Kevin Arnovitz and Jordan Heimer look back on an intense, bizarre and fun Clippers season.
Here’s an interesting excerpt from Bill Simmons column today about the lottery.
He’s talking about Boston but he does mention the #1 the Clippers sent the Celtics for Rivers. He makes a very good point about it.
“2. Boston Celtics
You gotta admit, they sold as high as possible on Pierce and Garnett (three unprotected no. 1s from Brooklyn in 2014, 2016 and 2018 plus a pick swap in 2017) and Doc Rivers (an unprotected no. 1 in 2015 that has a puncher’s chance of becoming a gem if the Sterlings fight to keep the Clippers and every Clipper decides, “I am suing to play for a different team”). You can’t execute an impromptu rebuilding plan better than that.
(And for any of you who still wrongly think it is incorrect to use #1 to mean a first round pick, Simmons does it twice in this one paragraph, and good luck trying to make people think Simmons doesn’t know how to talk about basketball.)
Here’s another relevant bit from Simmons’ article, this one about the Suns:
“1. Phoenix Suns
You can’t play it better than the Suns played it these past 15 months. They nailed the Jeff Hornacek and Ryan McDonough hirings. They successfully reunited the Morris twins and transformed them into NBA assets. They fleeced the Clippers with that Eric Bledsoe–Caron Butler for Jared Dudley–J.J. Redick trade, . . .”
That trade only looks horrific in regards to the rotting basketball corpse that is Jared Dudley.
HOWEVER, that trade did net the Clippers Doc Rivers (who in the NBA could have handled this whole Sterling debacle better) and J.J. Reddick (who absolutely contributed and teams had to account for running off of picks).
Also, if I remember correctly, Eric Bledsoe was up for an extension on his contract this year. The Clippers would have had to match or let him go – further tying up the cap room.
Bill Simmons and “quality” basketball analyst do not belong in the same sentence. He is very knowledgeable about the game. However, he says a lot of stuff purely for entertainment. He does not know the ins and outs of all 30 teams. He’s probably the most knowledgeable with the Celtics because he is after all, a Celtics fan.
Here’s the main thing to me about this Clippers’ season. Doc Rivers came here sounding like Harold Hill (that guy from Music Man who promised the moon to River City, then he fell way short and everybody realized he was a fake and their dreams he sold them weren’t going to happen. They didn’t like it. Neither do I.
The Clippers didn’t improve this season. This team Rivers put together was actually worse than either of the last two teams. They won one more game than last season’s team, but likely that was because there were so many more bad teams in the NBA this season, mostly in the East but also the Lakers, and the Clippers feasted on those bad teams. Before Rivers got here the Clippers had some avenues to improve, but Rivers erased those. A big #1 pick is gone (to Boston for Rivers), Bledsoe is gone, the cap space is gone. I don’t see how the team gets any better next year. They’ll once again do well in the regular season and make the playoffs. Depending on who they play, they might get out of the first round, but they once again won’t be good enough to get out of the second round.
To me, it’s all pretty much of a bummer. They had a shot but they blew it.
you have to distinguish between Doc the coach and Doc the GM
Respecfully disagree with Jake. This team is definitely better than the past two years teams.
Example 1: VDN did not run an offense. He threw the ball on the court and said “CP3, run some PNR with Blake and see what happens.” Doc absolutely had an offensive gameplan – resulting in the Clippers #1 ranked offense in 2014. In contrast to last year, where the Clippers tailed off in the latter part of the year due to CP3 being the only offense and he got naturally tired toward playoffs.
Example 2: VDN changed defensive schemes for EVERY GAME. Doc installed defensive principles that endured throughout the year – with slight adjustments for each opponent.
With that being said, not entirely sure what Doc was thinking on the Byron Mullens/Antawn Jamison signings but at least he was able to jettison both before the trade deadline.
