OAKLAND -- What happens when a mass of verbal sewage gets dumped on two teams right in the middle of an impassioned playoff series?
I went to center Jermaine O'Neal to find out, because he's the oldest, proudest and most eloquent Warriors player; and his words rose to the moment.
The demoralizing distraction: TMZ's released recording of what the agency says is Clipper owner Donald Sterling making racially offensive remarks.
The background: Everyone in the league knows that Sterling has been charged with several racially-tinged incidents in the past.
All this, just as the Warriors and Clippers get set for Game 4 of this first-round series on Sunday at Oracle Arena, with the Clippers up 2-1.
Yes, O'Neal heard the recording and yes, he was just as repulsed as any logical person would have to be. Or more. Logically much more.
"As an African-American athlete, you get discouraged that this type of thing is still condoned in people's lives," O'Neal said. "You look at a situation where we're good enough to work for you, but not good enough to be around you. To build a franchise, good enough to build a business for you, but not good enough to mingle amongst your circles.
"Very difficult thing to digest."
Simple question: Jermaine, would you ever want to play for a man like Sterling?
"It's very difficult for I think any player in any sport to want to play for a guy that doesn't believe in their race or looks down upon their race, for whatever reason," O'Neal said. "I don't know who would want to do that. I don't know who would want to openly go and play for a person like that.
"It's just strange that he would say those things and feel that way when you have a team that is predominantly African-American, a coach who's African-American, a staff that's African-American, basically."
Everybody with the Clippers and Warriors had to stop what they were doing on Saturday, figure out how to come to grips with the Sterling report, and try to re-set themselves for Game 4.
That's what happened Saturday, and the emotional spillover still may be happening Sunday and for weeks and months.
But let's not overstate this: This report doesn't affect how the Warriors will try to get Stephen Curry free from the Clippers' double teams and it won't help them defend Blake Griffin.
And nobody in the NBA was very surprised that Sterling might say these words or have these thoughts.
"I don't think it'll mean much to the series -- I don't think their guys are going to lay down and just not play," O'Neal said of the Clippers.
But the impact of this report coming out right now was seismic; the Clippers players chose not to speak about it on Saturday, directing all comment to coach Doc Rivers, who spoke well and emotionally.
Maybe the Clippers will bond over this -- against their owner, for themselves -- and play furious basketball on Sunday and beyond.
Maybe not, though; maybe there will be a Sterling Effect, which would not be the first time a team sagged underneath the psychic weight of a spurious owner.
When I asked O'Neal about the consequences of this, O'Neal stood on the Warriors practice court, shook his head, and spoke sadly.
"I use this word with great respect, because there's a lot of people that have committed themselves and their lives to changing how this word is used," O'Neal said. "But it's almost a slave mentality. Where you can go out and do all the work -- you're good enough to do all the work, make all the money for you -- but just not good enough to sit at the table that you eat at."
The Warriors are not playing for the cause of racial equality in this series; they're well-compensated athletes playing for themselves, their organization and their fans.
It's not up to the Warriors to purge the NBA of racism or racists.
That, frankly, is up to new NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the league owners.
"It's Adam Silver's first real, real task," O'Neal said. "Let's see what his response is. I think this can really set the tone for how people view him ... "I think (Sterling) definitely has to be penalized for this, no question. And it has to be severe."
Meanwhile, the Clippers and Warriors have a series to resume, and decide, over the next few days.
This isn't a morality play, because if the tape is authentic, Donald Sterling just showed how little morality you need to display to be an NBA owner, anyway.