Here’s something crazy that Clippers coach and GM Doc Rivers said after his team finished choking away a 3-1 series lead to the Rockets last night (via USA Today):
“I want to fix it,” Rivers told USA TODAY Sports. “I want to win. That’s why I came here. I knew when I came here that roster-wise it was going to be very difficult. The first thing I did before I took this job, I looked at the roster and we laughed. I was like, ‘What the (expletive) can we do with this?’ It was more the contracts. But we have to try to do it somehow. I don’t know how yet, but something will work out.”
It’s not often that a coach or GM just comes right out and says something as painfully obtuse as this (hello, Phil Jackson!), but here we are. Doc Rivers, who inherited a 56-win team that boasted a Hall of Fame point guard, a fantastic defensive center, a young guard people were calling “Mini-LeBron,” and one of the best power forwards in the league—all in their primes!—is acting like he came to Los Angeles to start a reclamation project. That’s insane! After the 2012-13 season, there wasn’t a cushier gig available than coaching the Clippers, and I would guess that a great majority of the other GMs in the league would have gleefully swapped rosters with Doc.
And what has Rivers done to bolster the supposedly laughable roster that was given to him two seasons ago? Not much! He orchestrated a three-team trade that brought him Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick in exchange for Caron Butler, Eric Bledsoe, and a future second-round pick. A lot of the shine came off that trade this past August, though, when Rivers sent Dudley and a first-round pick to Milwaukee in a straight salary dump that was necessitated by the offseason signings of Spencer Hawes and Jordan Farmar. Hawes spent the playoffs rotting away on the bench, and Farmar was released in January.
Neither of those trades were crippling—J.J. Redick has been very good—but they look bad given the fact that Rivers has been unable to strengthen his roster by other means. Think of how often the Spurs, or, hell, even the Rockets manage to find useful bench players on the free-agent scrap heap. Rivers’s signings have been disastrous, which is how he ended up with a seven-man playoff rotation that included Big Baby Davis and Austin Rivers. It’s fitting, then, that his team was undone by the likes of Corey Brewer and Jason Terry, the precise type of useful role players that he’s consistently been unable to supply his team with.
Here’s another thing Doc Rivers said after his team finished choking away a 3-1 series lead to the Rockets (via Yahoo):
“We took too long to get over the intoxication of beating the Spurs,” Doc Rivers told Yahoo Sports late Sunday afternoon. “I never thought we gave Houston the same focus that we gave the Spurs. Even though we were up 3-1, I never felt that way.
“We stepped back instead of going forward.”
It’s a coach’s job to make sure his team stays focused enough to close out a series in which they are up three games to one, and it’s a GM’s job to make sure that his team has the right mix of stars and role players to accomplish that task. Rivers is doing a lot of talking, but all he’s saying is that he hasn’t been very good at either of his jobs.