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Doc Rivers: 2016-17 Clippers were ‘a hard group to like because they didn’t like each other’

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Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN wrote an excellent feature on Doc Rivers and the Clippers. It includes Chris Paul telling Clippers owner Steve Ballmer he left for the Rockets in part due to Rivers. That tidbit, and many others in the story, are attributed to anonymous sources. Arnovitz clearly earned a lot of trust from sources to report out this article. I suggest reading it in full.

But the most interesting statement came on the record from Rivers himself.

Rivers, via Arnovitz:

“I was aloof last year. I didn’t want to be here with these guys,” Rivers says. “I wanted to coach, but this team was a hard team to coach. I’m aloof anyway — I’m an introvert — and it was a hard group to like because they didn’t like each other. For me, you have to want to figure it out. And we lost the ability to want to figure it out.”

J.J. Redick, who left for the 76ers last summer, previously spoke of the Clippers experiencing a loss of joy. He apparently wasn’t the only one to see it. Paul obviously wanted out. Blake Griffin didn’t sound broken up about his trade to the Pistons. And now Rivers is opening up about his disillusionment.

Paul and Griffin clashed numerous times over the years, and that wore down everyone. They tried to work past their differing points of view, and they made progress – but not enough, especially once Austin Rivers entered the picture.

The Clippers’ trade for Doc’s son exacerbated locker-room issues. Austin self-admittedly carries an attitude that doesn’t sit well with everyone. He has developed considerably as a player in L.A., but perceptions of nepotism were inevitable. Favoritism for Austin reportedly led Paul to despise Doc.

Doc, via Arnovitz:

“When you don’t win, then you look for reasons why,” Doc Rivers says. “So first it’s, ‘Blake and Chris don’t get along.’ That was first. Then it was, ‘Doc the GM.’ Then it was, ‘Austin Rivers.’ The question you can ask after the fact is that, ‘Because of the team, was it the right move?’ In retrospect, would I have done it again? ‘I don’t know’ is the answer. But when you look at how he’s playing now versus when we got him, yeah. But I don’t know, because it’s very complicated.”

It shows a lot of introspection on Doc’s part to admit that. He correctly identified Austin’s potential when trading low for him (though misread Reggie Bullock‘s when sending him out in the deal). But it still probably wasn’t worth the trouble. No matter how badly Doc wanted to treat Austin like any other player, the father-son relationship existed. It probably affected both Rivers, at least subconsciously, and it definitely affected everyone else’s perception.

With Paul and Griffin gone, Doc did his best coaching job this season with L.A. He often started players on two-way contracts, and he repeatedly had to juggle his rotation due to injuries.

But he appeared much happier.

Kelly Oubre: Raptors’ Delon Wright ‘doesn’t play well anywhere else, you know, other than at home’

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Delon Wright made some big plays down the stretch to help the Raptors to a Game 5 win over the Wizards last night. With Toronto up 3-2 in the first-round series and the home team winning the first five games, Game 6 is tomorrow in Washington.

Oubre, via Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:

“The next game is a different story. We’re back at home. Just like Delon doesn’t play well anywhere else, you know, other than at home,” Oubre said, sharing inspiration coupled with a touch of an insult. “You can kind of chalk it up as the same story.”

Wright decided not to escalate the conflict when reporters asked him about it.

Wright has been much better in Toronto than Washington in this series. His average game score is 14.7 at home and 5.7 on the road.

But that’s such a small sample. During the regular season, there wasn’t nearly such a big split between Wright’s average game score at home (8.4) and on the road (6.9).

For what it’s worth, Oubre has a somewhat similar home-road average-game-score split, both in this series (9.4 at home, 6.3 on the road) and during the regular season (8.1 at home, 7.5 on the road). Which Oubre basically acknowledged in his diss of Wright/self-own.

This is pretty typical Oubre – hyper-competitive verging on out of control. It’s fun regardless.

Let’s just say he’s right, though, and the Wizards win Game 6. Game 7 would be Sunday in Toronto, where, by Oubre’s own admission, Wright plays well and the Raptors are undefeated in the postseason. Then what?

Rumor: Bulls expected to wait until 2019 for free-agency splash

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The Bulls tanked so hard this year, the NBA warned them to cut it out. It was a rare instance of the league responding to actual tanking measures rather than just talk of preferring to lose.

Bulls executive John Paxson, via Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago:

“We did this year what we felt was in the longterm best interests of the Bulls,” Paxson said. “It’s not a situation that any of us want to ever be in again; it goes against everything as a competitive person that you believe in; but it’s the way the system is set up.”

Chicago could try to turn around quickly. The Bulls project to have about $25 million in cap space this summer – enough to land a good player or two.

Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago:

The assumption in league circles is the Bulls will wait until 2019 to make their big move when players like Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving could be on the market, and might consider signing with the Bulls after watching another year of development from LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn.

This is the wise course. It’s unlikely Chicago can lure anyone good enough to lift such a young core quickly. The Bulls are better off remaining patient – and bad, which will net another high draft pick as Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn develop.

This is also probably the course thrust upon Chicago. Even if they wanted to, the Bulls probably can’t land a premier free agent this summer. Star free agents can see the same problems with Chicago trying for a quick fix and will likely avoid the situation.

There’d be no harm in trying for top free agents like LeBron James or even Paul George. But the Bulls will probably be relegated to 2019 if they want to sign someone meaningful. Better they realize that than make a desperate attempt for relevance this year.

Rich Cho on Trail Blazers getting swept: ‘Being a previous Portland GM, that didn’t disappoint me’

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In 2011, the Trail Blazers surprisingly fired Rich Cho after only season as general manager.

Cho – since hired and fired by the Hornets – seems to be holding a grudge.

John Canzano of The Oregonian:

That’s a sentiment many people hold toward their former employer. Few say so publicly. That Cho did indicates just how strongly he feels.

Under owner Paul Allen, the Trail Blazers have run through numerous executives. It’s part of the culture in Portland, and it leaves a lot of outgoing people bitter.

Current general manager Neil Olshey ought to be mindful of that.

Josh Allen’s old tweet: ‘I hate LeBron!!!!! #LeBronSucks’

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Josh Allen, a quarterback from Wyoming, could be the No. 1 pick in tonight’s NFL draft. But his recently unearthed high school tweets – which include using the n-word with an ‘a’ at the end – are the sports story of the day.

And there’s an NBA tie.

Via Ryan Young of Yahoo Sports:

I hate LeBron!!!!! #LeBronSucks

— Josh Allen (@JoshAllenQB) June 7, 2011

Damian Lillard went down this same road with LeBron James, and they got past it.

But it would be a little more awkward if the Cleveland Browns – who have the Nos. 1 and 4 picks – take Allen. Then, Allen will face more scrutiny over this tweet – the most innocuous of the bunch.