HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — For anyone who didn’t understand before just how important coach Doc Rivers was and is to the Los Angeles Clippers’ championship blueprint, it should be clear by now.
Chris Paul needed just hours to make his commitment to the organization and the five-year, $107 million contract they offered their prized free agent. The next day, the Clippers send Paul’s backup, Eric Bledsoe, and Caron Butler to Phoenix for a valuable floor-spacer in J.J. Redick and one of the best utility men in the league (Jared Dudley) in a three-team deal that, no offense to ex-coach Vinny Del Negro, simply does not happen without the Clippers’ new senior vice president of basketball operations (Rivers) in place.
Some 72 hours and counting into the free-agent summer of 2013, it is clear that the Clippers are thriving off of and enjoying the power and influence that a coach the caliber of Rivers brings.
It’s a cosmic energy that the Clippers’ Staples Center roommates know well. The Los Angeles Lakers thrived off of Phil Jackson‘s aura for years. The right coach with the right roster at just the right time can equal great things.
Rivers has yet to blow his first whistle with his squad, yet they’re already sold on him. They know what he did in Boston: getting solid players to perform above their pay grade and helping turn great players without hardware into champions.
“Doc is damn good,” a Clippers vet said via text late Tuesday night. “You know what he does with elite talent. And he’ll have plenty of that in our locker room. He gets everyone to buy in.”
That sort of track record resonates in a locker room full of veterans who want to experience those same things.
The 2013-14 season will be the ultimate testament to the influence Rivers can have and the proof won’t be just in Los Angeles. We’ll be able to observe the happenings in Brooklyn, where Rivers-faves Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have moved on to in attempt to rekindle the championship glow they found in 2008 with the Celtics. And it will be seen in Boston, where Rivers’ departure instigated Danny Ainge‘s decimation of the outfit that was a force in the Eastern Conference and the league for the past six seasons.
Rivers will be in charge of a Clippers team that could legitimately contend for the top spot in the Western Conference for the first time in franchise history.
The Nets have a chance to do the same, but do have a few hurdles (rookie coach Jason Kidd and whatever transition time he needs to get comfortable calling the shots from the bench, sorting out a pecking order in a locker room filled with big personalities, who is the first, second and third option, etc.) to clear before we know exactly what type of team they are going to be.
The Celtics don’t even have a replacement for Rivers yet, so it’s extremely difficult to get a handle on exactly what type of team they will unveil opening night. But, rest assured, the rebuilt Celtics won’t look anything like the juggernaut they were under Rivers the last six seasons.
No one is disputing that talent rules the day in the NBA. It always has and always will.
But I’ll say it again: the right coach with the right roster at just the right time can lead to great things. And the Clippers could be on the verge of living that reality now that Rivers is running their show.