Baron Davis was minding his own business walking around Staples Center on Wednesday when he ran right into Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
It was one of those awkward, boss-employee moments where the boss does most of the talking and the employee just nods his head up and down saying, "Yes, sir. You bet, sir. Absolutely, sir."
It's hard sometimes to make Davis a sympathetic figure. Here is a guy with all the talent in the world, yet he's just as much an enigma now as he was the first day he arrived in the NBA from UCLA in 1999.
Which does he want more? To win, to be the best player he can be, or
to further all his outside interests,
such as producing movies?
Sometimes with Davis it's hard to tell, which explains why he's bounced around on three teams in 10 years.
Still, you had to feel sorry for Davis as he stood there talking to Sterling.
Nobody likes a surprise stop-and-chat with the boss, and if Davis could have called a 20-second time out and retreated back to the Clippers' locker room he would have.
Instead, he had to listen up after Sterling cornered him.
"It's coming together," Davis told Sterling, when asked how the team was doing.
"Baron, I need you to make sure it comes together," Sterling told him, in no uncertain terms.
"Yes sir. And I believe it will," Davis reiterated.
"Look, I'm a man who makes things happen, and I need you to make this happen," Sterling said.
"Yes sir," Davis said, politely. "I'm going to make you smile; I'm going to make the fans smile."
"You know what would make me smile?" Sterling said. "You scoring 20 points tonight. That would make me smile."
"Then I'll make you smile," Davis promised.
"The thing is, I don't need you taking 60 shots to do it," Sterling warned.
"I won't need that many shots," Davis said. "So you don't have to worry about that."
This went on for a few more minutes, with Sterling telling Davis he has big-shot friends all over town who come to Clippers games just to watch Davis play, and how important it is for him to maximize his talents, realize his skills and pull the Clippers up with him.
Finally the conversation ended, and Davis could breathe easy again.
It was a surreal moment, to be sure, but this being one of the stranger seasons ever for a Clippers franchise known more for the bizarre than any sort of success, it pretty much was par for the course.
Here was the owner of the Clippers awkwardly trying to stimulate the team's best player.
The question is, what exactly is Sterling trying to motivate Davis for?
After all, Sterling and the Clippers essentially waved the white flag on this season at the trade deadline.
They first replaced head coach Mike Dunleavy with assistant Kim Hughes, they then rearranged 25 percent of the roster - while bringing in three newcomers - in deals designed to get the team far enough under the salary cap this summer to make a legitimate run at one of the premier free agents.
It was a gamble that may or may not pay off, and one many of the current Clippers won't be around to witness.
Only five of the 14 players on the roster have contracts with the team next year, meaning nine players very well may move on to other clubs this summer.
They've essentially been thrown together to play out the string, and with no legitimate hope for a playoff run, there are some guys auditioning for new contracts - here or elsewhere - and others just trying to survive another Clippers roster purge.
Yet here was Sterling, trying to motivate Davis as if something actually was at stake.
"You'd be surprised though, because nobody in this room has given up hope," second-year center DeAndre Jordan said.
Maybe Jordan is too young to really get it, or maybe he has too much pride to give in so easily. But he actually sounded earnest when he claimed everybody on the team still felt like there was something to play for this year.
"Look, management is going to do what they do to put this team in the best position possible moving forward," Jordan said. "We get that, we understand what's going on. Most of these moves are with the future in mind. But the guys in here, in this locker room, we can't be thinking about any of that. We have to play for right now."
For the Clippers, right now is just playing the final 25 games of the season, after Wednesday's 97-91 win over Detroit, their third-straight victory.
"But that's still competing, and that's what all of us have done for as long as we can remember, compete," said Steve Blake, one of the newcomers. "So you focus on winning every single game you play. There is value in that."
Not to mention a possible reward. Maybe not with a playoff appearance this year, but there is fiscal motivation, to be sure.
"We have a lot of guys that don't have contracts for next year," Blake said smiling. "And at times, that can be a good thing because you know everybody is going to be playing hard."
If Hughes has one thing going for him, it's that he controls the playing time, and with so many guys auditioning for jobs, minutes are a pretty big deal around the Clippers.
"It's the one hammer I have, playing time." Hughes said. "And if you're not playing the way I want you to play I can take you out. As an interim coach that is the only recourse you have. You can beg, plead and cajole, but the only power you have is playing time."
Who knows? Maybe playing for jobs and money is enough motivation for the Clippers to turn their season around and make a serious playoff run.
It's doubtful, but Sterling sure seemed to think so when he gave Davis an earful Wednesday night.