We may finally have the answer as to why Doc Rivers has taken so long mulling over his future with the Boston Celtics.
According to a report by ESPN's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne, Rivers is "highly intrigued" by the vacant job with the Los Angeles Clippers—a feeling the team shares about the current Celtics coach. While the Clippers are yet to make a formal request to speak with Rivers about the vacancy—he's still under contract with Boston—the two sides share a strong mutual interest in one another.
The ESPN report comes on the heels of a report on Wednesday that stated Rivers was seriously questioning his future with the Celtics. ESPN's Chris Broussard spoke to a source close to the 51-year-old coach, who indicated that Rivers was inching ever closer to walking away from the Celtics.
"Doc loves coaching," the source said. "He loves coaching in Boston. But he feels it may be time for a change."
Upon Broussard's report, the Los Angeles Times' Broderick Turner quoted sources as saying the Clippers would instantly put Rivers atop their most-wanted list should he decide to leave Boston. Los Angeles decided to not retain Vinny Del Negro after the Clippers were eliminated by the Memphis Grizzlies during the first round of this year's playoffs.
Rivers has spent each of the last nine seasons with the Celtics, amassing a 416-295 regular-season record.
Upon hearing the news of a possible Clippers-Rivers relationship, many—most notably ESPN's Bill Simmons—came out with strong opinions on the potential move:
In his second NBA coaching gig—he previously spent four-plus seasons with the Orlando Magic—Rivers found his perfect formula. Mixing a players-first attitude and strong defensive scheme, Rivers blossomed into one of the most respected coaches in the NBA—especially after the Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen before the 2007-08 season.
With the Big Three era in tow, Rivers had the greatest success of his coaching career. The Celtics won the 2008 NBA Finals, made it back only to lose two years later and have five straight postseason appearances. Over that time, Rivers has developed a special bond with Pierce and Garnett, the two warriors who have extended Boston's run longer than most thought.
But after being eliminated by the New York Knicks in Round 1 of this year's playoffs, that era seemed destined to end this summer. As Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski put it when Garnett and Rivers shared an embrace in Game 6 of that series, "This was goodbye."
Team president Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe that Rivers would return as Celtics coach for his 10th season in the aftermath of that elimination. There were no such promises made about Garnett and Pierce, as the chorus of calls began for a long-term rebuilding effort.
And with the statuses of Pierce and Garnett remaining up in the air, it’s become clear that Rivers’ desire to return has waned as well. He exchanged a text message with Washburn on Sunday that noted he would "rather not say" what will happen with his future, fueling the rumors that he was looking for a change.
Provided the Clippers are able to re-sign Chris Paul, an unrestricted free agent, this summer, there should be no rebuild period in Los Angeles. Equipped with Paul, Blake Griffin and a bevy of movable trade pieces, the Clippers were viewed as a fringe title contender for much of the regular season. Though Memphis exposed the roster's lack of perimeter prowess in the playoffs, the team could be one or two moves away from legitimate contention.
One of those moves could be acquiring Garnett, Pierce or even both. While it was known the Clippers and Celtics engaged in talks for Garnett before this year's trade deadline, Shelburne and Stein's report notes that Pierce, a Los Angeles native, could also be brought back home as part of a deal.
The Clippers' package reportedly included Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan, two young pieces that could help Boston move to the next phase of its franchise.
With Rivers and the Clippers flirting, those rumors will undoubtedly pick up if there's any fire to this smoke.
Neither Rivers nor the Clippers has made a statement about the ESPN report at this time.
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