Clippers inform Celtics they're out of Rivers-Garnett talks
The Clippers informed the Celtics on Tuesday they are pulling out of trade discussions involving Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett, a league source told CBSSports.com
UPDATED 12:57 p.m. ET, June 18
The Clippers informed the Celtics on Tuesday they are pulling out of the trade talks involving Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett, a league source told CBSSports.com. Owner Donald Sterling is moving forward with interviews of Byron Scott and Brian Shaw for the team's coaching vacancy.
"It just got to be too much," said a person briefed on the negotiations. "And so nothing's going to happen."
The on-again, off-again negotiations on a complicated scenario that would've sent Rivers and Garnett to the Clippers in separate arrangements contingent on each other have faltered and been revived several times. But after the teams resumed talks Tuesday morning, the person with knowledge of the dealings said the latest developments "put some finality to it."
Scott is scheduled to interview with Sterling on Tuesday night, while Shaw will meet with the owner on Wednesday. Former Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins also is in the running for the job. There could be more candidates, a source said.
The Celtics' desire to obtain a second first-round pick in the exchange was one of the factors that killed the discussions, along with Boston's desire to unload another multi-year contract -- either Jason Terry or Courtney Lee -- in the exchange.
The teams were discusssing a deal that would've sent Garnett to the Clippers and DeAndre Jordan to the Celtics, with the contingency being that the Celtics would let Rivers out of his contract to sign with the Clippers. Rivers has three years and $21 million remaining on his deal. The Celtics were trying to leverage Rivers' reluctance to preside over a rebuild as a tool to acquire the financial flexibility to reboot the roster in his absence.
Before the talks stalled again on Tuesday, the Celtics were waiting to hear from the Clippers on a "couple of options on the table" to provide Boston with payroll flexibility in the wake of Rivers' departure, one person briefed on the discussions told CBSSports.com.
It goes without saying that under NBA rules, the transactions would have to be consummated separately, with an agreement between the teams that the exchange of players, draft picks and/or cash would be contingent on the Celtics releasing Rivers from the non-compete clause in his contract.
The talks evolved to the point where the Celtics and Clippers were discussing alternatives to LA sending point guard Eric Bledsoe to Boston as part of the deal, league sources said. The Celtics wanted added financial relief if they couldn't obtain Bledsoe, sources said.
The Celtics' motivation for engaging the Clippers is evident. If Rivers wants to coach elsewhere, Boston would have to be handsomely compensated to allow one of the league's top coaches to walk to a competing franchise. But given their payroll and age of their roster, the Celtics wouldn't benefit from the standard compensation of a first-round pick and cash. Also, if the Celtics are going to be in rebuilding mode next year -- and if Rivers has a desire to coach elsewhere -- why not parlay the whole scenario into a win-win?
"The Celtics aren't winning a championship next year," said a person on the periphery of the talks. "So if they don't have to pay their coach $7 million, that's a home run for them."
It is not clear what Rivers will do next if the talks do not get revived. Rivers and Celtics president Danny Ainge have an outstanding relationship, and they went down the road with the Clippers with the understanding that Rivers could return next season in Boston if the deal wasn't consummated. Rivers also could agree to forfeit his remaining salary and take a coaching sabbatical to return to broadcasting.
With Garnett, 37, unwilling to retire and walk away from his $18 million in guaranteed money, the Celtics had only one clear path to trading him: incentivizing the deal with Rivers. Garnett has a no-trade clause and does not want to play for another coach at this stage of his career, but was willing to waive the no-trade clause if Rivers went to the Clippers with him.
For the Clippers, it was more difficult to see a suitable outcome from the beginning. As good as Rivers is, agents and executives within the league doubt the Clippers ultimately would trade a member of their young core and/or take back future salary to get him. Also, would Sterling embrace the notion of paying Rivers $7 million a year when Shaw, Hollins or Scott could be had for at least $4 million less?
"It doesn't make any sense," said one agent on the periphery of the talks. "We're trading coaches now?"
But the variable that made it sensible for the Clippers to pursue was none other than free agent Chris Paul, who was furious when Sterling publicly pinned the firing of Vinny Del Negro on him. Bringing Garnett and Rivers on board for a run at a championship could've been enough to placate Paul into re-signing with LA -- making Sterling's public bumbling a very expensive mistake for one of the NBA's most mystical owners.
It's too early to know how Paul will react to the apparent end of the Rivers talks. But the Clippers seemed determined Tuesday to "put the team together" in a way that will make Paul believe it can "compete and be good enough," a league source said.
The addition of Rivers to discussions of a trade involving players was unprecedented. In 1995, the Heat paid $1 million and a first-round pick to the Knicks in exchange for New York dropping tampering charges after Pat Riley joined the Heat. But calibrating an even financial trade under NBA rules with the significant value of Rivers' leadership added as a contingency proved exceedingly difficult.
And at least for now -- and for good, if the Clippers meant what they said when they pulled the plug on Tuesday -- it's over.
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