It turns out Doc Rivers is at least partially responsible for Chris Paul leaving the Los Angeles Clippers in favor of the Houston Rockets.
Details surrounding the point guard’s exit continue to trickle out almost a year later. That’s how these things work. We’re given a partial picture, and oft-inflammatory interpretations, of a move at the time. Then, down the line, we’re treated to a more complete picture of what happened.
This situation, however, has been pretty consistent in its depiction of what went down. Lots of things factored into Paul forcing a trade to Houston, but his relationship with the Clippers’ head coach was chief among the driving forces. Every retrospective says something along those lines.
Now, thanks to ESPN.com’s Kevin Arnovitz, we have confirmation this was indeed the primal issue. And not only that, but Paul later voiced his concerns to Clippers owner Steve Ballmer:
After Paul exited for Houston, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer reached out to his former point guard. As a relatively new owner, Ballmer wanted to learn from his organization’s mistakes and invited Paul to share his thoughts about the current state of the franchise and, more pointedly, his reasons for leaving. When the two met over breakfast, league sources say, Paul stated that Rivers was one of the contributing factors.
More than half a dozen players from the 2013-14 to 2016-17 Clippers declined to speak on the record about Rivers’ role in the “dynamic,” but a reliable consensus emerged. To a man, they saw a coach who grew frustrated with his inability to manage a complex locker room and who began to act out himself.
Rivers, to his credit, is working off one of his most resourceful coaching jobs ever. He kept the Clippers within hugging distance of the playoff race even though they turned over more of their roster than any other team in league.
But his relationship with Paul, and the way in which he ostensibly wore on him, could contribute to Los Angeles’ view of his future. Were the 2016-17 Clippers simply stale and doomed for change? Does Rivers’ approach only really wear on veteran stars, making him a good choice to continue guiding the Clippers’ quasi-upstart? Does the team just flat-out need to go in a different direction?
The New York Knicks and Orlando Magic have already pivoted on the head-coach front. The Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets are expected to make swift decisions on the futures of their own head coaches. This Clippers situation, though, feels destined to drag out.