There's just no shortage of Los Angeles Clippers news this summer. Invariably not a lot happens between mid-July (by which time most of the free agents have been snapped up) and the opening of training camp. For the Clippers, there's been a trial, a judge's ruling, an old owner finally driven out and a new owner coming in.
And this week, there's been news of a more prosaic variety, but still plenty of it. Yesterday it was the trade of Jared Dudley to Milwaukee for Carlos Delfino and Miroslav Raduljica. Today, it's the extension of Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations Doc Rivers' contract through the 2019 season.
Basically, new owner Steve Ballmer didn't waste any time. He likes Rivers, as well he should, and he has extended Rivers' coaching contract through 2019, five seasons into the future and three years beyond where it already was. The fact that Rivers will make even more than he did before, when he was already the highest paid coach in basketball, is almost a given -- Ballmer is the richest owner in North American pro sports and Rivers has more responsibility now than he did when he first arrived in LA, having added the President of Basketball Ops title in June. Of course he's the highest paid coach in the league, scheduled to make over $50M over the next five seasons. In the context of the $2B sale price of the team, it's a rounding error. It only makes sense for Ballmer to spend the money to make sure this team is as good as it can be given the cash he's put into it.
Rivers is now under contract through the end of the current contracts of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and one year beyond. There's no guarantee that having two great players and a great coach signed for the long term will produce the one dividend that everyone wants -- an NBA championship -- but not many teams can say they have a better five year plan as of this moment.
It's worth noting that things can change quickly. A very good team and a very good coach, even on a marquee franchise, don't necessarily mean indefinite sustained success -- just ask Doc about the end of his tenure in Boston. The Clippers are certainly not as long in the tooth as those Celtics teams, which had to be dismantled at some point, but then again Chris Paul will be 30 next May -- and 33 when his current contract is up. It's possible, though certainly not something we'd like to dwell on, that Rivers could find himself trying to ride an aging superstar beyond when it makes sense because he doesn't want or know how to do anything other than play for rings.
But that's a discussion for another time. For now, the Clippers are suddenly the picture of stability as a franchise. They've got one of the most highly respected coaches in the league and their two mega-stars locked up in long term contracts. They've got a deep-pocketed owner who is almost certainly going to do what it takes to put other pieces around them; an owner who can remove obstacles, which is what an owner is supposed to do.
Now there's really just one other thing to do.