The Los Angeles Clippers are a playoff team with talent in place that believes they can contend for a championship right now. But after the firing of coach Vinny Del Negro following a disappointing first-round exit in the NBA playoffs, the Clippers are, according to some sources, on the verge of doing something rarely seen in sports: trading for a new head coach. And they're looking at a coach who has already won a ring: Doc Rivers.
After previously telling sources that he would be returning to Boston's bench next season "until he says he's not", Rivers essentially declined to comment when asked by the Boston Globe if he was still making his decision. That was a week ago, and now Boston is feeling the heat with rumors of a separate Clipper trade involving Clips star Blake Griffin and point guard Eric Bledsoe in exchange for Lakers center Dwight Howard. ESPN's (and unrepentant Celts fan) Bill Simmons had this to say on the Rivers situation:
Just so we're clear: Doc Brown has a better chance of coaching the Celtics next year than Doc Rivers does. Clips deal or bust.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) June 17, 2013
There are a couple reasons why the Clippers should not go through with this trade. First and foremost, Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Clips would have to give up two first-round picks and current starting center DeAndre Jordan to get Rivers and Garnett. It seems silly for a team built around young talent to give up one of their foremost young leaders (Jordan) for an undersized center who is likely on his last legs (Garnett).
KG is on his way down, production-wise, scoring one less point per game than he did last year (15.8 to 14.8) and fewer rebounds as well (8.2 in 2011-12, 7.8 this past season). At 37, Garnett's numbers are not likely to suddenly increase again.
Jordan, meanwhile, has been the Clippers' anchor down low, averaging 7.2 rebounds a game alongside frontcourt mate Griffin and improving his PPG totals from last year's 7.4 to 8.8 in 2012-13. In addition, Jordan led the league in field goal percentage this season, making a staggering 64.3% of his shots. The next closest in that category? Dwight Howard, who came in a distant second with a 57.8 percentage.
The young big man is also durable, and hasn't missed a single game in over two seasons. We've seen Garnett's glory days come and go by this point, but when it comes to Jordan, still just 24, the best is clearly yet to come:
In addition, "Doc" surely has a broadcasting career waiting for him when he does decide to either take a season off or give up coaching altogether. Several sources, including SLAM Magazine and the Huffington Post, have already stated that Rivers has drawn interest from multiple stations looking for on-air talent.
Forget for a second whether or not Rivers, who has just been leading one of the older teams in the league for the past few seasons, will be able to transition to coaching the Clips, who are one of the youngest teams in the NBA. If Rivers knows he has a cushy, pressure-free job in the broadcast booth waiting in the wings, will that same fire and intensity he brought to Beantown still be there?
The Clippers ran straight into the buzzsaw that was this year's Memphis Grizzlies in the playoffs, but they shouldn't panic and make a move they don't need to make for a player and coach who could both be very well past their primes. L.A. is currently the team to beat right now in the City of Angels, and should be looking with hope towards the future, not trying to wring what they still can out of the past.
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