The Los Angeles Clippers squandered a 3-1 series lead and recorded one of the most epic collapses in NBA history. As the dust began to settle following the Clippers humiliating choke-job, the media and fans began pointing fingers as to who’s responsible for this outcome. Most of the blame has been circulated between Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Doc Rivers. There’s no reason for blame to be split amongst the three of them; after all, only one of them deserves it.
Doc Rivers has been heralded as one of the two best coaches in the league (the other being Greg Popovich) but has had limited success in the playoffs. During his sixteen year tenure as a head coach (with Orlando, Boston, & Los Angeles) he has one championship and two NBA Finals appearances. There’s nothing wrong with having that on a resume; however, that shouldn’t warrant someone the title of an “elite coach” in the association.
Rivers is a great leader and motivator for [some of] his players but that doesn’t make him a great coach. He’s great at whining to the officials after every call that goes against his team and he’s even better at making excuses for why his team didn’t live up to expectations; again not something that equates to being a great coach.
His teams have a tendency not to live up to expectations, especially in the playoffs. He’s the first [and only] coach in NBA history to squander two separate 3-1 leads in a playoff series; the most recent occurring on Sunday.
Following their Game 1 win against the Rockets last week, the Clippers were considered to be the favorite to win the title. After they annihilated the Rockets in Game 4, it was a foregone conclusion that they would move on to the Western Conference Finals and play the Warriors. Obviously that wasn’t the case and once again Rivers’ team is on the outside looking in.
Outside of Rivers’ coaching, part of the problem with the Clippers (as a team) was their bench depth. Besides Jamal Crawford and [occasionally] Austin Rivers (Doc’s son), the Clippers didn’t have anyone on the bench to turn to. That issue falls on the lap of General Manager Doc Rivers who traded away depth on the roster for inexplicable reasons (some believe it was so he could acquire his son).
When Rivers took over coaching for the [unjustly] fired Vinny Del Negro, he inherited a 56 win team that had a future Hall of Fame point guard (Paul), an All-Star power forward (Griffin), and one of the best defensive big men in the game (DeAndre Jordan); all in their prime. Understanding all of that, it makes it really difficult to respect Rivers as a GM [and a coach] when it makes statements like this following their Game 7 loss Sunday;
“I want to win. That’s why I came here. I knew when I came here that roster-wise it was going to be very difficult…” (ESPN.com).
How ridiculous is that? He inherits one of the best rosters in the league and he wants sympathy after choking a 3-1 series lead to an inferior team? Can someone say desperate? The sad part is, the media (who loves him) let him get away with it. There were a few NBA analysts and pundits who called him out for those comments, but not many.
So because the media likes Rivers he can get away with not bringing the team any farther in the postseason than his predecessor, who was fired and ridiculed for not being able to bring this [same] team to the next level.
Let’s recap one more time. Rivers’ team had a 3-1 series lead against the Rockets who had practically quite during their loss in Game 4. The Clippers mailed in Game 5 so they could end the series in Los Angeles. Going into the fourth quarter of Game 6, the Clippers led by 19 points, which they ended up squandering and lost that game by 12. And of course they lost Game 7, but the series was lost following the conclusion of Game 6.
The great coach who is praised for the way he’s able to motivate and relate to his players couldn’t find a way to get them to close out a 19 point lead; but yet there’s crickets regarding his job or even his status in the league. There have plenty of coaches who done far less and have been scrutinized and torched by the media following a playoff defeat. But don’t forget that this wasn’t just a playoff defeat; this was an all-time, epic collapse.
Rivers is a good coach, but he’s not great and it’s about time he’s recognized that way. The media likes to decide who should and shouldn’t be like and/or who should be thought of as “great”. The love affair and admiration for Rivers needs to end. He keeps showing everyone time and time again that he’s not as good as advertised.