Two nights after a visitor made a rare and unsettling stop in their locker room, the Clippers welcomed a different guest to Staples Center who was expected to soothe their wounded psyche.
And things only fell into further disarray.
The Memphis Grizzlies, owners of the NBA's worst road record, sent the Clippers staggering toward another low Wednesday night during a 118-95 rout.
The situation had already been touchy late Monday after the Clippers' 28-point loss against the San Antonio Spurs. Owner Donald Sterling, frustrated by what he perceived as a lack of effort, went on a tirade in the locker room afterward.
According to team sources, Sterling offered a blanket denunciation of the players and strongly backed Coach and General Manager Mike Dunleavy. The owner said he would be willing to trade all the players and said he was putting their future in Dunleavy's hands.
"Bottom line is he stated some views and everyone understood the views he took," said Dunleavy, who declined to comment further.
Asked if Sterling singled out any players, forward Al Thornton said, "You'll have to ask Coach about that. He can give you more detail. Ask Sterling."
Did the talk help the team?
"I really can't say did it help or did it motivate us," Thornton said. "I can't go either way with it."
Sterling openly ranted in the press room during the game against the Spurs and pulled a Times reporter aside at halftime to voice his displeasure.
The Clippers didn't seem to get the message, at least not against a Memphis team with three rookies in the starting lineup and only three road victories before Wednesday. The Grizzlies had more verve even though they were playing on the second night of back-to-back games, having lost to the Lakers on Tuesday.
Memphis forward Rudy Gay, routinely left open on the perimeter, scored 35 points on 12-for-22 shooting and center Marc Gasol had 20 points to help the Grizzlies hand the Clippers their fourth consecutive defeat since an unexpected triumph over Boston.
The Clippers played most of the game without forward Marcus Camby, who left after only 12 minutes because of a migraine. Things looked good when they held a 72-67 lead late in the third quarter, but the Grizzlies closed the quarter on an 18-2 run and scored the first five points of the fourth to seize a commanding 90-74 advantage.
"It was a combination of defensive mishaps, ridiculous turnovers and that was it," Thornton said.
Memphis pulled away behind an assortment of layups and unguarded jumpers, the fans getting edgy early in the fourth when forward Hakim Warrick went in for an uncontested breakaway dunk.
"Missing Marcus in that second half -- his shot-blocking and rebounding, controlling the paint for us, it put too much pressure on our younger guys as far as defending," said Dunleavy, who was already missing big men Chris Kaman and Zach Randolph. "All of a sudden I had no front line."
Thornton scored 25 points and guard Baron Davis had 16 for the Clippers, who trailed by as many as 25 points in the final minute.
Dunleavy said Sterling's locker-room address was hardly unprecedented among NBA team owners, though he conceded this was the first time Sterling had done it in the coach's six years with the organization. Dallas owner Mark Cuban directed several pointed comments at his players after a loss against Oklahoma City this week, saying "I would rather turn over the roster 100% than subject fans to another game like" that.
Of course, Sterling and Cuban made their remarks after the trading deadline, meaning their chance to overhaul the roster this season has passed.
An MRI exam on Ricky Davis' left knee revealed what Dunleavy called "bad tendinitis," meaning the guard will be sidelined indefinitely. . . . Rookie guard Eric Gordon, recovering from a bruised left shoulder, will "more than likely" return Saturday against Indiana, Dunleavy said. . . . Randolph might also play Saturday, though Dunleavy said the status of Randolph's critically ill father remained fluid. Randolph recently returned to Indiana to be with his family. . . . Kaman could return from his strained left arch as soon as the game against Cleveland on Tuesday, Dunleavy said.
Times staff writer Mark Heisler contributed to this report.