Jake, you act like the Van Gundys or Larry Browns or Coach K’s of the world were interested in the Clipper HC job and we simply turned them down, so we could trade a 1st round pick for Doc.You act like Larry Bird, or Pat Riley wanted in on the Clipper GM position, but we turned them away, so we could trade a 1st round pick for VP Doc. If any of that had happened, then you’d have a valid argument. But we had no other way to vastly improve our coaching situation, since Phil Jackson wasn’t remotely interested. Steve Kerr was not interested. Jeff Hornacek was unproven. The best possible candidate was Doc Rivers at the time, and we made the right moves to obtain his services for both positions. And?? Next years 1st round pick will be 25th or lower, so the equivalent of a Reggie Bullock type player in exchange for a capable GM, and top 3 coach was a great move for the Clippers. You need to stop with your anti-Doc Rivers rants, borderline Demote-like, just please stop.
You cannot say the team did not improve this season. The team CLEARLY improved. The offense was not so isolation heavy and it was beautiful to watch especially with Redick running those floppy sets. We were much harder to stop on offense because we went from a team that relied purely on talent to an execution team. The team improved in terms of process. Offensive breakdowns weren’t as prevalent this year compared to the VDN-led teams. Our defense improved tremendously too. Under VDN, we had one of the worst 3-pt. defenses. This year, we improved to #1. We actually had a defensive system. Could there be improvements, absolutely. We need improvements on the wings in terms of length and athleticism. All of the teams in the conference finals have a long and athletic small forward (OKC-KD, SAS – Leonard, IND – George, MIA – Lebron). We did not have that. Barnes’ defense was admirable. But his offense was terrible. All of the guys mentioned above need to be respected on offense as they can make open shots and they can slash and get to the rim. We do not have any slashers on the team. To say that Doc didn’t improve the team shows your lack of understanding of the differences in processes with Doc. You also need to remember that all of the injuries this year affected how the system could be implemented because of a lack of chemistry. Doc’s defensive system takes time to learn and now that the core of the team has an understanding of it, the chemistry built into this year is good going into next year. I never seriously expected this team to get past the WCF. Plus, you also have to remember how ridiculously insane the west is this year. I wouldn’t have been surprised if any of the losing teams had won their series with the exception of Dallas against SAS.
I didn’t like it when it happened that the Clippers gave up a #1 for Rivers and gave him total control of the roster. Now that my concerns have been born out by what he did this season and in the playoffs, I like it even less. I was concerned about Rivers coaching history, which for the most part was very mediocre. In his 5 years in Orlando, he made the playoffs three years but never got out of the first round. Then he went to Boston where in his first two years he had winning percentages of .402 and .293, with better rosters than those percentages would indicate. Then Ainge got him Allen and Garnet to play along with Pierce, Rondo and Perkins. That was 3 for sure hall-of-famers and maybe a fourth in Rondo. It was the best roster in the NBA and he won a ring with it, but only one ring.
Any of the many good coaches around the NBA could have won a ring with that roster, so the ring says more about Ainge who put the team together than it does about Rivers who coached it. Repeat: Ainge put that roster together, not Rivers. Six seasons with the four hall-of-famers and only one ring. That’s not so great. His last season in Boston with that roster, he only had a .506 record in a weak East and lost in the first round in 6 games. Then he bailed for the greener pastures of the Clippers. In the overall to me, he seemed like somewhere between a mediocre to good coach who was very opportunistic and was looking for situations that made him look better than he was. He had never shown anything to make me think he should be in charge of the roster. So all in all, I was very concerned with all the Clippers gave up in bringing him here. There was a lot of hype around him, and hype’s not enough.
Now that the season is over, I clearly see that the hype was not warranted. His judgment of players and his judgment in making trades and roster moves is poor. His meltdown at the end of game 5 was so bad that it cost the team the game and maybe the series, though I doubt they would have won the series regardless. It was one of the worst on court coaching performances I’ve ever seen in the NBA playoffs. That was the kind of situation that good coaches are hired for, 98%of what goes on during an NBA game, any typical NBA coach will handle it about the same. It’s these special instances that separate the great coaches from the good or even average ones, that along with overall strategies. Those are the key make or break moments that great coaches are hired for. Rivers blew that moment horribly.
