Posted June 19, 2013

Celtics’ unique offseason circumstances may give reason to revisit talks with Clippers

Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Los Angeles Clippers, Rob Mahoney
Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics

The incentives for Boston to deal Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett may be too great to not revive trade talks with L.A. (Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

The momentum fueling trade talks between the Celtics and Clippers has stalled, with Boston GM Danny Ainge going so far as to pronounce discussions between the two teams “dead.” For the moment that may be true; there’s a clear consensus among sources and reports regarding the flatlined deal, which would have been structured around shipping Kevin Garnett and Celtics head coach Doc Rivers (if indirectly, in Rivers’ case) to Los Angeles in exchange for 24-year-old center DeAndre Jordan and a collection of draft picks. The latter reportedly became the sticking point, as the Clippers shied away from including the two first-round picks that the Celtics had requested in exchange for releasing Rivers from the three years remaining on his current contract.

Given that the first rounders in question are likely to fall in the mid-20s, their inclusion might seem a strange place to draw a line in the sand on deal to acquire a player as influential as Garnett and a coach as savvy as Rivers. But the Clippers aren’t in any immediate rush to consummate this kind of arrangement, as their needs are far less specific than that of the Celtics. As noted by Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com, part of the backdrop for this entire predicament is the fact that Garnett is only interested in playing for Rivers — who seems to have little interest in remaining in Boston. That preference carries a bit more weight thanks to two additional considerations:

1. Boston has telegraphed its intentions to rebuild, an effort that would undoubtedly begin with attempts to trade Garnett and Paul Pierce.

2. Garnett is one of the few players in the league with a no-trade clause — thus giving him final say over this deal or any other he’s involved in.

With those facctors linked, Boston is left with a very narrow range of potential trade scenarios relative to the Clippers’ wealth of possibilities. As nice a get as Rivers might be, the alternatives (Lionel Hollins and Brian Shaw first and foremost) are worthy in their own rights, would come at much cheaper costs than the $7 million annually that Rivers would command, and would sign without the sacrifice of two first-round selections. Even late first-round picks have value as both trade chips and roster filler, the latter of which is of particular relevance to a team with only five players (and a sixth potentially on the way with Chris Paul’s likely re-signing) under guaranteed contracts for the 2013-14 season. Acquiring Garnett and Rivers would be a nice start to the offseason for L.A., but there is no ticking clock and no reason whatsoever to consent to an unfavorable deal. As strange as it sounds for a team that could land a Hall of Famer and a terrific coach in exchange for a limited big man and a few late first rounders, the Clippers have every reason to wait out the Celtics in the hopes of an even better deal. The leverage is all with L.A., as this is one of the few scenarios in which Garnett would waive his no-trade clause and trigger the rebuild that Boston so clearly needs.

That reconstruction also concerns Rivers, who seems likely to be either coaching elsewhere next season or not coaching in the NBA at all. There remains a chance that Rivers could return to Boston for another go, but these latest flirtations with the Clippers would assuredly not bode well for his command of the Celtics locker room. His hefty salary would also make exceedingly little sense for a Boston team in the process of tearing down its roster, to say nothing of the way his talents as a coach would be marginalized with a roster likely light on veterans and looking to stockpile developing assets. As much as Rivers has to teach, his greatest NBA successes have come as a mediator of personalities — a nuanced political navigation that wouldn’t be needed on a stripped-down Celtics team.

Releasing Rivers from his contract would help to address those financial costs, but a corresponding trade with the Clippers might be the only chance the Celtics have of extracting value from his departure. Rivers can’t explicitly be traded, and if released would be free to sign with the team of his choosing. Yet this particular arrangement could have at least entitled Boston to secure something in return for a terrific head coach, even if L.A. quickly shot down the notion of that “something” being a pair of compensatory draft picks.

Boston isn’t locked into parting ways with Rivers or trading Garnett at this point, yet the Clippers provide what is likely the cleanest means of resolving both situations. Garnett won’t settle for just any destination, and will only draw interest from a very specific subset of win-now trade partners. Rivers, too, might only be packaged with Garnett in this particular instance, as none of the other three coaching vacancies (Philadelphia, Denver, and Memphis) make practical sense as a landing spot for both.

With that, an easy transition rests in Boston’s ability to compromise — or more specifically, to step back from their request of two first-rounders as compensation for Rivers. That kind of return was worth asking for in light of these strange, unprecedented circumstances, but should it really stand in the way of earning some reward in Rivers’ departure or dealing away an aging player with a cumbersome contract provision? Hardly, and that’s why we’re more likely than not to see these same discussions revisited in some form or another. They’re dead on the table, for the moment, but the slightest spark is all that’s needed to instill new life in trade talks as sensible as these.

11 comments
ProfessorGriff
ProfessorGriff

This is the Clippers we're talking about.  they're too cheap to ever do the right thing

marino.eccher
marino.eccher

Here's my question: Why the heck does Boston want Jordan?

His contract is bad  - two more years, $22 million). He's not an elite rebounder or a Joakim Noah-type all-floor defender, and he's a complete offensive liability (put him on the line and he makes Shaq look like Mark Price). He can't stay on the floor (25 mpg last year). He's basically a less crazy version of JaVale McGee. If you're rebuilding, I'd rather have a clean slate than pay him.



MillerAndZois
MillerAndZois

The Celtics seems to have no real choice here.  They don't want Garnett anyway if they are going to rebuild.  Rivers is now lost. Getting Jordan and a single pick is a home run.  

Travis6
Travis6

@MillerAndZois Rivers is not lost.  The Celtics don't want to have to pay him $7 million to rebuild but they they aren't going to pay him to do nothing either.  He can coach for the Celtics or he can retire.  Those are his two options.

dt
dt like.author.displayName 1 Like

The best course is to do nothing.  25th pick in a weak draft is crap.  And if Doc coaches a team of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Kevin Garnett, then there's no hope for a high draft pick next year.  I agree with Thomas.  If Doc and KG retire, their $$$ are off the books.  

MillerAndZois
MillerAndZois

@dt I don't see KG retiring, do you?  I think he will play until they won't let him play anymore.  He is not walking away from money or basketball. 

dt
dt

@MillerAndZois @dt He has maybe 1 more year in the tank.  I'd still take an old KG over a young DeAndre Jordan.  You can't replace his basketball IQ and leadership.

Travis6
Travis6

@MillerAndZois @dt KG only has one more year on his deal at full salary.  In 2014, he can be bought out just like Pierce can be bought out this year.  So Boston could bite the bullett for one year and open up space.

Thomas s
Thomas s

Yes, Ainge perhaps would be better served agreeing to Jordan and one pick. The point is, he does not have to. If Rivers does not coach Ainge does not pay him. If Garnett does not play without Rivers, Mr. Ainge gets cap space.

Ainge does not lose a great deal by not making this deal. He doesn't get Jordan a serviceable player with a below average contract. Ainge also loses out on a 25th in this year's draft. yes a loss, but Garnett's cap space may end yielding a better player.

Finally, if Doc is at ESPN? .There is a for sale sign over his head 24/7..."give Danny a good first rounder and I am yours!"

MillerAndZois
MillerAndZois

@Thomas s ESPN is not giving him that kind of money.  He is going to be coaching, I think, one way or the other.  Which is why this deal pretty much has to get done.

Travis6
Travis6

@MillerAndZois @Thomas s Rivers has hinted at being burned out and needing a recharge for a couple years now.  No, he won't get $7 million from ESPN but he will get good money with more time off and less pressure.  Doesn't sound that bad for a guy alrady with millions in the bank.