Rewind the clock back three years to when the Celtics were just starting their first season without Doc Rivers for the first time in nine years. Things looked bleak and we knew that it was going to be a long year, even with the boy wonder sensation Brad Stevens. Rivers left because he didn't want to be part of another rebuilding phase that he felt would take too long. Instead, he saw a good opportunity to go coach one of the NBA's most promising teams, the Los Angeles Clippers.
Fast forward back to now and that decision to leave Boston doesn't look as good as it once did. Rivers was in town last week for a charity event and talked about the Celtics fast rebuild. Via Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com:
With Rivers back in town on Tuesday night for the annual ABCD Hoop Dreams fundraiser at TD Garden, the Clippers coach and president of basketball operations was asked whether he could have envisioned the Celtics turning things around this quickly.
"I didn't know," he said. "[Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge], [assistant general manager] Mike [Zarren], [owner Steve Pagliuca] and that whole group have done an amazing job of collecting picks and assets. Now, their next step is obviously turning them into players."
Rivers also talked about Al Horford and how important it was for the C's to get him:
"Getting Al was big," Rivers said. "I think Al was more important than any of the draft picks, to be honest, because I believe, once you get one, others will follow. I thought we learned that in 2008. We [added star talent] through trade, but once we made the trade, the Eddie Houses and all the other guys wanted to join in. I think Al will have that same impact here."
Since adding Horford, the Celtics have been pegged as maybe the biggest challenger to the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference. Boston is well positioned to continue building after maintaining cap flexibility and while still oozing future draft picks (including access to the Brooklyn Nets' picks in each of the next two drafts).
While I won't fault Doc Rivers entirely for packing his things up and getting out of town in favor of the Clippers, I do not think their franchise outlook appears better than the Celtics future right now. In three seasons with the Clippers, Rivers and the team hasn't made it out of the 2nd round of the playoffs and had a first round exit last year against Portland. With a team led by Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, that shouldn't be happening season after season. Yes the Western Conference has been more competitive than the East, but that still doesn't serve as an excuse.
I also do think Rivers is overrated a little bit as a coach. He's an excellent players coach and is tremendous at uniting a team in order to sacrifice and play together, but his X's and O's play-calling has never been very good. I've noticed that a lot more since Brad Stevens took over and he has been a damn wizard with his play calling. The team as a whole has a bright future with guys like Al Horford, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder leading the way. Some have even said the Celtics are the biggest threat to the Cavaliers in the East.
In contrast, the Clippers are getting older. Chris Paul is approaching 32 years old and has never been out of the 2nd round of the playoffs, Blake Griffin has had constant injury problems, and DeAndre Jordan is a liability on offense. The team lacks a true wing scorer that can take pressure off of Paul and Griffin. Oh and there's a little team called the Golden State Warriors who just acquired Kevin Durant in addition to Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. They might be a tiny obstacle in the Clippers way.
Doc will never come out and say it but I will gladly do it for him. Part of him wishes that he stayed in Boston. This team is filled with young talent, draft picks, and now a contending roster than should be at the top of the conference in the East. I'm not complaining at all and most Celtics fans aren't either. Brad Stevens is a terrific coach and I wouldn't want anyone else at the helms of this team. At the time Doc may have made the right decision for himself, but now there has to be some sort of regret given that both teams seem to be level in terms of championship aspirations.
Image Credit: Barry Chin/Globe Staff
Follow Kevin Yazhari on Twitter @KevKevYazhari Kevin Yazhari 9/15/2016 11:55:00 AM Tweet Edit