With the Miami Heat focusing on winning a third straight championship, another topic continues to overshadow their chase at history.
Before Wednesday's Game 5 against the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference semifinals, forward LeBron James had to address a report that he planned a player boycott next season if recently banned Donald Sterling remained as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.
James said it was untrue and that he was confident commissioner Adam Silver would handle the situation in the players' best interest.
"As players, we see what Adam Silver is doing," James said. "He's moving forward. If he continues, which we believe in Adam Silver will do aggressively on the situation, then as players we have nothing to worry about."
The situation made its way to the Miami locker room when former Heat player Roger Mason Jr., vice president of the players union, linked James to leading a possible boycott. Last month Sterling was barred from the NBA after making racially-insensitive comments directed toward current black players and Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.
In an interview with Showtime’s Jim Rome, Mason said he recently spoke with James about refusing to play if Sterling wasn't banished from the league. Mason was traded by the Heat to the Sacramento Kings in February but kept ties with the team. After being released by the Kings, he is often seen in the Miami locker room before and after games.
“I was just in the locker room,” Mason told Rome. “Three, four days ago, LeBron and I talked about it. He ain’t playing if Sterling is still an owner.”
Later, Mason backtracked from the statement. On Wednesday, he posted on his personal Twitter account: "My bad if I was not clear LBJ (James) never said anything about boycotting. He's a friend and I would never want to imply something he didn't say."
"Roger comes in here, we speak about issues," James said. "I believe that issue came up but as a team we never discussed it. Roger is a great guy. I don't have a problem with him at all."
With the previous comments making it a hot topic earlier in the day, the Heat downplayed the situation by saying there have been no talks of a boycott and the focus was on the postseason.
“We haven’t even talked about it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “There’s been far too much attention on that ugly situation and not on this incredible competition in the playoffs right now. LeBron’s not thinking about that. We’re not thinking about that right now.”
On his Twitter account, Mason made it clear he spoke with other players besides James. While his comments sent mixed messages, he tweeted "the bottom line is that our commissioner, team, owners, fans, players, and the world all agree that there is no place for racism in our league."
James has been among the harshest critics of Sterling. Last month he said “there’s no room for him in our league” when the news first broke. He spoke at length about the subject following Sunday’s practice in New York, refusing to back down from his stance.
“At the end of the day, this is going to be a long litigation when it comes to that," James said. "This guy who's owned the team since the `80s is not going to just give the team up in a day. So we understand it's going to be long, but we want what's right.”
Forward James Jones, the Heat’s player union rep, said he feels no boycott will take place. The players are confident commissioner Adam Silver will meet their needs, which is to remove Sterling.
“However this thing plays out, it will play out the way that we all agree, which is to have Donald Sterling no longer being an owner of an NBA franchise,” Jones said.
The Heat, meanwhile, won’t allow it to sway focus. After the playoffs, they will deal with the situation when the time comes.
“We haven’t discussed that as a team and as a group,” forward Udonis Haslem said. “Next year is next year. Right now, we have bigger fish to fry. I think guys will talk about or have that discussion when it’s time for that. We haven’t had that discussion at all.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun