Report: Clippers new plan to trade for Rivers first, then maybe Garnett

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The question now isn’t “do the Clippers want to make a series of trades with the Celtics that brings them Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers?” They do. Both sides have basically hammered out a deal they liked.

The question is, “how do we structure a deal that David Stern and the NBA would sign off on?” Stern himself has said the deal would not get league approval. So it was back to the drawing board on how to construct a trade.

The latest plan is to get the coach first, reports Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne at ESPN.com.

The Los Angeles Clippers’ new strategy, in the wake of NBA commissioner David Stern’s public comments Thursday expressing serious misgivings about the legitimacy of the proposed trade of Kevin Garnett and a corresponding transaction that would transport Celtics coach Doc Rivers from Boston to L.A. as a package deal, is to pursue Rivers first and roll the dice on acquiring Garnett and Paul Pierce later, sources told ESPN.

The Clippers’ primary target now is Rivers, whom sources said team owner Donald Sterling already has signed off on paying upward of $7 million a year for five years. Boston would require compensation for Rivers, who is still under contract for three years and $21 million with the Celtics.

You cannot trade a coach for players, as Stern and the league office interpret the Collective Bargaining Agreement. And you cannot have “side deals” attached to a trade, like throwing a couple picks on a Kevin Garnett for DeAndre Jordan swap and then suddenly it’s okay if you sign Rivers.

But if the Clippers get Rivers with no promise of Garnett… maybe. The league would not stop the Rivers move; there is a precedent of picks for coaches under contract who are let out to sign with another  (the most recent being Stan Van Gundy going from the Heat to the Magic in 2007).

The question is how the league reacts in two weeks when the Clippers and Celtics propose Garnett for DeAndre Jordan straight up. This after the Celtics have bought out Paul Pierce and he has signed as a free agent in Los Angeles.

If you want to predict Stern, you go ahead. I’m sitting this one out.