The long awaited trade of Boston Celtic head coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers was finally agreed upon Sunday evening after a week’s worth of off-again, on-again talks between both sides. The deal – pending league approval – will send back to Boston a 2015 first round draft choice, and along with terms of the deal, the Clippers will sign Rivers to a three-year, $21 million contract – the remainder of his contract with Boston.
The trade for the Clippers is long awaited and is thought to be the move that will keep point guard Chris Paul in L.A., enabling the team to him re-up with him this summer. Per league rules, the Celtics and Clippers cannot yet revive the DeAndre Jordan/Kevin Garnett swap that was talked about last week in conjunction with Rivers’ deal, as both sides will have to show that those two deals are not related.
Now that the speculation is over, the reality of the task at hand for the former Celtic is clear. He wanted to coach Paul, and he may get to do just that. He may even have his two main guys from Boston, Garnett and Paul Pierce, join him in la-la land. But as we’ve seen throughout Clipper history, no matter how high profile the players, no matter how high the expectations, the team often seems to fall short.
Therein lays the task for Rivers, to reverse the course of a Clipper franchise that has historically failed to live up to the hype and certainly failed to garner the same attention in the city that hosts L.A.’s most successful basketball franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Clippers did win a franchise record 56 games this past season as well as their first division title in franchise history, but they were still viewed as a major disappointment when the Memphis Grizzlies took four straight games from them in their first round series this past postseason. Disappointments are nothing new to the team though, and this is why Rivers has such a tough task ahead.
Michael Olowokandi– the Clippers first pick in the 1998 draft – was supposed to be their center of the future, but the best season of his Clipper career was 2001-2002 when he averaged 11 points and nine rebounds. Perhaps the most memorable moment of his incredibly underachieving nine-year career was being posterized by a fresh-out-of high school Amare Stoudemire during the 2001-2002 season.
Then before Olowokandi, there was Danny Manning – the 1988 college player of the year. Manning was drafted number one by the Clippers in 1988, thought to be the franchise’s savior. But in his rookie season, he tore his ACL and played in only 26 games. Though Manning would go on to play four and a half seasons with the Clippers, including a career high 22.8 points per game in 1992-1993, he would never become the franchise cornerstone that they envisioned.
It is no secret to basketball fans that the Clippers have been a franchise mired in mediocrity throughout their history. Aside from the last two seasons and a solid playoff appearance in 2005-2006, the team has been the laughing stock of the NBA.
Rivers has been brought in to change that. He’s being paid $7 million a season, and many people doubt him, claiming that he’s only been successful while coaching stars (Garnett, Pierce, and Ray Allen), which to be clear, isn’t true. Rivers was the league’s coach of the year in 1999-2000 while with the Orlando Magic and has only had two losing seasons in his 14 years coaching in the NBA.
But Clipper fans won’t care about that. All they’ll care about is that their team is paying its head coach $7 million per season – a coach that is supposed to be the kicker in convincing their All-Star point guard to stay. And a coach that is to bring this team to the next level – not just a playoff level – but a championship level.
Rivers has a tough assignment ahead indeed.