BOSTON – Talks between the Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers on transactions involving Doc Rivers and players are said to be all but dead.
Sources close to the situation weren’t sure if anything could rekindle the discussions, but it appears a grand bargain that would have netted the Clippers the coach while the Celtics acquired players to jump-start their rebuilding has hit a road block.
The Celtics were hoping to send Kevin Garnett west for Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan, while the rights to Rivers would have been exchanged for draft picks. The Clippers are said to be balking at the steep asking price.
The question now is whether, if this situation remains as is, Rivers will simply come back to the Celtics and continue to serve out his contract, which has three years remaining at some $7 million per season, or whether his interest in another job will make a return awkward and cause him to retire.
Though both the Celtics and Clippers appeared eager to find common ground, the satisfying of all needs conspired to make this deal a long shot by most accounts. Sources had cautioned that there were still many moving parts in the process and that a number of issues could trip things up.
Beyond finding agreement on players, there also figured to be financial issues.
The compensation for Rivers would, in a strict sense, have been draft picks, but his imprint would have been on the player transaction, as well. Put simply, the Celts were said to be seeking a deal the Clippers wouldn’t otherwise consider, except for the fact that Rivers was a part of the equation.
The Celtics tried last February to get Bledsoe and Jordan for Garnett, but management was never really interested.
The Celtics’ preference has been to keep Rivers in the fold, and there was frankly some uneasiness within the organization when he opened the door to a departure following the team’s elimination from the playoffs.
But now that the Celtics know Rivers has changed his stance on wanting to be with them for the long haul in the vein of former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan and the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich (a reference Rivers raised), they are examining their options in the marketplace.
According to a source close to Rivers, the coach wants to make sure the Celtics emerge from any deal in a better position to transition from the Paul Pierce-Garnett era.
“Doc wants this to be a win-win,” the source said. “He still feels very strongly about the Celtics and Danny (Ainge, the club’s president of basketball operations). If (the Celtics) can’t work things out with the Clippers, then Doc would have no problem going back and coaching. He just wants to make sure that if he does go, the Celtics come out of it stronger.”
But according to another league source, there is some measure of posturing going on.
“Doc has to say that,” the source said. “I’m sure he still cares about the Celtics, but he’d be leaving them just when it’s time to rebuild. That doesn’t look too good.
“If Boston can get a good deal out of this, that takes some of the heat off him.”