
Saturday marks a week from when TMZ Sports revealed that Sterling made racist comments toward blacks on an audiotape. Next came outrage from the likes of President Obama, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Jesse Jackson. The Clippers considered boycotting a Game 4 loss in Oakland last Sunday.
All NBA teams were prepared to boycott playoff games on Tuesday night. But NBA commissioner Adam Silver calmed the potential nightmare protest by banning Sterling for life from the NBA, fining him $2.5 million and making a push to have the franchise sold.
Coach Doc Rivers said the Clippers have been through a "hell of a week." But despite the Game 6 loss, the Clippers felt like they were back to basketball on Thursday. And Los Angeles hopes that come Saturday the fans are more focused on putting their energy toward beating the Warriors than Sterling.
"The fans are going to be great and I don't mind any of the [anti-Sterling talk], but at the end of the day we just got to go play," Rivers said. "It's basketball time. It's Game 7."
The big question is who will be healthy and what do both teams have left in the tank.
The Warriors have three injured big men in starting center Andrew Bogut (ribs), center Festus Ezeli (knee) and center Jermaine O'Neal, who injured his right knee Thursday night. O'Neal's X-rays were negative, but he will get an MRI on Friday. Ezeli told Yahoo Sports that nothing has changed with his status and he doesn't expect to make his season debut in Game 7.
But can Bogut, who has yet to play in the postseason due to a rib injury, make a miraculous return for Game 7? Could the 7-foot, 260-pounder be the Warriors' version of Willis Reed?
"Secretly, yes I'm dreaming," Lacob said with a wry smile. "Obviously, that would be great. But I don't have any idea on what he is feeling or whether it's possible. I sure hope so." Clippers guard Chris Paul struggled with nine points on 3-of-10 shooting, eight assists and four turnovers and is dealing with right hamstring and left thumb injuries. Guard Jamal Crawford is playing with a calf injury, guard J.J. Redick has a back injury and forward Matt Barnes was limping after Game 6 because of a toe injury.
However, said Paul: "We've just got to be ready for Game 7."
With the Clippers hosting the sixth-seeded Warriors on Saturday night, however, the pressure is now focused on the third-seeded Clippers, who have championship aspirations.
"I told them three or four days ago, we have every right to give in if we wanted to," Rivers said. "But you can't. You have to hang in there. And I think our guys are going to be terrific on Saturday."
Said Clippers guard Darren Collison: "It's Game 7, so let's go."
After Game 6, Warriors guard Stephen Curry kept mumbling, "This is what it's all about," in regards to Saturday's do-or-die showdown.
"A lot of guys in our locker room haven't been to a Game 7," Curry said. "So you understand it's even more [crucial]. Each possession is even more precious and we just have to fight. It's about who wants it more at this point, going out and executing and just being that team that is more aggressive come Saturday night."