Monday, June 24, 2013

The Clippers Get -- And Keep -- Their Man

Go stand somewhere else
Tonight, in what has to be one of the longest rumored trans- actions in NBA history, the Clippers pulled the trigger on getting coach Doc Rivers from the Celtics for the price of a first round pick.

In regards to the compensation, this is fair. First round picks in the mid range, which is where the Clippers should be for the terms of this deal, are crapshoots in modern NBA life. If you have a solid organization, this can be a star-level player, but for the most part, these wind up as rotation guys with a mild chance of greater things. As a rule of thumb, I'd trust the Spurs pick deeper in the first than I would for the Clips 10 spots later, and after watching Fab Melo struggle to stay out of the D-League this year, you have to wonder how much the Celtics and Danny Ainge can do late in the first. But since Ainge seems to have finally moved beyond the One More Year phase of his GM tour, it's what he has to do. More on that later.

This isn't, of course, the best reason to make the move for LA, though Rivers for paperweight Vinny del Negro has to be an upgrade. Rivers might be the key to getting Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce to be willing to come to LA despite noise about the NBA not liking the quid pro quo. (Seriously, if the Celtics want to do something, the NBA agrees.) But the bigger point is that this move locks the door on Chris Paul wanting to leave. He gets a championship level coach now, and the possibility of veteran help that knows how to win ugly in the playoffs. It might not be the best move for the franchise in the long run, but you don't get to next year without taking care of next week.

Speaking of next week, this opens up the floodgates for who will come to the Clippers next... and so long as there is someone, this should work out for them. Garnett is still an elite level defender, and quick and dirty enough to live for another couple of years as a fake five. Pierce isn't efficient any more on the offensive end, but he bodies up well on defense. Both men would be reinvigorated by working with an elite point, and could help to give Blake Griffin the spine he so desperately needs to make the Clips an actual contender. (Rivers withholding minutes until the power forward starts consistently rebounding or blocking shots might help, too.) And the upgrade from DeAndre Jordan and Lamar Odom to Garnett is kind of crazy; you go from a guy that can't be on the floor later to, well, a guy that needs to be there. Especially if you aren't counting on him for offense.

It's a lesser move in terms of drawing new free agents to Clipperland. Dwight Howard was always a long shot, given that Laker Fan would spend their days and nights trying to ruin his life, and he just doesn't seem like that big of a fan of not being the biggest star, and having to answer to a strong coach to boot. Andre Iguodala might not be anyone's idea of a top-line stud given his lack of jump shot or free throw stroke. Josh Smith is going to cost nice cash and plays Griffin's position. If the Clips wind up with a starting lineup of Paul, Pierce, Garnett, Griffin and the aging grinding duo of Matt Barnes and Caron Butler...

Well, it's not as much fun as last year's lobfest, but it's a heck of a lot more dangerous in the Western Conference playoffs. And it keeps the Clippers relevant, unlike their stadium mates. That last part might be the sweetest part of the deal of all.

But to me, the sweetest point is that we are well and truly into the Rebuilding Era for the Celtics... and if history is any indication, the building is going to to half-filled and dead by mid-February. The dirty little secret of Celtic Fan is that he's really not into it when the team isn't any good. I actually kind of like the Rajon Rondo / Jeff Green pairing, since when you add Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger, it could develop into something approaching defensive hammer status. Hell, I'd gladly take that instead of the current Sixers roster. But the much more likely scenario is that they won't score enough points or get enough calls, and have utterly unsolvable late game situations with no one on the floor having a go-to one-on-one game, or experience. They also aren't going to attract a top-tier free agent, since those guys avoid Rebuilding Situations like the plague, and they really don't have enough assets on hand to luck into a James Harden-esque situation.

And no playoffs means quick irrelevance in the market, and a panicky trade and/or front office instability. So maybe no playoffs next year, or the year after that...

Between them and the Lakers, I'm liking the Association more and more these days.

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