The Los Angeles Clippers lost on a buzzer-beater at home in Game 1 of their playoff series against the Utah Jazz, and while L.A. is the favorite to even the series Tuesday after Jazz big man Rudy Gobert was knocked out with an injury, the pressure is once again on coach Doc Rivers.
In his first four seasons with the Clippers, Rivers was unable to make it past the second round of the playoffs, and is already in a hole in 2017 with a potential second-round matchup with the Warriors on the horizon. According to Shannon Sharpe, this might be the last chance for Rivers to prove to owner Steve Ballmer that he and the Clippers' nucleus of stars are worth the investment.
Doc Rivers ultimately deserves all the blame for the Clippers' postseason struggles
“Here’s the problem that Doc has. Not only is he the head coach, not only is he cooking the food, he’s shopping for the groceries. So this restaurant not doing well is all his fault, because he’s everything. He coaches the team, he picks the players.
"Spencer Hawes? That’s on his watch. Lance Stephenson? That’s on his watch. Josh Smith? That’s on his watch.
"Now, this group has been together. Doc has been there four years. CP3 going on… what, I think the trade was 2011? CP3’s been there six years. Blake has been there seven years. DeAndre Jordan’s been there [nine].
"So this nucleus has been there for an extremely long period of time - and they have grossly underachieved. So what am I supposed to do with this, Skip?”
Kirby LeeKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Doc Rivers is still living on his success in Boston
“I think Doc - and it’s happened before, Doc is not the only one - when you win a title in any particular sport, all of a sudden it thrusts you into a different light. And Doc has been getting a lot of play from that 2007-08 title in Boston.
"He won it then, they lost in seven games to the Lakers [the next year], and then in 2012 they went seven games in the Eastern Conference finals with the Heat and LeBron. He hasn’t come close since.
"So he’s been here four years, he has yet to make it out of the second round. They lost in the first round last year to Portland. What about that 3-1 lead they had on Houston? Who went out then?
"At some point in time, I need you to show results.”
Rivers has already had enough time to make something happen with this roster
“Skip, they gave up a first-round pick, [Rivers] wanted out because Danny Ainge was moving all these pieces. Garnett was leaving and Rondo was leaving and Paul Pierce was leaving and Ray Allen had already left. So Doc’s like ‘I don’t want to be a part of this rebuilding thing… Danny, can you let me out of this contract? Not only did they let him out, he went to the Clippers. The Clippers gave up a first-round pick to get Doc.
"We didn’t just hire you, we had to give up something to get you and we gave you total autonomy. So you’re picking the players, you’re coaching the players. And you can’t get me past the second round? You can’t get to the Western Conference finals? Forget the NBA Finals!
"How many more years is Doc supposed to get, Skip? I think four years is plenty with this nucleus.
"Now CP3 is up this year, so is Blake. Skip, I need some results. At some point in time…. I’m in the results business. Now you can have results or you can have excuses. Pick a side and let’s play. So which one you want, Doc?”
Kirby LeeKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
These failures will soon be too expensive for Steve Ballmer to stomach
“Let’s be real now. We know Doc is living on what he accomplished in Boston. Because he really hasn’t done a lot in his four years [with the Clippers].
"… Steve Ballmer didn’t pay $2 billion - which was unheard of. Nobody thought he was going to even pay $800 million. He pays $2 billion dollars. The Kings had just sold for like $500 million. He goes $1.5 billion better. He’s not paying this kind of money for Doc to live on what happened in Boston.
"Look at his payroll! They gave DeAndre Jordan $90 million. Blake Griffin’s going to want a max contract. CP3 is going to want a max contract. J.J. Redick’s going to get close to a max.
"If I’m going to pay that kind of money in salary - you know if you pay that kind of money in salary, you’re going to be over the luxury tax. What am I paying extra for? I don’t have a problem if I’m Dan Gilbert, because this is resulting in me going to Finals. But going out in the first round? You want me to pay all these max contracts and the luxury tax?”