When the Los Angeles Clippers’ hiring of Doc Rivers becomes official, they will have done more than just landed an elite coach.
They will have also secured an elite point guard.
That point guard, of course, is none other than Chris Paul, an unrestricted free agent come July 1. That means Paul is free to sign with any team.
Thanks to the Rivers hiring, Paul is almost certain to re-sign with the Clippers.
Now, that’s not necessarily the shocker in all this. The actual surprise is that the Donald Sterling-owned Clippers are actually making this happen.
Sterling has spent the majority of his ownership working hard to develop a reputation as the NBA’s No. 1 cheapskate. He practically wears that badge with pride.
Even when the Clippers have spent a little money on the idea of success, Sterling and his staff have somehow managed to turn it into a basketball circus. And this whole Rivers thing has indeed offered its share of comedy — comedy that only Sterling and his team can muster.
But the joke appears to be on everyone else: According to multiple reports, Paul strongly supported the Clippers’ pursuit of Rivers. The point guard even reportedly indicated if Rivers became the guy, Paul would sign that five-year extension for the maximum allowed under NBA law.
What a trooper, huh?
Mostly, the Clippers’ situation teaches us a valuable lesson in these days of the new collective bargaining agreement and luxury tax. It teaches us that superstars still spin this ball on their index fingers. (And sometimes, the index isn’t the finger they use).
In exchange for the right to hire Rivers away from his contract (and sign him to the same deal), the Clippers are reportedly sending the Celtics a 2015 first-round draft pick.
Fair enough. It’s the least the Clippers could do in making a maneuver that seems to come straight out of the 1970s, when they were called the Buffalo Braves, the NBA was the 102nd sport in the American pecking order and The Finals could only be viewed on a tape-delayed basis after the 11 p.m. news.
But it’s also a big move for the Clippers, the type of guts and wallet-opening Sterling is usually so unwilling to display. That’s particularly the case when it comes to Sterling’s coaches. In that regard, he usually prefers to think much smaller.
So kudos to the man who has mostly been a basketball party pooper.
Initially, the Clippers and Celtics reportedly were working on a deal that would land them both Rivers and big man Kevin Garnett. But for the first time in NBA history, commissioner David Stern out-scrooged Sterling, nixing the deal and implying it’s not permitted under the current CBA.
Odds are, league officials still won’t allow Garnett (or any other hot-shot Celtic) to become a Clipper, as to avoid the appearance that the next move was part of the Rivers trade.
But you never know. Sterling is on a roll these days, sharing his pocketbook with his basketball people and apparently realizing there’s money to be made in L.A.
It took a while, but it’s something. In the world of the Clippers, that something might actually mean real, sustained success.
And to think we had always assumed a sale of the team would be necessary for that to ever happen.