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Clippers Believe Rivers Will Elevate Franchise
Posted By Eric Pincus On June 26, 2013 @ 9:05 pm In NBA | No Comments
The Los Angeles Clippers introduced Doc Rivers on Wednesday night, both as head coach and senior vice president of basketball operations, after a lengthy negotiation and trade with the Boston Celtics.
“This is truly one of the biggest moments in Clippers’ history,” said Vice President of Basketball Operations Gary Sacks. “We feel he is the best coach in the NBA — a perfect fit for this organization.”
It took almost two weeks for a deal to be struck, the league blocking the player portion of the deal that would have sent DeAndre Jordan and two first-round picks to the Celtics for Kevin Garnett along with Rivers. Instead, Los Angeles acquired their new coach for an unprotected 2015 first-round pick.
“We won’t be pursuing any player transactions with Boston this season,” said President Andy Roeser, a crucial part of the deal that curried league approval.
The Clippers chose Rivers over other candidates like Byron Scott, Brian Shaw and Lionel Hollins.
“There’s only four (active) coaches in the NBA who have won championships, and he’s one them… he’s a terrific communicator and a terrific coach,” said Sacks.
The Clippers won a franchise-best 56 games last season but fell to the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. The team let former-coach Vinny Del Negro’s contract expire after the season.
“The determination was made that we should get the best coach and only the best coach, and we shouldn’t settle for anything less,” said Roeser.
Rivers has made two NBA Finals appearances (2008 and 2010) as coach with the Celtics, both against the Los Angeles Lakers. Boston won the title in 2008.
“At this point in my life, it’s the only reason I’m coaching. It’s to try and win titles,” said Rivers. “For us, we have to prove that we can win a series first and build from there.”
The Clippers believe Rivers’ leadership will push the team into championship contention.
“We think we have a terrific team. We think to get to achieve the goals that we want, that a steady and seasoned hand is necessary to get there,” said Roeser. “We believe there’s none better in this business than Doc Rivers.”
When free agency hits in July, the Clippers will make a maximum offer to Chris Paul.
“All the indications are that he likes and respects Doc and I hope that that helps,” said Roeser.
Roeser can’t say what is likely true, that the acquisition of Rivers makes it all but a lock that Paul re-signs.
“I don’t know Chris well at all. … I’ve broken up a couple of fights with him and [Rajon] Rondo,” said Rivers. “I like his feistiness.”
The Clippers have the 25th pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft. In addition to Paul, the team needs to decide on free agents Lamar Odom, Chauncey Billups, Matt Barnes, Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf.
Sacks indicated the team is looking for shooting and defensive ability in the draft. Roeser said he expects the Clippers to be aggressive in free agency.
If L.A. stays below the luxury tax apron (estimated to be $75.5 million), they’ll be able to use their full Mid-Level Exception (starting at $5.15 million).
Rivers will have a significant say with his basketball-operations title.
“Doing more than just coaching is appealing – helping build a team,” he said. “It is nice having more input. That’s something that every coach wants.”
Sacks will still do most of the day-to-day work, but Rivers will be a part of the team’s basketball decisions.
“I don’t want to be on the phone every day,” said Rivers
“My role remains the same,” said Sacks. “I’m excited to work with him.”
The Clippers believe Rivers will get the most out of the team’s evolving roster.
“I think that players want to play for Doc. I think that Doc understands what sacrifice means,” said Roeser. “Our existing group will be a better team with Doc’s leadership.”
Hollins, who played for Rivers in Boston, was on hand for Wednesday’s press conference in Playa Vista.
“He’s got my full support,” said Hollins, a free agent in July. “I’m behind him even if I’m not a part of the team. I’m just so happy for Doc as a person and an individual.”
The Clippers have taken the first step this offseason with Rivers. Paul is the next, and most important one. From there the Clippers have a lot to decide, be it through free agency or trade.
“The reason that I wanted this, when it was made available, was because of what they have … and not because of what they don’t have. I clearly think this is an extremely talented basketball team,” said Rivers. “There were times last year, they were the best. What we have to figure out, with group we have, can we now do that in the postseason opposed to just the regular season?”
Rivers said he liked the defensive potential of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. He also loves Griffin’s ability to pass the ball.
“I’m talking European-talented passer,” said Rivers.
Jordan may still end up on the trade block along with Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler, although there’s an argument to be made for keeping the core together and adding in free agency.
Now that the Clippers are no longer a cap team and may be nearing the luxury tax threshold, the hope is that Rivers himself is a free-agent draw.
“I think that he will be able to get more out of our players,” said Roeser. “I think he will help us in the new salary cap environment where it will be harder for us to get players and we’re already over the cap
“I do believe in a winning culture – you have to have that first before you can win. I think that’s the tone I’m going to try to set starting today,” said Rivers. “I think the team building is the most important part. That’s vital”
The Clippers continue to rebrand themselves. Griffin and Paul have helped the franchise climb into one of the best teams in the league.
Now the Clippers hope to push forward into the elite.
“We’re going for it,” said Roeser. “We want to win and we brought Doc here to help us do that.”
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