Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Seven

Clippers, Doc Rivers try to focus past Sterling distraction, but they know there is more to come


LOS ANGELES — Doc Rivers would much prefer to focus on basketball.

Instead the fallout from the Donald Sterling fiasco keeps landing in his lap.

At the press conference he is required to give just more than 90 minutes before his team tips off in a crucial Game 3 of their playoff series with the Thunder, the first question Rivers is asked is about Richard Parsons — the league appointed CEO who will run the Clippers until the ownership situation with Donald and Shelly Sterling is sorted out.

“We did talk a couple times, (Friday) morning we did talk and it was really nice,” Rivers said. “I don’t know Dick very well, but from what I heard from everyone who knows him and talking to him today I think he’s a very good hire for us.”

And so it went through the press conference, questions alternating between how the Clippers will try to get Blake Griffin going or defend Kevin Durant, and then how he and the players are dealing with the fallout of team owner Donald Sterling being suspended for life and the franchise being in limbo in the wake of a tape of racist comments he made being leaked. The league has started the process to force the Sterlings to sell the team, both Donald and his wife have separately said they will fight this.

When asked if the appointment of Parsons as CEO allowed him and the team to move on and just focus on hoops, Rivers gave an honest answer.

“I would love to feel that way but we all know that’s not true,” Rivers said. “But from my standpoint we’re focusing on basketball and if something else comes up it comes up and you just gotta deal with it. But it’s not like I’m going to sit around and wait for it to come, I’m going to sit around and coach my team. Then if something comes up you just deal with it. That’s basically what I’ve told our guys. You know what? Life happens. And you just got to deal with it.”

It seems every day there is a new revelation, a new addition to the story. The latest is a second recording of Sterling’s comments (this one taped by a “friend” if his) where he basically says he made those racist comments because he wanted to sleep with mistress V. Stiviano (let’s just call it an odd relationship and leave it at that), and also that the league can’t force him to sell (the league has seeming solid legal footing on him, his wife may be a different story).

While interest in the initial shocking story may be subsiding some there are more waves to come — the league’s owners likely will vote to strip Sterling of the team this summer, then there will be the lawsuits to block it all.

Then there is Shelly Sterling — who attended the game Friday night at Staples Center — saying she is going to fight to keep the team in the family (she owns half the team in a trust with Donald). Magic Johnson went public Friday telling the USA Today the players will not play for Shelly — he is both right and self serving in that. Right because members of the players’ union have basically said as much (and other reports have players saying that privately). Rivers has said he’s not sure if he’ll return if she still owns the team next year. All that said, for Magic — who with his business partners wants to buy the team — to come out and say something pushing the team’s sale is clearly him promoting his own self interests.

Rivers and the players are still caught in the middle.

“It’s still a very murky situation and I don’t think that’s going to change for a while. It is what it is and we’re going to deal with it,” Rivers said.

Rivers is doing his best to shield his players on this, to take the questions and deflect the attention, to let them actually focus on the games. How well that is working is up for debate, but Rivers is certainly doing all anyone could ask.

But he knows, the players know, this is not going to end soon. It almost certainly will follow them into next season if it heads into the courts as the Sterlings have promised.

And that’s not going to let him or his players just focus on basketball.

Doc Rivers: Clippers might blow up roster if they fall short this season

Chris Paul, Blake Griffin DeAndre Jordan, Doc Rivers
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The Clippers have gone 56-26, 57-25 and 56-26 the last three years – clearing the commonly accepted 55-win bar for championship contention.

But they’ve also won only zero, one and one playoff series in that span.

Zach Lowe of Grantland:

The Clippers have had three cracks at it with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan all in their primes, and they’re not afraid to admit the fourth could be their last — that another flameout will force them to ask whether the core has grown stale.

“We’re right on the borderline,” Doc Rivers tells Grantland during a long sit-down at his office. “I have no problem saying that. I’m a believer that teams can get stale. After a while, you don’t win. It just doesn’t work. We’re right at the edge. Oklahoma City is on the edge. Memphis, too. We just have to accept it.”

I disagree with Rivers.

