Bill Simmons and Doc Rivers Bury Hatchet, Michael Wilbon Plays Intermediary
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Michael Wilbon, co-host of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption and NBA Countdown (alongside Simmons), reportedly moonlighted as an arbitrator and muzzled the war of words.
If you've been living in the shadows for the past week, the conflict's backstory can be summed up fairly easily.
Simmons, a bred-in-the-bone Bostonian, spewed a dose of verbal venom in the opening of a 2006 article, tattooing, "Doc Rivers stinks as an NBA coach."
Minced words need not apply.
One "Big Three" concoction and Larry O'Brien trophy later, and the "Sports Guy" seemingly walked the plank before jumping aboard the Rivers bandwagon.
Fast-forward to 2013: The rebirth of Celtic lore was rounding the corner on its expiration date, and the 51-year-old Rivers found himself California dreamin'.
[Rings the 12th-round bell.]
That rumored Celtics-Nets trade is so bad for Boston that Doc Rivers just quit on the Celtics again.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) June 27, 2013
During the NBA draft, Simmons wasn't shy about reiterating and driving his point home.
Naturally, Rivers was less than enthusiastic about being charged with athletic treason.
Grantland's editor-in-chief then retweeted and returned fire to Rivers' own assertions.
The quote I just retweeted is an outright, 100 percent lie. I'd be careful, Glenn. Seriously. Stop talking. You are making sh*t up.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) June 28, 2013
Finally, Rivers elaborated on what triggered the fallout.
There were a string of other jabs and one of Rivers' sons, Jeremiah, berated Simmons on Twitter, but the gist of the conflict lies overhead.
Apparently, Mike Wilbon grew tired of all the white noise being lost in translation and insisted that the two address the elephant privately.
On his podcast, Simmons disclosed, "I talked to Doc for like 45 minutes on Friday night. We hashed everything out. We handled it like adults."
He went on to credit Wilbon in his role as peacemaker, citing that his co-host "hates conflict."
Don't let the haircut fool you: The PTI staple is more than a sunlit robe and Enya playlist away from a Nobel Peace Prize. His Twitter replies denote somebody that welcomes conflict with open arms (and not in the "will you be my neighbor?" kind of way).
Nonetheless, Wilbon bridged the six degrees of separation, but the odd couple's respective stances clearly didn't budge.
Here's the thing: You can't say that this was great for the Celtics to lose one of the best five coaches in the league. That's not a good thing. And you can't say that, 'Oh this is great, they don't have to pay a coach $7 million a year,' 'cause it makes them sound like they're cheap—they're not cheap.
The question was: [Do you] want to pay a coach $7 million a year who doesn't want to be there? I don't blame him for not wanting to be there. I think he wanted to coach Chris Paul and live in Los Angeles and coach a contender.
The "truth" seesawed throughout the feud, and both sides traded turns in contorting it to fit their narrative. Whether Rivers' departure was initiated by him or Danny Ainge remains hazy. And while Simmons contends that his animosity didn't stem from Rivers' exit plan, the tweet that sparked the latest bout of friction would beg to differ.
After spending roughly seven minutes revisiting the issue, Simmons punctuated the synopsis on a high note, adding:
This isn't just about losing somebody who was a good coach, [Boston] kind of lost an ambassador. And I think for the Celtics going forward, you don't replace that with Jay Larranaga or whoever these other coaches are.
In his heart of hearts, Simmons undoubtedly knows that the Celtics' 2013-2014 fate was sealed, regardless of what transpired in the offseason. Keeping the band together for an extra year or two would have only chipped away at Kevin Garnett's and Paul Pierce's value, prolonging the athletic chore that's known as the rebuilding process.
Doc Rivers would've essentially been tasked with defibrillating a crash-test dummy.
Instead, he pursued his professional ambitions and booked a flight to LA, much like Bill Simmons: Boston icon and Clippers season-ticket holder.
Misery loves company.
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