Coach Doc Rivers is out with the Clippers according to Adrian Wojnarowski. But why did coach Doc Rivers have to make this decision? Why did Clippers and Doc Rivers have failed?
The previous season, the Clippers made an unexpected play-off. Led by players such as Montrezl Harrel, Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, they achieved this success with the wonderful management of coach Doc Rivers. They also did a good job in the playoffs by beating the full roster Golden State Warriors twice. Subsequently, the summer transfer period was active for the Clippers. Kawhi Leonard signed a very late and controversial decision for the Clippers. The main reason for the controversy was that Kawhi Leonard stalls another title candidate, the Lakers, in the summer transfer period. The Kawhi-Lakers negotiations caused the Lakers to lose many players in the free-agent market. When the Clippers completed Paul George trade, Kawhi signed on to the Clippers. The Lakers learned this news from social media. Although the Lakers did not do a bad job during the rest of the summer, Kawhi Leonard’s attitude was highly criticized ethically.
But aside from these arguments, the Clippers had become the championship favorite of the Nba authorities with the squad they set up at the beginning of the season. The main reason for this was that they had stars like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George alongside Montrezl Harrel and Lou Williams. Their most important rival, Lakers, had formed a squad that had problems except Lebron and Davis due to waiting Kawhi in the transfer.
However, things were not as expected in the management and character of the leading players. Kawhi came as a “savior” to the Clippers, who had never even made a conference final in their history. The key to the team, which had already been successful last year and had good players, was completely handed over to Kawhi. However, Kawhi’s start to “load management” instead of embracing the team created a problem. When Kawhi reacted to Harrel, one of the key player of the team, during the match, Harrel criticized Kawhi by saying “I’m on the court every match”. However, the discussions did not end there. Nba authorities were also beginning to criticize Kawhi’s attitude. When Lebron James was asked about this issue, Lebron said that “Why wouldn’t I play if I’m healthy? It doesn’t make any sense to me. My obligation is to play for my teammates. If I’m healthy, then I’m going to play. If coach sits me out, then I’m not healthy. It’s just that simple.” Then coach Doc Rivers defended Kawhi. “It’s our philosophy. I don’t know what theirs are. I think theirs is whatever LeBron says it is, to be honest. We’ll see what strategy is right at the end of the year.”
However, things did not go as coach Rivers expected. Confident in the high individual skills of his players, the coach gave the team unlimited freedom. Despite serious problems in team defense and ball sharing, coach Rivers was always comfortable. He thought his skills would solve these problems in the play-offs. Before the pandemic, they added 2 important players such as Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson to their staff, and everyone gave the right to coach Rivers. The Clippers had set a versatile squad that could solve any problems in offense and defense. After the pandemic, the Clippers was missing for a while in the Bubble due to the death of Harrel’s grandmother and Lou Williams’ late arrival.
In addition, problems in their performance continued. The absence of a true “leader” was preventing the team from engaging. Kawhi’s “I do my job” attitude was not what was expected of the leader of this newly formed team. During these moments, coach Doc Rivers did not interfere and was confident in his players’ talent, just like pushing the trash under the carpet. However, problems were becoming visible during the playoffs. Facing Dallas in the first round, the Clippers could not prevent the series from reaching 2-2. But due to Porzingis’ injury and Dallas’ inexperience, they were passing the series. When they got 3-1 ahead against Denver in the semifinals, everyone started to think “The Clippers came to life”. But persistent of the Denver revealed the softness of the Clippers. During this comeback, Kawhi’s 7th game performance and Paul George’s poor shooting performance were highly criticized. Also, the other players weren’t exactly fighting on the court. The main reason for this was Kawhi’s attitude throughout the year and they were treated like “unimportant players”.
As a result of these problems, the Clippers said goodbye to the play-offs. The Clippers’ unsuccessful history continued. More importantly, the Clippers lost a successful coach. Next year we will see what the Clippers will do under serious pressure. The decision of free players Harrel, Morris and Jackson and the attitude of Kawhi will be determinant in this. It is rumored that the Clippers will choose Ty Lue or Jeff Van Gundy as their coach next year.
Onat Orhan Selvi