If Doc Rivers had his way, the rancid rancor surrounding the recent lifetime ban of owner Donald Sterling would dissipate just long enough for the Los Angeles Clippers head coach to prepare his charges for their impending conference semifinals matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder—and beyond, if all breaks right.
But if Sterling's much-publicized ouster is going to bear any distractive fruit, Rivers could do a lot worse than a recent report by Forbes' Mark Heisler indicating the NBA hopes to have L.A.'s skipper be an integral part of the team's reorganization efforts in the near future.
"Rivers would help select his new boss, who will run the team until the suspended-for-life Sterling is forced to sell it, assuming that the other owners continue to back up Commissioner Adam Silver in the vote expected this week," Heisler reported.
As a purely PR-driven move, conscripting Rivers to help spearhead the Clippers' front-office overhaul makes total sense, something that obviously wasn't lost in Heisler's analysis:
The plain-spoken Rivers is also one of the profession's most gifted communicators. He has been sure-footed through this crisis, keeping his players focused whole giving them space to protest, as they did when they dumped their warmup jackets and turned all Clipper insignia inside out before Game 4 in Oakland.
Whether Rivers has gotten past the initial sting of Sterling's incendiary comments—which prompted the cautiously calculating coach to admit he wasn't sure what his Clippers future might be (per Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times)—is impossible to say.
However, if Rivers' recent comments to The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn are to be believed, the organization has a long way to go—if not to mend the fences outright, then to at least begin the process of sorting out the debris:
I'm really not trying to be the face of this franchise. I want to do what's best for this franchise and try to get this franchise to become a winning franchise but I think the players should always be the face of it, in my opinion. If my voice is part of the franchise, that's fine but I don't want it to be my face. We have so many distractions here going on as a group and my focus is completely on trying to figure out a way of eliminating the distractions.
On this front, Rivers has done an exceptional job. No doubt about that. But to think the events of the past week haven't sent the gears in his head spinning toward the future—even with his team's playoff prospects growing grander by the win—is ludicrous.
From a pure basketball perspective, Rivers has everything he could possibly want: a deep team laden with superstar talent and veteran voices, considerable franchise coffers and the SoCal sun to help make even a February blowout feel a little brighter.
In these Clippers, Rivers has the makings of a true title contender, one that could forever solidify his coaching career as worthy of the profession's pantheon.
But if Rivers can somehow manage to put a more permanent stamp on the franchise's future, to help accelerate the pace by which it achieves a healthy distance—assuming that's even possible—from Sterling's nefarious shadow?
Legacies don't get much more lasting than that.
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