I also thought his season long strategies for team defense, especially on the front line, and team rebounding were bad, and I questioned those often throughout the season, so there’s nothing new about what I’m saying now.
So where does that leave the Clippers going forward? It will be difficult to improve, since there’s no cap space and not much in the way of trade pieces.
One thing is for sure, if the Clippers are going to improve, they have to be realistic about where they are, and all of the pie-in-the sky talk about improving through experience isn’t realistic. It might make some people feel good for now, but it’s not going to make the team better. Only better players will do that.
Team rebounding was bad because everyone not named DeAndre Jordan or Blake Griffin was not getting any rebounds. I believe our wing rebounding numbers had to be one of the worst if not the worst in the league.
You do realize though that at some point, you need to have the talent on the roster right? Even the great Phil Jackson couldn’t do anything with Kobe post-Shaq and pre-Pau. Plus, the past couple of yearsin Boston, Doc had to deal with the younger and more athletic super team in Miami. However, every year I think he coached Boston with KG, Pierce, and Allen, the Celtics had a top 5 defensive efficiency. They struggled to score though. From what I see with this Clippers team, they are a Luol Deng and some backup center away from getting over the hump next year. Also, KG got hurt as well as Perkins one year. Carlisle has one ring and yet everyone respects him. It showed that KG is washed up this year. Pierce is almost done. Out of all of the available coaches, we got one who wasn’t available and we got one who won a ring. SVG would have been a great option but he wears on players. JVG would have been okay as well. I was thinking that with CP3, my guy was always Nate McMillan. However, I’m happy we got Doc. This year was not about Doc but about the personnel on the court. Too many injuries and inconsistent play led to Doc doing many things on the fly. I’ll reserve judgment for Doc the GM in the future. He did what he could given the salary cap this year and I commend him. It shows though that Granger is truly washed up. The bottom line is that it is really hard to win a championship.
The reason the Garnett Celtic teams were excellent defensive teams was Garnett.
None of the Rivers coached teams that didn’t have Garnett on it were anywhere near as good as the ones that did. Rivers took credit for it but he wasn’t able to do it again without Garnett.
Thibs replicated that defense in Chicago. If you think about it, those KG Celtic teams and the Thibs Chicago teams had elite wing defenders in Butler/Deng and Tony Allen/ James Posey. The Clippers do not have an elite wing defender. Our defense got carved up because our wings couldn’t stay in front of their guys forcing DJ and Blake to rotate and cover the penetrating guys. It’s not necessarily because of KG. KG contributed but having guys who could do their job keeps KG in his spot. RIvers knows how to teach his defense. It is up to the personnel whether they can do it or not.
Yes, you do make a good point about Thibodeau replicating the defense in Chicago. But really, what that does is further underscore what an opportunist Rivers is. It was Thibodeau who Ainge brought to the Celtics in 2007 as an associate head coach to build up the defense. He did exactly that. That’s the same time Ainge brought in Garnett and Allen to play along with Pierce Rondo and Perkins. The winning percentage went in one season from .293 to.805. Rivers took much of the credit for it, but it was the newly acquired Thibodeau and Garnett who were the keys to the defense. Like you said, Thibodeau was able to then go to Chicago and replicate it. Rivers wasn’t able to maintain it through the rest of his stay in Boston and he wasn’t able to replicate it this year with the Clippers. There’s no doubt in my mind that the real credit for teh Celtics defense went to Thibodeau, not to Rivers who took the credit for it.
You just argued my point. It is a two-fold issue. Remember that KG kept getting hurt. Without the big and the perimeter defender, the symmetry required to put forth the defense is impossible. Chicago has Butler and Noah. Even look at IND. They have George and Stephenson and Hibbert. Even though the IND offense sucks, they still play really good defensive. Even GSW had good defense when Bogut wasn’t hurt with him and Iggy. LAC has only DJ.
