Doc Rivers was supposed to put the Clippers over the top.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were bona fide stars. DeAndre Jordan became a third star, and J.J. Redick thrived in a complementary role.
But Rivers’ Clippers never advanced further than Vinny Del Negro’s Clippers, topping out in the second round. Paul left for the Rockets, sparking numerous theories of what went wrong in L.A.:
Poor team chemistry. Western Conference being too good. Bad luck. Favoritism toward Austin Rivers.
Here’s another potential culprit.
Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:
Rivers remains charming, but team sources say his work ethic as a coach and executive lags far behind the championship rep he built on the shoulders of veterans Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
Zach Lowe of ESPN:
Insiders complained about a lack of accountability — about practices and shootarounds starting late
Rivers would be far from the first person to rest on his laurels after securing a loftier job. Is that the case here? This ignores the heavy burden Rivers carried in guiding the franchise through the Donald Sterling scandal. I can’t speak definitively to Rivers’ work ethic outside that crisis, but the fact that these leaks – true or not – are even getting out shows Rivers isn’t running the tightest ship.
Rivers’ multiple job titles only exacerbate the potential problem.
Coaching well takes immense work. Running a front office well takes immense work. I’m not sure any one person can successfully handle both tasks. Someone with a poor work ethic definitely can’t.
There is some circumstantial evidence to support these claims, especially for Rivers as executive. Even in a desirable market with a contending team, he routinely failed to find the quality role players who could put a good team over the top. Rivers frequently targeted players he previously coached or who played well against his teams in the playoffs, which always felt lazy.
The Clippers have added front-office help, shifting Lawrence Frank upstairs and hiring Jerry West. Maybe that will allow Rivers to focus more on coaching – a necessity this year.
Paul is a basketball genius and natural leader. He practically demands everyone get in line behind him.
With his departure, L.A. has built an intriguing hodgepodge around Griffin, adding Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Milos Teodosic, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell. The Clippers are now a team without an identity, but with a roster of versatile players that could go in any number of directions.
It’s on Rivers to experiment, assess and ultimately pick a style. Whatever happened in the past, the next step will require a lot of work.