If Chris Paul's goal for next season is to play with the team that gives him the best chance at an NBA title then he doesn't need to look far. He just has to agree to return to the Los Angeles Clippers and play for Doc Rivers.
According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Clippers believe that the deal to acquire Rivers will also ensure that the star point guard returns to Los Angeles instead of exploring other options when he hits free agency on July 1:
Sources tell ESPN that Clips believe CP3 will soon notify them that deal w/Doc Rivers' clinches his ... http://t.co/FCETvB8Xj9— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 23, 2013
After a great regular season campaign, the buzz in Clipperland is palpable. In Paul's second season with the team, they managed to finish with a 56-26 record and grabbed the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
What is the Clippers ceiling with a Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Doc Rivers core?
However, that excitement was quickly overshadowed by a first round exit in the playoffs as head coach Vinny Del Negro failed to win a series for the third time in his four postseasons as a coach, which led to his firing on May 21.
For a Clippers franchise that has been happy to just make money in the past, the firing was a great sign that the team is serious about becoming a contender. Finding a coach that can lead the roster to the next level was a crucial need in the offseason.
They certainly filled the need with Rivers—he has proved throughout his career he's among the NBA's elite head coaches. The former Celtics boss has an NBA title to his name and a 52 percent career winning percentage in the postseason, a vast improvement over Del Negro's 34.5 percent mark.
As ESPN Stats & Info notes, the arrival of Rivers in Boston resulted in a huge uptick in winning percentage:
In the 3 seasons after the Celtics acquired Garnett and Allen, Doc Rivers had a .724 win pct. In his other 6 seasons, it was .501.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 24, 2013
The important thing to note in that statistic is that the Celtics had a trio of superstars to become a contender. Rivers is a great coach, but Pierce, Allen and Garnett all played integral parts in the Celtics run of success.
With the addition of Rivers in Los Angeles, the Clippers are one piece closer to putting together a team that can win at the highest level.
Other than the potential loss of Paul, the Clippers have plenty of pieces to build around. Blake Griffin averaged 18 points and eight rebounds last season and the Clippers have the right mix of veterans such as Jamal Crawford and Caron Butler and young players like DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe to compete.
Paul can attempt to find a better fit in free agency if he chooses. But not many teams can offer the opportunity to build a long-term contender with one of the league's most exciting young forwards in Griffin and an elite coach like Rivers.