Posted June 25, 2013

Reports: Celtics, Clippers agree to Doc Rivers deal

Ben Golliver, Boston Celtics, Chris Paul, David Stern, Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers, NBA, Vinny Del Negro
(Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images)

Doc Rivers is reportedly going from Boston to Los Angeles. (Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images)

The Celtics and Clippers have agreed to terms on a deal that will allow coach Doc Rivers to leave Boston for Los Angeles, according to multiple reports.

Yahoo! Sports reported Sunday that the Clippers will “send an unprotected 2015 first-round pick” to the Celtics; in exchange, Boston will let Rivers out of the final three years of his contract, worth $21 million, so that he can sign an identical deal to coach in L.A.

CBSSports.com has confirmed those details.

Last week, NBA commissioner David Stern said that the league office was ready to veto a larger deal between the two teams that involved Rivers as well as Kevin Garnett and DeAndre Jordan, even if that deal was broken up into separate transactions.

Yahoo! Sports reports that the Celtics and Clippers believe the Rivers-only deal will be allowed to go through as-is; CBSSports.com reports that the NBA “will not approve any subsequent exchange of players” between the two teams this summer, preventing a Garnett-for-Jordan swap in the immediate future.

Citing league sources, ESPN.com reported Monday that the deal was in the hands of the teams after receiving league approval, but later corrected that report to say that the Clippers and Rivers were still working out the terms of his new deal.

A deal between two teams involving a coach is rare, but not unprecedented. The New York Times cites two recent examples.

Teams have surrendered draft picks for coaches and executives before. The Celtics gave up a second-round pick in 1997 to Miami in return for the Heat’s allowing Chris Wallace to become Boston’s general manager. The Heat also received compensation from Orlando when the Magic hired Stan Van Gundy.

The final terms are a win-win-win.

The Clippers receive one of the league’s most respected coaches. Rivers, 51, coached the Celtics to six straight playoff appearances, including three trips to the Eastern Conference finals, two trips to the Finals and the 2008 title. Known as an excellent communicator and motivator, Rivers holds a career coaching record of 587-473 (.554) in 14 years with the Magic and Celtics. In Boston, he went 416-305 (.577), and his teams consistently ranked among the best in defensive efficiency.

Despite a strong season, the Clippers lost to the Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs this year and chose to part ways with coach Vinny Del Negro back in May. Rivers’ task will be simple: Guide the Clippers, and franchise point guard Chris Paul, to their first deep postseason run ever. The Clippers have never advanced out of the conference semifinals in a franchise history that dates back to 1970 and includes stops in Buffalo and San Diego; Paul, an All-NBA first-team and All-Defensive first-team selection last year, has similarly never made a conference finals and was pushing for Rivers to come to Los Angeles, according to reports.

This sounds like exactly the type of task that would excite Rivers, who was otherwise looking at the possibility of a long-term, full-scale rebuilding effort in Boston. The Celtics finished in the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference this season, battling injuries and age through an up-and-down year. The roster faces major question marks as to the future of Garnett and Paul Pierce, and All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo is currently rehabilitating from a season-ending knee injury. What’s more, the Celtics’ salary caps are loaded down with longish-term deals to the likes of Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry. Some serious excavation needs to be done, and Rivers, having tasted the playoffs every year since 2008, can’t really be blamed for preferring a talented Clippers roster that wants to go from very good to great as opposed to the Celtics’ mediocre mishmash.

In Los Angeles, Rivers inherits a 56-win team that captured the first division title in franchise history and a roster that includes two All-Stars in Paul (once he officially re-signs, as is widely expected) and Blake Griffin, as well as a number of other talented pieces, including Jamal Crawford, Caron Butler, Jordan and Eric Bledsoe. Paul has also shown the ability to act as a free-agent magnet, which will be helpful as the Clippers look to compete with the Spurs and Thunder next season. Throw in the obvious benefits of the L.A. market and a similar contract to his big-dollar deal in Boston, and this looks like a no-brainer for Rivers, even if it will leave some of his admirers in the Northeast feeling jilted.

File the Celtics’ haul under the ancient “something is better than nothing” bargaining principle. Just as the rebuilding Celtics didn’t make a ton of sense for Rivers, the same could be said for Rivers’ fit in Boston. Seven million dollars per year is a very high salary for an NBA coach, a premium price generally reserved to lead a premium roster. Lacking the premium roster, that number starts to look excessive, and that appearance really crystallized when it became clear Rivers was interested in other opportunities. If he was all the way in, maybe the expense is justifiable, and he becomes the face of the franchise during a down cycle, serving as a reminder of the championship glory years and a popular figure for everyone to rally around. If he’s got one foot out the door, though, there’s more sense in letting him walk than trying to pull him back in. Let him go and get what you can.

