What Will Doc Do Now?
You have to give credit to the Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Steve Ballmer. He’s taken a franchise that was in turmoil back in the Donald Sterling days to a team with renewed energy and direction. His recent decision to remove coach Doc Rivers from having any front office duties and promoting Lawrence Frank is one that shows intelligence and savvy. The God of NBA journalism, Adrian Wojnarowski put it best when describing the situation:
“Rivers' losing his front-office duties isn't so much an indictment of his individual fitness for the duties, but the fact that it is suited for no one coach in this modern era.”
There are now only three coach/presidents (of basketball operations) in the league: Stan Van Gundy, Gregg Popovich and Tom Thibodeau. Atlanta hired Travis Schlenk as their new general manager only a few months ago, relieving coach Mike Budenholzer of any front office responsibilities. That decision has seen a shift in direction also, and while the Clippers aren’t going to be bottoming out like the Hawks are, their front office reshuffling allows for a clear focus and will let Doc do what he does best: coach.
He has an outstanding coaching record. Via ESPN: in 18 seasons with Orlando, Boston and Los Angeles, Rivers has an 804-584 (.579) record and is 82-79 (.509) in the playoffs. Coaching has enough day-to-day pressures as it is, let alone for someone like Rivers, whose most recent transactions over free-agency saw the Clippers add a whopping ten players onto their roster (seven from the Chris Paul sign-and-trade). Introducing his system to all those new faces is going to require weeks of planning and training. With franchise cornerstone Blake Griffin unlikely to suit up come opening night, it’s even more important for Doc to get his new players ready. According to USA TODAY Sports' Sam Amick Rivers, the five-year, $50 million extension Rivers signed in 2014, will still be paid under the same contract. With the task at hand, he’ll certainly be earning all of that.
Rivers’ history as a front office executive with the Clippers is shoddy at best. His best move was one of his most recent ones in landing a massive swath of players and a first-round pick in exchange for Chris Paul. Paul could have easily left on his own volition but Doc was able to land a bevvy of assets that will keep the Clippers competing for the foreseeable future. In terms of the misfired moves, where do we start? The following is a list of just some of the players who have signed with the Clippers since Doc took over the front office and where they are now:
If you were giving Doc a grade as a GM, it’d barely be a pass.
The move by Ballmer makes sense for all parties. It allows Lawrence Frank to deal with all front office issues and develop the team long term (which Doc clearly failed to do), and also lets Rivers concentrate on the coaching realm. Overall, it provides the franchise with enhanced stability. Hot take: don’t be surprised if you see Doc take this roster to a top 4 seed in the upcoming regular season.