Just when it looked like the Clippers and Celtics had finally agreed upon two separate deals to send Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers to Los Angeles, and DeAndre Jordan and two first-round draft picks to Boston, NBA Commissioner David Stern publicly questioned the nature of the trades and their contingency upon one another.
League rules state that teams cannot “trade” coaches, and, more importantly, that there can’t be any “side deals.” Therefore, for the Clippers and Celtics to work something out, the teams have to prove that each deal is independent, and that if either trade were to fall through and ultimately not happen, the teams would still proceed with the other trade.
With each side trying to figure out the best way to appease the NBA — most likely by tweaking the trade and/or ensuring there’s a reasonable time frame between the deals — the Clippers have turned their attention and focus on acquiring Rivers and solving their coaching situation first and foremost.
The Clippers’ primary target now is Rivers, whom sources said team owner Donald Sterling already has signed off on paying upward of $7 million a year for five years. Boston would require compensation for Rivers, who is still under contract for three years and $21 million with the Celtics.
The Clippers’ new challenge, sources say, is thus twofold. They must offer enough in compensation to persuade Boston to let Rivers go — which would likely cement the signature of star guard Chris Paul on a new contract when he becomes a free agent — and then hope any subsequent trade agreement they pursue for Garnett is ultimately approved by the league as a separate transaction not contingent on the hiring of Rivers.
Should the Clippers pursue this strategy, it would be with the understanding they could end up with only Rivers.
League sources told ESPN.com on Thursday morning that previous constructions of the proposed transactions — which would’ve sent Garnett to Los Angeles for DeAndre Jordan and Rivers to the Clippers with two first-round picks as compensation for the coach — were unlikely to be approved by the league office.
For the Clippers to acquire Rivers, they would have to send the Celtics their 2013 first round draft pick (25th overall). Sounds simple.
Well, not so fast.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Clippers aren’t willing to part with their first round draft pick, even though that’s more or less the same trade they would have been making before the NBA intervened.
As long as it appears Garnett and Rivers are a package deal, the NBA won’t allow the Clippers and Celtics to work together on a resolution to this awkward mess. As such, the Clippers believe they should first acquire Rivers — the most important piece — and then try to bring in Garnett and Paul Pierce later, with the strong possibility that neither can end up in L.A. (although it’s difficult to imagine an ideal situation for either player elsewhere).
While that would be far from the Clippers’ dream scenario, they eventually need to hire a coach and there is no better option than Rivers. At the very worst, they would have a top-3 coach in Rivers and an unhappy DeAndre Jordan. Things could be worse. The first step, of course, is agreeing to send to first pick(s).
Will the Clippers pull the trigger, make the trade and end the speculation? Is this another negotiating tactic? Why are they all of the sudden backing out again? We’ll have to wait and see.