The main point, to me, is that Thibodeau not Rivers was responsible for the Celtics defense. Rivers took credit for it but he wasn’t able to maintain it in Boston after Thibodeau left. He hadn’t been able to do anything special with the defense before Thibodeau got to Boston, and similarly he hadn’t been able to do anything special with the Magic’s defense in Orlando. But Rivers spun what Thibodeau did with the Celtics defense into his own hype, and then people started thinking Rivers was a great defensive coach. He’s not. He’s just an opportunist. The one thing he’s good at is spinning, especially to the media and in the media, and one of the things he’s been good at spinning is the false idea he’s a good defensive coach.
So how do you explain the Clippers having the #1 3-pt. defense this year compared to last year being at the bottom? How do you explain the Clippers being one rank higher in defensive efficiency this year better than last year? Rivers is not a great defensive coach. He’s a good one. However, if you look at the rest of the teams left, they are not great defensive teams by any stretch except Indiana. I’ve come to realize that defense wins championship but that that is not the ultimate end goal. Stopping the other team doesn’t mean anything unless you can score on them. That’s the case with Indy. They had a great defense this year but their offense has been anemic. We don’t need a great defense. We just need to be able to make stops when it matters. The Clippers just didn’t have the personnel. Plus you’re underscoring the greatness of KD and Westbrook. I went to game 3 versus OKC. Watching both of them live gave me a greater appreciation of how great players they are and how difficult they are to stop. If Thibs did not have Noah or Butler in Chicago, Chicago’s defense would be terrible.
correct… get someone like Luol Deng/ Toni Allen/ Jimmy Butler (my favorite) and you win everyone…
Basically, get a long athletic wing who can slash and slow down KD and Lebron and has a respectable shot, and our chances of a winning a title increases exponentially.
Overall, LAC still had / had flaws that SAS or Miami would have exploited. Perimeter D is one that Parker, Westbrook on CP, Wade on Redick have exploited years after years.
This is the one role player missing that the Clippers should focus on.
As for Sterling, I believe the real person to convince is Doc, not CP.
As Doc took hits and had the damage control role, team is behind him 100%.
This ending could be a blessing as well, learning curve accelerated with heavy bumps.
Quick question, was this recorded before or after Silver announcement of Sterling hearing and decision on June 3rd?
The Clippers had the best perimeter defense, percentage wise in the league this year, so the system for defending the perimeter is already in place, and top rated. When you defend players like Steph Curry (percentage-wise one of the best shooters that ever lived) and KD, the Associations scoring leader since as long as anyone could remember, and MVP to boot, teams are going to score baskets on you. Keys to the off-season include, Doc sitting down with Reggie Bullock, and explain what his roll must be on this team, which is what Tony Allen is for Memphis. If we can get a DeAndre-like improvement out of Bullock, then we’re fine. All the horses are already in the stable, lets make another run.
If Bullock can defend at a high level, start CP3, Bullock, Barnes, Blake, and Deandre,.
Run J-Cross and Reddick off the bench, with Baby, Grainger Turk if he can stick around. Sure, no defense on the second unit, but
points to hold or extend leads. And keep Dudley in case he figures out a way to contribute.
I sincerely hope we draft a big man in the 2014 draft or attain one via FA or trade. Ryan Hollilns is a walking foul/illegal pick every time he steps on the court.
Hoping they take someone like Jarnell Stokes out of Tennessee. The guy can rebound.
I’m with AJ. I hope we can draft a backup center who can spot DJ 10 minutes a night. I also hope we can pursue Luol Deng and get rid of Dudley. We need more length and athleticism on the wings.
Doc is a failure. The Clippers couldn’t get past OKC even with Ibaka out at the last part of the game.
A great coach could have gotten past them. I’ll say Doc is a good coach, but not a great coach like Pop that can actually get wins by coaching. Shouldn’t have given up anything to get him, and that Bledsoe trade was a disaster.
Don’t bring up that Bledsoe extension cus there is no next year. No one is going to want to play for a team with no owner and that’s the best case the Clippers can hope for.
I’ll repeat what I said all year, if you have a legitimate shot at winning, you have to play for this or that year. You can’t worry about people leaving next year. If you do that, you have already admitted defeat. This whole thing with Sterling is a great example cus you never know what will happen or who will get injured.