It’s so hard to assemble a roster that can win a title, and the Clippers absolutely have one. If they fall short this season, they’ll probably still have a title-contending roster the following year. They shouldn’t throw that away just for the sake of change.

Paul (30), Jordan (27) and Griffin (26) are young enough for the Clippers to remain patient.

Rivers makes a good point later in Lowe’s article:

“You need luck in the West,” he says. “Look at Golden State. They didn’t have to play us or the Spurs. But that’s also a lesson for us: When you have a chance to close, you have to do it.”

The Warriors were the NBA’s best team last season, but they also got plenty of breaks. That’s why they won the title.

The Clippers might need more luck to win a championship, but it wouldn’t be an overwhelming amount. The better a team is, the less luck it needs. The Grizzlies can probably win a title with all the right breaks, but they need more than the Clippers.

It’s about being good enough to win with the right breaks.

The Clippers are that. They’ll probably be that unless they do something drastic.

Unless a lopsided trade comes around, I’d stick with Paul, Griffin and Jordan until they really prove they can’t win together. That would take years. A team not winning a title is not proof it can’t win a title. Every year, multiple teams can win a championship. Obviously, only one does.

Rivers has it good with his big three. This shouldn’t be a make-or-break year for them.

51 Q: Which coaches start the year on the hot seat?

Lionel Hollins
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Going into every season, there are a few coaches under pressure to perform or risk losing their jobs. This season, the operative word there is “few.” Looking around the NBA, most coaches are either new on the job or aren’t in any real danger of losing theirs. There are five brand-new coaches: Billy Donovan (Oklahoma City), Fred Hoiberg (Chicago), Alvin Gentry (New Orleans), Michael Malone (Denver) and Scott Skiles (Orlando). The coaches they replaced were mostly the ones whose names often came up in these discussions. Practically everywhere else, there is either a long track record of success or clear signs that ownership is happy with the job the coach is doing. Coaches who are actually on the hot seat are few and far between. But here are a few who might find themselves in trouble if their teams underperform:

Jeff Hornacek (Phoenix Suns): Two years ago, Hornacek was a Coach of the Year candidate for taking a team that was supposed to be one of the league’s very works and making them into almost a playoff team. Last season was another near-miss. This season, the Suns are once again on the bubble of being a playoff team — there’s a chance they could grab the eighth seed in the Western Conference, if a lot goes right. Hornacek deserves a lot of credit for their sooner-than-expected success. The only reason he’s on this list is the potential for a chemistry disaster on this roster. Between Markieff Morris‘ situation and another attempt at a two-point guard lineup (this time with Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight), there’s a lot that could go wrong, and if the Suns fall out of playoff contention. Hornacek could find himself in a little hot water. But that’s unlikely.

Lionel Hollins (Brooklyn Nets): Hollins has always felt like something of a short-term solution in Brooklyn. The Nets tried going young at the head coaching spot with Jason Kidd, who clashed with management over control before leaving for Milwaukee. This Nets roster is middling at best — some solid veterans, not a lot of young talent, no future hope to speak of unless they land a marquee free agent next summer. Their ceiling is the eighth seed and a first-round exit; their floor is a lot worse than that. It would take a catastrophic start to the year for Hollins to lose his job during the season, but there isn’t exactly a lot of long-term security in his position.

Derek Fisher (New York Knicks): It’s hard to see Phil Jackson firing his protege less than two years in, but the Knicks enter the season with the goal of competing for a playoff spot and a lot of potential to be worse than that. Don’t rule out James Dolan stepping in.

Steve Clifford (Charlotte Hornets): Clifford’s chances of losing his job during the season basically disappeared when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist went down with a shoulder injury that will likely keep him out the entire season. Without their best perimeter defender, the Hornets’ expectations are a lot lower than they would have been. Now, it’s hard to see them competing seriously for a playoff spot unless Jeremy Lamb makes a huge leap and proves himself capable of being an NBA-caliber starter. If they’re even competitive, it will be an enormous credit to Clifford, who is well-regarded around the league. The story would have been different if they had entered the season with a healthy roster and underperformed, but the MKG injury likely buys Clifford a year before this conversation starts up again.