The Los Angeles Clippers may have a pair of All-Star starters, a deep bench filled with veteran contributors and a firm hold on one of the Western Conference's coveted playoff spots, but to Doc Rivers, none of that gives his players reason to think of themselves as the "hunted."
After a 107-88 blowout home loss to the Phoenix Suns, Rivers said the Clippers were being "delusional" if they perceive themselves as the hunted without having won a championship, per ESPN's Arash Markazi.
"There's only one hunted team -- Miami," said Rivers, whose squad is 21-12 and currently sitting just a half-game ahead of the Houston Rockets and the Suns for the Western Conference's fourth seed.
"That's it. I mean, c'mon. If we think we're the hunted, they have no idea what the hunted is. I've been on a hunted team before and that's the year after you win a title. That team is hunted. All the other teams are delusional if they think they are."
Are the Clippers the "hunted"?
The coach did admit that opponents are "excited" to play against Los Angeles due to its status as a possible title contender, but he maintained that his squad has a long way to go before it reaches the same plateau as the defending champion Heat.
Shooting guard Jamal Crawford was among the Clippers players who said the team is being hunted due to its recent success.
"We know we're a good team," said Crawford, "but just because we walk onto the court teams aren't going to fear us. We have to take that respect. Now we're hunted and it's still an adjustment period. There are times we understand that and times we don't."
Center DeAndre Jordan echoed a similar sentiment to Crawford.
"...[S]ometimes we feel like we're supposed to beat teams just because it says 'Clippers' on our jersey and because we have a new coach now," said Jordan. "Teams are not going to lay down. They're going to want to beat us even more."
Based on Rivers' past performance coaching a genuinely "hunted" team, he certainly knows how to manage a squad with a target on its back.