When it comes to decision making in the NBA, no man has more power than Doc Rivers does right now, and that should change. Nothing against Rivers, who has done a marvelous job of coaching, setting a franchise record with 56 wins this season. He also kept a team together against intense scrutiny, the likes few teams in the history of sport have faced.
Beyond that, players have complained that Del Negro's offensive and defensive schemes are too basic and predictable and they say he plays favorites when handing out criticism, according to the sources. They say while he refuses to harshly criticize stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, he does not hold back in jumping on the team's lesser players.
Although the players turning on Rivers seems highly unlikely, imagine if one or even two of them did. Rivers would hold all the power to bench them, trade them or even release them. No other person in the league has that kind of power, not even Gregg Popovich, who technically has to work with current Executive of the Year, R.C Buford.
Although Rivers will have complete control over all basketball decisions this summer, new owner Steve Ballmer needs to put a buffer in the front office. While that label sounds disrespectful, the position is needed. Rivers has enough on his hands coaching and developing game plans, let alone handling most of the general manager duties.
Ballmer’s first job as acting owner should be to identify a few highly qualified individuals who will work on the same page as Rivers in order to continue to build the Clippers into title contenders. After all, we saw how exhausted Rivers was this spring dealing with the media, calming down his players and trying to coach playoff games against the likes of Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
Another great example of profound basketball minds dealing with a checks and balances system was laid out by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.
Bird, for example, has been barred from passing into the luxury tax and had to work creatively to avoid it while retooling the team's bench over the last year. Last summer, Heat owners Micky and Nick Arison cut Mike Miller using the amnesty clause days after Riley had publicly declared he was against the move.
Rivers may have every intention of running a fiscally responsible organization, despite Ballmer’s deep pockets. Still, one man who controls that much power inside the organization is never an ideal situation. Rivers needs help, otherwise his desire and passion potentially could fade.
The last thing the Clippers want is a head coach who is so entrenched in daily operations at multiple levels of the organization that he becomes overworked and burns out. The Clippers are on the verge of finally reaching the Conference Final. Rivers being on the sideline is a major reason why.
Finally, Ballmer is highly educated, graduating from Harvard University. He was CEO of Microsoft for the last 13 years. He is also a highly analytical, technology orientated man, according to the New York Times’ Steve Lohr.
'He has a near-photographic memory for facts, and he can scan a spreadsheet and zoom in on the one aberrant figure that suggests a problem,' observes Craig Mundie, the chief research and strategy officer.
Robert J. Bach, another senior Microsoft executive, says: 'I like to think I’m analytical, but I’m not in the same ZIP code as Steve.'
What am I getting at? All signs point to Ballmer embracing the NBA’s new wave of advanced analytics. You don’t have to look hard to notice that not only is the Clippers’ front office pretty empty right now, but there are not many high-level analytics guys on the staff.
Again, this is no disrespect to Doc Rivers, but he is wearing too many hats this summer. When you have more power than Phil Jackson, Bird, Popovich and Riley, you have too much. Let Rivers focus on coaching the team and allow Ballmer to make his own hires to put people into positions that not only fit his ideal organizational structure, but Rivers’ as well.
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