“They should be better than any team I’ve ever coached, I really believe that. They’re more athletic. They don’t have the veteran IQ but they should be in that area. We have a couple of individual defenders that can be dominating on defense. We have great speed but we don’t have the size in some ways as some of the teams I’ve coached.” – Doc Rivers, on the 2013-14 LA Clippers
Wait, this coming from the same Doc Rivers who coached the 2007-08 Celtics? The team that won the NBA championship, dominating Game 6 in a fashion never before seen in an NBA Finals close-out game? The team that had 66 wins â€“ something only 12 other teams in history have ever achieved â€“ and featured one of the best defenses the NBA has ever seen?
Doc uttered this quote no more than a week ago in regards to a team he has not coached for one game. Rivers is pumping his team’s confidence through the media, surely, but there also seems to be a little something extra behind these comments.
Let’s rewind to a couple months ago, when Rivers and Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge publicly disagreed over how Rivers ended up in L.A. Ainge said leaving the Celtics was all Doc’s decision, claiming he had discussions with Rivers about being a Gregg Popovich or Jerry Sloan figure in Boston on his way to chasing Red Auerbach‘s win record. Celts owner Wyc Grousbeck agreed with Ainge, saying: “Doc Rivers left us, period… It was his idea and he left.”
On Boston’s WEEI radio station, Rivers said he was “very disappointed” in how Ainge and the Celtics portrayed the situation, saying his departure was more of a mutual decision between both sides. Rivers said he hadn’t even thought there was a chance of coaching somewhere else until Ainge approached him with the opportunity of leaving â€“ and only then did he hear about the Clippers job and express an interest.
Seems like a classic case of he said/she said… until you see Rivers’ quote from just the other day: “The truth was this: I really didn’t want to go through a rebuild… for a coach, it’s brutal. Showing up, getting your ass kicked, it’s brutal.”
Doesn’t sound like a guy who wanted to stay in Boston.
No matter which side of the story you believe, there was undoubtedly some animosity stemming from Rivers’ exit from Beantown, and Doc used the media to address that. Rivers has always had a great relationship with the media, and has made headlines almost daily thus far with the Clippers. The purpose of these comments has been two-fold: first to get back at the Celtics brass who marred his last days in Boston, but also to give his new team positive reinforcement heading into the season.
In a recent interview on Yahoo!, when asked about the risk in going to the Clippers, Rivers said, “To go to an organization that hasn’t won but [two] playoff series in their entire history, in a town where the other team is the best franchise in sports history â€“ that’s risk.” Now, besides the fact that Yankees or Canadiens fans might have a bone to pick with that statement, some Boston folks might be a little perturbed as well. The Lakers franchise does have a robust 16 championships â€“ if you include the five that were won while the franchise was still in Minneapolis. But the Celtics, who have been in Boston since their inception, have won 17 titles and maintain a tradition unmatched in the league. Think Rivers would have made that same comment a year ago?
The ultimate bombshell came in an interview on ESPN when Rivers said this Clippers team should be the best team he has ever coached. Rivers explained how his Clippers team has their own version of a Big Three in the form of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Rivers went on to say that although the Clips don’t have the veteran IQ or size like some of his previous teams, they have great speed and athleticism that can make them a dominating defense. Veteran IQ, size and great defense â€“ sound like any of Doc’s former teams?
All of this preseason discourse may irritate most of Rivers’ loyal fans, but at the same time, it may be just what the doctor ordered (no pun intended) for L.A.