Doc Rivers Says NBA Could Have 'Best Played Playoffs' in History After Hiatus

Megan ArmstrongSenior Analyst IIApril 9, 2020

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - FEBRUARY 13: Head Coach Doc Rivers of the LA Clippers directs his team during the game against the Boston Celtics  at TD Garden on February 13, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers believes patience will pay off.

"If we do get back to this, and rhythm and all that, bodies won't be sore, guys should be healthy, if we can get back to this and guys can get their rhythm in time, that'll be the whole key, it can be the best played playoffs in the history because of that," he told reporters during a Wednesday conference call.

The NBA announced its hiatus March 11 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There was roughly a month left in the 2019-20 regular season, and the Clippers had 18 games remaining before the postseason was scheduled to begin.

Rivers is especially confident in how his team would return to the floor: "I know Kawhi [Leonard]'s overworking. I can guarantee you that. And the difference is, during the summer, Kawhi couldn't work, you know, so now he's got this break, and he's able to train. The Kawhi we'll see will be in phenomenal shape. PG [Paul George] is another guy that's gonna be in phenomenal shape."

Rivers added that he "really thought we were about to make a crazy run down the stretch."

L.A. had won seven of its last eight games before the hiatus began March 12.

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There were only four teams in the league, including just one team in the Western Conference, to clinch a playoff berth: the 53-12 Milwaukee Bucks, 49-14 Los Angeles Lakers, 46-18 reigning champion Toronto Raptors and 43-21 Boston Celtics. The Clippers are the Western Conference's second-best team at 44-20.

The Clippers' expectations for the 2019-20 season became championship or bust when they signed Leonard and traded for George last summer. They had the NBA's third-best scoring offense and fifth-best defensive rating, per NBA.com. Leonard was leading L.A. with 26.9 points per game with George right behind him at 21.0 points per game.

As for what an NBA postseason would look like, Marc Berman of the New York Post reported March 30 that league executives were "very determined to have a champion" for this season.

Berman also provided what the NBA was reportedly tossing around:

"NBA executives still cling to hope of arranging a one-site, fan-less, 16-team playoff and a five-to-seven-game regular-season prelude, according to multiple NBA sources.

"... The playoffs could be reduced to a slew of best-of-three series across the board. A single-elimination format has been all but ruled out—only under consideration as a last resort."

However, ESPN's Brian Windhorst relayed a more dire situation last weekend: "The talks between the players union and the league this week—I've talked to both sides of this issue, and it is clear that the NBA is angling to set up a deal that enables them to shut the season down. ... And I think there is a significant amount of pessimism right now."

Should the NBA resume in some manner to finish out this season, the Clippers will look to make it beyond the first round for the first time since 2015 and compete for the franchise's first championship in history.