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Doc Rivers Impresses the Press

The Clippers introduced new head coach Doc Rivers to the media today and the impressive Rivers did not disappoint.

Jeff Gross

You guys don't really need me to tell you what went on at the Press Conference today when the Los Angeles Clippers introduced new head coach Doc Rivers. You watched it yourselves, so you already know. If you haven't watched it yet, you can watch it online (make sure to notice my brush with greatness as Doc walks past me at the 2:08 mark).

I can try to give you a bit of a feel for what it was like to be there, which I tried to do with my tweets from the presser. Here are some random tidbits you might find worthwhile.

I tweeted this (typo and all), but it bears repeating:

There were a LOT of media there today. You can see on the broadcast for yourselves, but the place was pretty much standing room. I've been to press conferences and media events for Blake Griffin and for Chris Paul -- those were big, but this was just bigger. That's not necessarily a function of Doc being a bigger story or a more important acquisition for the team. In some ways this is all cumulative -- the media covering the Doc Rivers press conference were there in part because Griffin and Paul had already happened, and the team is now perceived as requiring widespread coverage as a starting point so when big news happens, it increases for an established baseline. But having said that, it's pretty remarkable the interest in this coach. I mean, we're talking about a coach.

Doc's good in this setting; real good. He could end up being a terrible coach, but he's great at handling the media. He's eloquent, he's disarming, he's insightful, he seems genuine. Vinny Del Negro was good talking to reporters: Doc's better. He's just as charming if not more so, but he also says something as opposed to just repeating a few platitudes.

I was a little surprised that he conspicuously and consciously used "we" when referring to the Clippers as opposed to saying "they" or "the Clippers". It didn't even make sense in some cases -- how can he say "WE didn't win a playoff series" when he wasn't a part of the organization at the time? -- but he seems to be big on responsibility, and he has wasted no in taking possession (by using a possessive pronoun) of this team.

When Kevin Arnovitz asked about implementing some of Boston's ball side pressure defensive schemes, Rivers didn't hesitate an instant in his enthusiasm for the defensive potential of the young Clipper bigs. "With DeAndre [Jordan] and Blake [Griffin] I think you can form an unbelievable defense." How great is it to hear the coach say this? Griffin and Jordan are currently relatively weak defenders -- but here's a coach being effusive while talking about how good they can be. They're big, they're incredibly athletic -- DeAndre is incredibly long. Imagine having a coach who is so confident that he's going to get them to their full athletic potential? That's music to my ears. Doc later went on to say "That's what they're going to be [i.e. great defenders]."

For someone like me who closely followed the myriad twists and turns of the negotiation that eventually brought Rivers to L.A. there were a couple of interesting nuggets scattered about today. When asked about how he first began thinking about possibly leaving Boston, Doc said that the idea was first floated during a meeting with Danny Ainge: "Danny talked about assets, me and Kevin [Garnett] at the time.... And then this... the name Clippers came up." In several places I've seen the Clippers organization labeled as amateurish or naive for not realizing that the NBA would have a problem with the linkage between Rivers and Garnett, yet somehow Boston has escaped similar criticism. This indicates pretty clearly that from the beginning Ainge was peddling a package of "assets" and trying to get a package of "assets" in return.

Mark Heisler, having been one of the primary "west coast" reporters in the middle of the "he said, she said" reporting of "the deal that wouldn't die", was also curious about how things really transpired. Reports out of Boston last Friday were that Doc had decided he wouldn't coach the Clippers and that he'd told the Clippers as much. Rivers confirmed that he was frustrated, but... "I kind of pulled out... not from being mad or anything. I'd just had enough of it.... I conveyed that to Danny -- I couldn't talk to the Clippers."

I also got a chance to ask Andy Roeser about the NBA's stance on subsequent deals with the Celtics. Roeser chose his words very carefully in stating that the Clippers would not trade for any players on the Celtics roster. When asked what might happen if a Celtic was waived and became a free agent, Roeser repeated that the Clippers would not trade for any players on the Celtics roster... and followed up by saying that when free agency starts on July 1, they will go after the available free agents that they feel can help the team. The sub text: if Paul Pierce is waived before June 30th making him a free agent on July 1, he will not be on the Celtics roster, and the Clippers are free to go after him if they think he can help the team.

It's been hinted that Rivers is enamored of Eric Bledsoe, the Clippers primary trade chip, and he intimated today that he's not anxious to make a lot of moves with the team at this point. "I came here because I liked what I saw, not what I don't see or don't have. I like the group that we have; I think we have to add to the group; clearly we do -- I just don't know that we need to take away a lot from this group. I think sometimes the best moves of the day are when you don't do a thing and the group grows together again, another year." Still, it's not easy to get something for nothing, and the idea of adding without taking anything away is going to prove tricky. They can add through free agency -- but can they add enough? It's no secret that I believe Bledsoe was underutilized last season -- I'd be thrilled if he got a chance to play 30 minutes a night as a Clipper, even while recognizing that his ultimate destiny is probably as the starting point guard on another team. As for the almost-traded Jordan, we said in his exit interview that he stands to gain the most under a new coach -- as enthusiastic as Rivers is about DJ's potential, it seems that he's inclined to keep him and push him to be the defensive force we've always hoped he could be.

BTW -- The portion of the Prime Ticket interview while Ralph Lawler is talking to Doc about the 1992 playoffs brought back some memories for me. I was at Game 4 of that Clippers-Jazz series at the Anaheim Convention Center after the L.A. Riots. In fact, I was at Game 3 at the Forum between the Lakers and the Blazers the day the riots started -- that's right, I was a white boy in Inglewood, a few blocks from Florence and Normandy as everything was happening, although I had little clue what was really happening until later. At any rate, that game in Anaheim was a great day in Clippers history and a vivid memory for me.