Doc Rivers is abandoning his sinking ship and switching coasts. It’s the end of an era in Boston.
In a deal forced by his unwillingness to endure rebuilding, Rivers bailed on Boston and agreed Sunday to coach the Clippers, according to multiple sources. As compensation, L.A. gave up a 2015 first-round pick – and, in the process, presumably solidified Chris Paul’s return as a free agent – clearing the way for Rivers to resume title-hunting while the Celtics go about rebuilding around Rajon Rondo, who will return next season following ACL surgery.
The Clippers are picking up the three years and $ 21 million remaining on Rivers’ contract, following interviews with coaching candidates Byron Scott, Brian Shaw and Lionel Hollins.
The next big question is what happens to future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, both of whom don’t fit in Boston’s long-term plan. The Clippers were also negotiating a deal to land Garnett for DeAndre Jordan, but that was blocked by the NBA because it was deemed part of a coach trade. Any subsequent deals sending Garnett to the Clippers would also be blocked, according to Commissioner David Stern.
The Celtics, who were taken out in the first round by the Knicks last season, have been threatening to blow up their core for the last two years, understanding the window is closing on their aging players. They spent 15 mostly miserable seasons waiting for contention after Larry Bird retired in 1992, and GM Danny Ainge is faced with similar circumstances in 2013.
Now that Rivers is gone, what will the Celtics do with Paul Pierce?
Garnett, 37, who has flirted with retirement, has veto power over any trade. Pierce, 35, will play next season on a $ 15 million expiring contract. Pierce can also be bought out by June 30 for $ 5 million, which would make him a free agent this summer.
The Celtics scheduled a press conference for Monday.
Early in Brooklyn’s coaching search that led to Jason Kidd, the Nets contacted the Celtics about Rivers but were denied permission to speak with him. According to a source, the Celtics had no intention of dealing Rivers to a division foe, anyway.
The Nets had discussions with the Celtics about acquiring Pierce in the past, however, and would certainly welcome the small forward to a roster needing his scoring touch. Ainge pulled out of proposed deals involving the Nets and Pierce before the last two trade deadlines, according to a source.
Rivers, 51, won a title with the Celtics in 2008 and advanced to the Finals two years later. He won five straight division titles before New York snapped the streak last season. Rivers, who played for the Knicks from 1992-94, also was the Coach of the Year in 2000 with the Orlando Magic.
He takes over a team in L.A. built around Paul and Blake Griffin, but also a team that was eliminated in the first round last season.