Los Angeles Clippers Head Coach/President, Basketball Operations Doc Rivers addressed the media three days after the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Clippers in Game 6 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Rivers addressed a wide range of topics, including the 2016 Draft, the team’s free agency approach, and the status of the team’s core going forward.
I figured that it would be best to put the whole clip up, even with a ClipperBlog Live to hold the people over. Rivers handles the entirety of end of season availability; players aren’t accessible. Rivers spoke about ten minutes longer this year than the year before. We put long videos up all the time, so a half hour of relevant coverage shouldn’t be prohibitive. Rivers’ address sets the table for the 2016 offseason.
Some of my notes/observations:
– Rivers wants to keep as many of his free agents as possible, but he realizes that is unlikely to happen. He also expects everyone with a player option to opt out. That means PG Austin Rivers, SF Wesley Johnson, and C Cole Aldrich.
– Rivers isn’t interested in breaking up the big three. PG Chris Paul, PF Blake Griffin, and C DeAndre Jordan are scheduled to make more than $20 million each next year. Rivers acknowledges that the challenge is putting pieces around the max contracts.
– The trolls gravitated towards Rivers’ comments that the team can’t expect their late 1st-round pick to put the team over the top. Rivers hasn’t gotten much from his late 1st-round picks in the past, something I covered before the 2014 NBA Draft. As Dan Woike helped explain on our CBL last week, Rivers was tempering expectations on the pick, not saying it’s impossible to get a difference-maker in the late 20s. Again, folks will cherry pick on those comments, but Rivers was just acknowledging what the Clippers options and chances are in the 1st round.
– Rivers is leaving PF Paul Pierce’s retirement decision up to Pierce, but he did say that he believes Pierce has a year left. Pierce is coming off of his 18th NBA season, and he was to the Clippers this season what Grant Hill was to the Clippers in 2012-2013.
– Blake Griffin won’t participate in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games following a bone marrow procedure on his injured quadriceps. Rivers expects him to be fine by training camp. Paul (hand surgery) is the only player who will be recovering from a surgery, and he pulled out of Team USA consideration in March. Jordan is still in the running for a Team USA spot.
– Rivers will be waiting to see which players will have their market value adjusted by free agency spending and try to sign multiple minimum contract players.
– The Clippers joined the Warriors and Spurs as the only teams in the league this season with a top-six offensive and defensive efficiency rating; Rivers cited this as a reason not to blow up the core. The Clippers were also fifth in the NBA in net rating this season.
– Those comments before the season about the Golden State Warriors and their good fortune surfaced again as it related to what went down this postseason. Rivers acknowledged that the perceived advantage the Clippers may have gained when Warriors PG Stephen Curry injured his knee was eliminated overnight. Literally.
– Folks love to troll Rivers over the relationships he has with players playing a role in personnel decisions. This is Rivers’ leadership style, and for better or worse, it is his greatest asset as the head personnel executive. Without it, the Clippers don’t retain Jordan in unrestricted free agency, and the chances of Paul and Griffin remaining together decrease significantly. Rivers has also placed a priority on building the type of culture that encourages players to consider the Clippers in free agency. This approach leaves the Clippers and Rivers open to ridicule, but that’s what happens when you are the head coach and head of basketball operations with a talented, yet unbalanced roster. I guess it’s more relatable to some people to accept Sam Hinkie’s approach and lack of accountability and leadership as a personnel executive (that’s my only explanation for Hinkie getting Executive of the Year votes this year).
– SG C.J. Wilcox (the team’s most recent 1st-round pick) barely played, but Rivers says that he has put in the work and just has a lot of players in front of him.
– Speaking of Wilcox, he and rookie PF Branden Dawson spent most of this season playing for multiple D-League teams. The Clippers are interested in getting a D-League affiliate, but it doesn’t sound like it will happen in time for next season. Rivers didn’t like having Wilcox and Dawson away so much, especially on teams that don’t run what the Clippers run, but Rivers thought it was better than the duo not playing at all.
– Rivers opened up about how he evaluates personnel decisions related to his starting SF spot and reserve spots. He challenges his critics to find better players for the same price at the same position. Rivers also adds that Austin Rivers will always be a target because of their relationship.
– Rivers on Blake Griffin’s transgressions this season: “You either grow or you don’t … he did a good job coming back.”
– When asked about the Clippers’ “window”, Rivers says the window is always closing, but the window isn’t always opening. While Rivers says he doesn’t believe the Clippers’ window is closed, he realizes that he won’t get “loyalty” deals like what the Spurs have received until the Clippers win a championship. Rivers says that the Spurs “keep changing windows.”
– After injury controversies concerning Jared Dudley in 2013-2014 and Glen Davis in 2014-2015, the Clippers dealt with Griffin’s “non-misdiagnosis” and his complicated quad injury this year. I asked Rivers about his confidence in the training staff, and he’s not concerned. “You have injuries, obviously you have questions, but I think overall, we’ve been pretty good in there,” Rivers said.
– I also spoke with Trail Blazers C Chris Kaman about the Clippers injuries and other related topics during the series. Kaman, who spent his first eight seasons with the Clippers after being drafted sixth overall in 2003, had this to say about Clippers Director of Medical Services & Head Athletic Trainer Jasen Powell: “Jasen does a great job, he’s been around the league for a long time, and he really knows how to take care of guys.”
– Rivers commented on new Lakers head coach and current Warriors assistant Luke Walton by saying, “I think a coach has to have the ability to be able to try to change the culture to the way that he sees fit for that team to win. And if he’s not allowed to do that, he’s not going to be as successful.”
– Rivers made an interesting comment about teams’ end-of-game strategy as it relates to the midrange game, saying that at the end of games, teams and players need everything. Rivers said that the “in-between game gets lost in the regular season,” adding that players can’t just be one-dimensional as far as having threes and getting into the paint. This was prompted by Austin Rivers working with Chris Paul on his floater. Paul and SG J.J. Redick were the two most efficient high-volume guards in the league last season shooting from midrange.