You can’t call Doc a failure. He has a ring. It is on the players to run plays. They stopped running plays. Their defense was about as good as it could be considering how great Westbrook and KD are. Pop has the better team in SAS. One reason we lost was due to personnel or lack thereof. Our SF production was terrible. Barnes’ defense against KD was admirable, but his offense left a lot to be desired. We missed a lot of easy buckets with missed layups and dunks that could have been the difference. Don’t forget though that the refs screwed us over a bit too.
Well I’m talking about this year. Anything less than the finals is a failure. He’s the coach and GM and was supposed to win now.
And the Clippers have a better team talent wise than the spurs. If the pieces don’t fit, doc can trade them.
I’m not sure I would say the Spurs are inferior in talent to the Clippers. Tony Parker and CP3 are comparable. Parker is more durable than CP3 and I just think Parker is highly underrated. Redick is a better shooter than Danny Green, but Green is a better defensive player and more athletic. Kawhi Leonard is unquestionably better than any of the wing players we have on this team. Tim Duncan is still better than DJ. Blake is better than Splitter and Duncan. Patty Mills is a better defender and overall PG given Pop’s system. Bellineli is a better shooter percentage wise than any of our backup shooters. Diaw is also a lot better than any of our backup bigs. Ginobili is comparable in production to Crawford. I think Ginobili is a better player than Crawford because Ginobili is a better finisher. Talent wise, Spurs are still slightly better because it was this same group that was a Ray Allen 3 pointer away from winning the title last year. Keep your perspective right.
CP3 is way better than Parker this year.
BG was an MVP candidate.
As much as I’ve bashed DeAndre before, this year he was great, way better than Duncan.
Leonard has his good games, he’s probably a top 15 player, but everyone but Parker and him would be replaceable.
If the Spurs win a championship this year, what say you? DJ is still not a better player than Duncan. As beastly as DJ has been, Duncan is still the better defensive player and better offensive player.
Sterling is giving up the Clippers??? The league hasn’t even voted yet and it sounded like Mark Cuban was going to vote in Sterling’s favor. I really hope this is true, but I’ve been telling everyone he’s going to fight this for 20 years.
This doesn’t sound like Donald Sterling.
Probably his kids begged him not to do this.
Actually wait, this is a stall tactic by Sterling. Say he’s going to sell the team, so the cancel the vote. Then after they do all this work, back out and say no. NBA spends wastes a lot of time and money putting this together and then they have to go to a vote again.
Yes, I agree this is some kind of sly move by Sterling to prolong the process. Maybe he’s going to use it to show in court how he was willing to be reasonable in working out a mutually satisfying solution and the NBA in turn refused to be reasonable at all.
I really do think the NBA is going to have a very hard time in court against Sterling. His lawyer is claiming he was denied due process and I expect his lawyer can get a lot of mileage out of that. It sure seems that Sterling’s lawyers should be given a lot of time to examine the tape, the original copy, to see if it was altered. Sterling is claiming he doesn’t remember saying those things and he says he thinks the tape was changed around with some things deleted and others added and moved around. I have no idea if that’s true or not, though it wouldn’t be surprising if it was true. It sure seems that if Sterllings’ lawyers are not given time to thoroughly examine the original tape and to thoroughly examine the whole extortion angle, then I expect his due process claims would be valid.
The text messages from the girl that came out yesterday in the LA Times were interesting. She got her tickets cancelled in a text message she got from a Sterling aid and then she sent a text to the same Sterling aid saying in caps “LET THE GAMES BEGIN”, and then two minutes later she sent the same Sterling aid a copy of the tape. Then two weeks went by before she then gave a copy to TMZ. A big question is going to be what went on during those two weeks. Was she making threats and payoff demands during those 2 weeks? Was Sterling refusing to give in to her extortion demands during those 2 weeks? Did she then release the tape to TMZ 2 weeks after she first sent it to the Sterling aid in order to put pressure on Sterling to meet her demands? I think all of that will have some weight when all of this goes to court.
So I don’t at all think Sterling is going to sell without a very long legal fight. And I won’t be surprised if he wins.
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