SAN ANTONIO -- If another NBA team tries to pry Doc Rivers away from the Celtics, it's going to cost them dearly in terms of compensation. Rivers has a particularly strenuous and specific non-compete clause in his coaching contract, a provision the Celtics insisted on when they signed him to a five-year extension in 2011, league sources told CBSSports.com.
The clause says that Rivers cannot work for another NBA team for the duration of his contract. He has three years and $21 million remaining on the deal. Rivers, 51, would be free to leave the Celtics, forfeit the remaining salary owed and return to broadcasting. But if he wanted to coach another team -- such as the Clippers, a scenario for which there is mutual interest -- the clause in Rivers' contract could substantially strengthen Celtics president Danny Ainge's negotiating position in asking for compensation.
Standard NBA coaching contracts include language outlining the procedures for a team seeking relief if a head coach left while under contract to join another team. But in Rivers' contract, the non-compete language is included in a separate clause, which could enhance Ainge's negotiating position.
The language in Rivers' contract may have more of a psychological impact on the negotiations than a legal one if Rivers were to decide to pursue a job with another team. Under NBA rules, Ainge could ask for draft picks and cash in exchange for allowing Rivers out of the contract. But since the Celtics' roster is at such a crossroads, a separate exchange of players could be arranged without being overtly tied to the Rivers transaction.
Any trade involving players would have to be negotiated as a separate transaction and would have to adhere to collectively bargained rules governing player trades.
In 1995, the Heat gave up a first-round pick and $1 million to get the Knicks to drop tampering charges and let then-coach Pat Riley out of the final year of his contract to join Miami.
League sources have told CBSSports.com that Rivers is reluctant to oversee a complete rebuild with the Celtics and has spoken with Ainge about what options exist to reload the roster and remain competitive. One of the people briefed on their conversations said Rivers "might be ready for a new situation."
The Clippers, especially if Chris Paul re-signs as a free agent, are known to intrigue Rivers as a possible destination. Along with the Nets, the Clippers were denied permission to interview Rivers for their head coaching vacancy earlier this summer. But if Rivers were to become available, league sources say he would soar to the top of the team's list of candidates. In fact, Clippers brass met several weeks ago to discuss a course of action if Rivers became available to them.
For now, the Clippers' coaching search is focused on Byron Scott, Brian Shaw and Lionel Hollins, who interviewed for a second straight day on Friday.