Doc Rivers doesn’t need Kawhi Leonard. Soon, the former Clippers coach could be leading Zion Williamson or Joel Embiid.
Following the surprising “mutual” decision of the Clippers and Rivers to part ways on Monday, The Undefeated reported that the Philadelphia 76ers and New Orleans Pelicans both reached out to Rivers within an hour of the announcement.
Either job potentially has better long-term upside than Los Angeles since Leonard and Paul George could become free agents after next season. Philadelphia’s young stars (Embiid, Ben Simmons) are locked into max deals, while Williamson could become one of the league’s best players in his second season next year, paired with All-Star Brandon Ingram.
In seven seasons with the Clippers, Rivers, 58, became the franchise’s all-time leader in wins (356) and win percentage (.631) — holding the NBA’s fifth-best record in his tenure — while making six playoff appearances, but the franchise has still not advanced to the conference finals. With the recent second-round collapse against the Nuggets, Rivers — who led the Celtics to the 2008 title and 2010 NBA Finals — and the Clippers blew a 3-1 conference semifinals series lead for the second time in five years.
According to The Athletic, Rivers’ divorce from the Clippers wasn’t directly tied to the title contender’s early exit, “but rather an accumulation of philosophical differences through the years, and especially, recent weeks.” Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and Rivers reportedly met on several occasions recently, with both ultimately determining it was time to move on.
Rivers, who still had two years remaining on his contract, believes the roster is inherently flawed, while ownership believes the coach didn’t do enough to maximize the talent available. The report states that some in the organization felt Rivers failed to properly mesh their franchise-changing free agent signings with the scrappy group which made the playoffs one season earlier, and teammates reportedly took issue with the preferential treatment given to Leonard and George.
Ownership reportedly also was bothered by the Clippers’ six-game first round series win over the undermanned, seventh-seeded Mavericks, who lost Kristaps Porzingis to injury and saw star Luka Doncic playing through an ankle injury. The Athletic said that if the Clippers had reached the NBA Finals, it likely would not have saved Rivers’ job.
Clippers assistant coach Tyronn Lue and former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy are reportedly candidates for the open position.
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