So where are we now in the never-ending saga of Doc Rivers and the Clippers? Let's try to make sense of some of the latest developments.
First of all, you should be aware that the sides are talking again, according to multiple sources.
C's-Clips appear to be back at it, w/ focus just on Doc. Here's where things stood last night: http://t.co/FDUhz7tWDh— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) June 21, 2013
Based on the league's ultimatum that there can be no linkage between the two deals, the teams appear to be focusing on getting Doc Rivers out of his commitment in Boston and to the Clippers at this point. That has been the strategy since some time Thursday.
Whether the league will play along -- I can see no justifiable reason why they would not, but then again I see no justifiable reason for vetoing the dual deals in the first place -- remains to be seen, if in fact the teams reach an agreement. Whether the teams can then reach a separate agreement on Kevin Garnett for DeAndre Jordan, and whether the league will approve that deal, is yet another question. For now, they need to focus on one deal since the league has made it clear that they don't think the two were truly separate. The Doc negotiation seems like the trickier of the two, so they're starting there.
The reports yesterday, which frankly didn't make much sense, were that the Clippers had withdrawn their offer of compensation in consideration for the Celtics releasing Rivers. They weren't willing to give two first round picks; they weren't willing to give on first round pick. They just wanted him. That seems ... strange at best. I'm not sure I believe it really went down that way. But here are three possible explanations for why it might have:
(1) The Clippers felt like the league's interference increased their leverage. Doc is pretty clearly gone in Boston; talks had broken down before, always to start up again, and it's obvious that Boston is more or less committed to the concept of rebuilding at this point. Assuming Doc only wants to coach the Clippers, Ainge could be faced with the choice of standing in his way or allowing him to continue doing what he loves to do -- either way Rivers is gone. If indeed this was the Clippers strategy, it was a gutsy one.
(2) Maybe -- MAYBE -- it was designed to demonstrate to the league that there was no consideration being given to Rivers in the overall negotiation. "So Stern, you say we can't trade for a coach and we can't link transactions together -- we won't even offer anything for Rivers to show this was always a valid deal." But honestly, we're guessing as to exactly what the league's objection was, so we'd be guessing at how to satisfy them at this point.
(3) The Boston press have suggested that the Clippers got cold feet -- Sterling didn't really want to do the deal but Chris Paul made him do it. When the league stepped in it did them a favor, and now they want to sabotage things. Only one problem with that logic -- why restart negotiations at all? If the league really saved them from themselves, couldn't they just throw their arms in the air, say to CP3 "We tried, but it's that bastard Stern!" and hire a different coach? This self-sabotage theory doesn't make any sense.
Regardless, the Pick Nazi gambit ("No picks for you!") has apparently played out, and the Clippers have now ponied up their 2015 first round pick with protections (which we assume will be unnecessary since the Clippers should be a playoff team). Boston probably wants the pick sooner, and would no doubt love to have a pick in the loaded 2014 draft.
It's worth bearing in mind though that if these teams do intend to try to work a deal for Garnett after the dust has settled on the Rivers situation, the pick that is included with Rivers will impact any pick that could be included with KG. The Stepien Rule precludes teams from trading away consecutive future first rounders -- if indeed the Clippers send the 2015 pick to Boston for Doc, that takes 2014 and 2016 off the table for Garnett. Likewise, if they send the 2014 pick now, they won't be able to trade the 2013 pick or the 2015 pick (although they could send the 2013 pick AFTER the draft, since it will no longer be a future pick).
Why did the Clippers relent and offer a pick? Well, they were bluffing all along, and Boston called their bluff with a bluff of their own. The Celtics scheduled a press conference with Ainge and Rivers for Friday morning -- which they later called off, presumably because the Clippers called and said "Now don't be hasty." Are we still having fun?
Through all of this, I ask myself, which half of this deal would I rather have? Would I rather have Rivers as the coach, with Jordan at center? Or would I rather have Brian Shaw with Kevin Garnett? Obviously there are caveats there -- Jordan could still be moved of course, and Garnett would have to waive his no-trade clause and consent to play for another coach -- but if it came down to one or the other, which would you rather have?
I'd rather have both of course; we'll see if the NBA will ever allow that to happen. Now that the Finals are over, maybe they'll be more accommodating -- maybe it was all about staying out of the spotlight for a few more days (though that didn't really work for Stern).
As always, the ace in the hole for these deals is that both teams want them -- this remains a win-win for the Clippers and the Celtics. Which leads me to conclude that even with all the roadblocks, something is eventually going to get done.