Doc Rivers has one job: Win games. He doesn’t have to play nice to get there.
Wednesday night in Portland Terry Stotts and the Portland trainer made a mistake — they called it a “clerical error” — and listed guard C.J. McCollum as inactive when the intent was to have him play. Once they realized their mistake the Blazers tried to correct it, reaching out to the league. But according to Joe Freeman of the Oregonian, Clippers coach Doc Rivers shot that idea down.
Behind the scenes, the Blazers were fighting for McCollum to play. They sought a rules clarification from the NBA and disputed the timing of the incident. Don Vaden, the NBA’s director of officials, was at the game and mediated the situation with both teams.
In the end, according to a league source, the NBA gave Clippers coach Doc Rivers the option to let McCollum play. He declined.
Rivers has made this same kind of roster mistake a couple of times the past two seasons, but with guys at the end of the bench. Portland did it with a guy scoring 21 points a game and one of only two real playmakers on the roster.
It may not have been the peak of sportsmanship, but you can’t blame Doc Rivers here. Maybe it doesn’t fit the spirit of the rules, but I’m not going to blame Rivers for taking advantage of the situation. Stotts made the error. Rivers has one job — win games. This is not U8 soccer where everyone gets a participation trophy. Rivers was handed an advantage, and he would have been foolish to give it up.
You can bet coaches around the league will be reading that form a little more carefully the rest of the season.