The 2015 first-round pick is no major haul, but it is a legitimate asset, one that wouldn’t have been acquired had he decided to step away from coaching. Rivers is a more attractive name than any of the other coaches currently on the market, and a first-round pick years down the road is a reasonable price to pay for the Clippers, particularly if it helps seal Paul into a contract extension.

Because the pick is not in this year’s draft or in the loaded 2014 class, the Celtics miss out on immediate help and the possibility of a relatively better player that a deep draft offers. And, assuming the Clippers remain a strong team over the next two seasons, as they have been for their two seasons with Paul, the pick will likely wind up in the 20-25 range. While this isn’t a top-shelf resource, Celtics fans will be quick to remind you that Rondo was selected No. 21 in the 2006 draft. On top of that, the reported lack of protections offers a ray of upside. Both Paul and Griffin have dealt with knee injuries in recent years; the Clippers certainly look like a solid playoff team for years to come, but nothing is guaranteed, especially when that body part is concerned.

Both teams can look at the price paid and be satisfied; Rivers, meanwhile, should be delighted.

This post has been updated

14 comments
MichaelRobles
MichaelRobles

20-25? Try 27-30. Why would the Clippers be the 10th best team? 

Achbayar
Achbayar

Face the reality. Boston couldn't afford him anymore

GeoffreyRuch
GeoffreyRuch

Very disappointing to see Doc Rivers jump ship to the Clippers when I thought he was a Celtic at heart... but now I see he's not so special as I thought. He quit on the Celtics, and I can only hope that Boston can hire Brian Shaw, who could come at a lower price tag, but who might be a diamond in the rough. I still believe this team can be a contender, if KG and Pierce stay, and Rondo and Sullinger can come back strong, plus a few new additions... but it appears that might be wishful thinking because all I hear is about rebuilding. It is certainly a sad day for Boston, but if Doc doesn't want to be here, then it is good that Ainge could get a first round pick, which may turn out to be a late first rounder, but you never know in Clipper-land. Two seasons from now, the Clippers might hit some hard times.

McGibblets
McGibblets

The Cs got an unprotected first round pick in exchange for a coach whose time it was to move on.

As far as I know, no coach has ever been "traded" for a first round pick, let alone an unprotected one.

I think the Cs came out pretty darn well in this trade.

I'll remember Doc fondly, and I love Ainge's boldness as a GM.

James C
James C

My issue is with the NBA sticking their nose into this so far. I have a big problem with them saying they will prohibit and exchange of players between the teams this summer, or saying they would veto a trade involving players between the teams that include Doc Rivers. 

I think that is Boston wanted to trade Garnett, Rivers, and anyone else to the Clips for Jordan and draft picks it should have been allowed. Yes, it might hurt Boston in the short term, but if they player their cards right, drafted well, and hired a good replacement coach, then they would benefit from this as much or more-so than the Clips likely will. 

Alana
Alana

the writer here is a joke, first of all this years draft is poor so a pick here is useless, the Clips only wanted to give the celts a "protected" 2014 pick o Ainge got them to do an unprotected pick in 2015 something they said they wouldn't do. secondly Doc is in the Lakers division now, honestly how long does anyone expect them to stay down, he better win next year or else. If he never wins the championship there he might as well stayed put n I dont see them upseating the Heat or getting out of the west in fact. he preaches loyalty to his players then wants to abandon ship that says alot about his character doesn't it!!!


knickfan
knickfan

Lots of people in Boston bitterly criticized Ray Allen for defecting to Miami which turned out to be a very smart move. Are those same people going to criticize their beloved coach for defecting to the City of Angels?

R.R.
R.R.

Doc may have jumped out of the fire,  only to jump into the frying pan.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@GeoffreyRuch Why would Doc Rivers be a Celtic at heart?   He never played for the them and had multiple prior stops in his playing and coaching life.   He was simply hired to do a job and did it pretty well once he got some good players.  However I also recall Celtics fans yelling for his dismissal when his first three teams got progressively worse.

Ray1950
Ray1950

@JoeCabot @knickfan He was traded because he made it very clear he didn't want to stay in Boston. He made no secret of his desire to go to the Clippers.  In effect, he jumped ship.

BabarRashidKhan
BabarRashidKhan

@Sportsfan18 @JoeCabot @Ray1950 Because he was being used a a friggin' decoy in their offense to draw out players to the perimeter and create space inside.

Screen - Run to the 3point line - Get a pass - Pretend to shoot - Throw the ball back in. Thank you Ray Allen.

Not wise strategy to be employed for the best shooter on the Celtics roster.