On the Toronto Raptors' bus ride to practise Saturday, talk wasn't about the upcoming game against the Brooklyn Nets. It centred around the Los Angeles Clippers and owner Donald Sterling.
The NBA is investigating a report of an audio recording in which a man identified as Sterling tells his girlfriend not to bring black people to games.
"Guys more than anything are saying, 'Something has to addressed, something has to be said,"' said Raptors forward Steve Novak, who spent two seasons (2008-'10) with the Clippers.
The league said it is in the process of authenticating the validity of the recording posted on TMZ's website.
In the recording, the man questions his girlfriend's association with minorities. TMZ reported the woman, V. Stiviano, who is of black and Mexican descent, posted a picture of herself with Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson on Instagram — which has since been removed.
"There's definitely not a place for it in the NBA, in this game," Novak said. "What makes it so strange is he's been an NBA owner for that many years (33), he's not someone who isn't associated with African Americans, someone who's benefited that much from African Americans. . . they've been such a positive part of his life.
"Sometimes there's very successful people who aren't very good people," Novak added about the American business magnate.
The man in the recording asked Stiviano not to broadcast her association with black people or bring black people to games. He specifically mentioned Magic Johnson on the recording, saying "don't bring him to my games, OK?"
"I will never go to a Clippers game again as long as Donald Sterling is the owner," Johnson responded on Twitter.
He also said the alleged comments are "a black eye for the NBA" and felt bad that friends such as Clippers coach Doc Rivers and point-guard Chris Paul had to work for Sterling.
"I don't blame him. I wouldn't either," DeMar DeRozan said of Johnson's decision to boycott games.
DeRozan, who grew up in Compton just south of downtown Los Angeles, said he felt for the Clippers players, who lead their Western Conference playoff series against Golden State 2-1.
"Honestly, especially right now in the playoffs, they're trying to win their series so it's going to be interesting to see (how the players handle the situation)," DeRozan said.
Landry Fields added: "Right now they're kind of in a tough position. There's still playoffs to be played. But it is sad that now this has become an issue rather than Clipper basketball."
DeRozan was asked if he could play for an owner like Sterling.
"I don't know man, I don't know. I don't know," the all-star said with a shake of his head. "Me personally, I don't stand for nothing like that. It would be tough, it'd be tough."
Added Raptors coach Dwane Casey: "If it's true, it's a sad commentary on our society . . . on our society as a whole, being an African American myself."
Novak said the allegations are no surprise, players have known about previous discrimination cases against Sterling. He said the NBA must take action.
"I think it's personal to each and every guy," Novak said. "More than anything I don't think the league can sit back and say it didn't happen, if it did.
"There's no way that should be tolerated. I don't think in any workplace in the world you can speak that way about anybody, and in our league especially."
New NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a press conference before the Grizzlies' playoff game in Memphis that the audio is "disturbing and offensive."
"All members of the NBA family should be afforded due process and a fair opportunity to present their side of any controversy, which is why I'm not yet prepared to discuss any potential sanctions against Donald Sterling," Silver said. "We will, however, move extraordinarily quickly in our investigation."
Novak added it's a huge black eye to the NBA ownership group.
"The owners in the NBA are such an impressive group of people," he said. "Look at all the owners and what they've done, and all the good things that they do, and so for something like that to come out, to be grouped as an NBA owner type-thing is unfortunate."
Sterling has been involved in several lawsuits over the years. Novak played for the Clippers when the owner was sued by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2009. Sterling agreed to pay US$2.73 million to settle allegations by the government that he refused to rent apartments to Hispanics and blacks and to families with children.
Sterling is the longest-tenured owner in the NBA since Lakers owner Jerry Buss died last year.