With the Clippers continuing their pursuit of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, reports indicate a bigger idea might be falling into place that involves the Boston core of superstars. ESPN reports that as Rivers is in a place where he "may be ready for a new situation" as Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported last week, Celtics forwards Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce might seek to join him with the Clippers.
There's a rising belief around the NBA that Doc, KG & Pierce all want to carry on as a trio in Clipperland if they can't roll on in Boston— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 15, 2013
It's a bold idea, and one with several moving parts. Garnett had been linked with trade talks to the Clippers at last year's deadline, but nothing ever materialized. Pierce is due $15 million for next season but has a buyout for $5 million. Berger reported Friday that the Celtics plan on heavy compensation in return for allowing the Clippers to interview and/or hire Rivers, partiularly due to the presence of a strenuous noncompete clause in Rivers' contract:
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.
So if we're going to chase this rabbit down the hole, the idea would essentially be for the Clippers to send cash, and two first-round draft picks or more to the Celtics to be able to hire Rivers. Then a separate deal involving point guard Eric Bledsoe, center DeAndre Jordan and more first round picks to Boston for Garnett. Then Pierce would be waived, and sign with the Clippers under whatever available cap room they have. The order of these events would have to work to allow the Clippers to pull this off.
The Clippers would basically never have a draft pick again.
Meanwhile, to believe this situation as plausible, you have to look at it from Ainge's perspective. He's going to trade the two players he loves more than anyone, the franchise icon in Pierce, and the team's lifeblood in Garnett, and allow Doc Rivers to get out of his contract to go to a team in LA. In return, he gets daft picks, a player at the same position as injured star Rajon Rondo, and DeAndre Jordan who is widely considered overpaid.
What does a core of Rondo, Bledsoe, and Jordan look like? (Bledsoe, in the last year of his contract before restricted free agency next season, would likely be moved in a separate deal.) Ainge has long been thought to be in pursuit of a package of young players he could then move for older stars to repeat the process that brought the Big 3 to Boston and lead to their 2008 championshp. It's unclear whether this would significantly accomplish that goal.
One interesting wrinkle would be if the picks were specifically positioned to exist after Garnett and Pierce have retired in two to three years, increasing the odds of a lottery appearance for the Clippers.
Berger reported last week that Rivers does not want to coach through a rebuilding situation, but Ainge has indicated there may be no other path for the Celtics to follow with an aging, cap-strapped roster.
All-Star forward Blake Griffin has not been discussed in any reported talks or even as touchable on the Clippers' side.
Oh, and by the way, how's Rondo going to feel about his big brothers abandoning him to chase another title with Chris Paul?
Lot of moving parts in this idea, but it would appear that this summer is shaping up to be quite dramatic along several fault lines in the league.