The Los Angeles Clippers have gotten off to an inauspicious start this season despite plenty of preseason optimism, and Doc Rivers has been at the forefront. He made a slew of roster moves over the summer that were expected to bolster what had been a painfully thin rotation a year ago, but he's struggled to find the right mix through the first 21 games.
Monday night, Yahoo Sports reported that Doc had placed calls last month in order to gauge the trade market for both Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson. Both players were each brought in this past offseason, though Rivers has expressed frustration with each of them already. It's a bit unfair to expect new players to blend-in seamlessly with a new environment in such a short amount of time, but Doc is under pressure to deliver a championship with this core.
Prior to Wednesday night's game in Milwaukee, Rivers rejected the notion that he attempted to trade either player (via Dan Woike):
Doc Rivers vehemently denied that Clippers were making trade calls as Yahoo reported. "That’s silly talk. Nothing. No truth."— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) December 10, 2015
This is to be expected, of course, because it would be legitimately insane of Doc to admit to such a thing publicly. There have already been murmurs regarding locker room discord with this team, and Rivers straight-up saying he's trying to trade some of his players wouldn't do much to help that. It would also effectively kill any sort of leverage he may have if he were to actually be discussing deals.
The Clippers remain a work-in-progress. Smith has struggled at times on offense, but the team has been better defensively with him on the floor so far this season (per Basketball Reference). Stephenson has had his ups and downs, though it's also evident he's being misused. He has the ability to thrive as a facilitator, but Rivers doesn't trust him enough to let him run the offense, even for the second unit. As a result, Lance has struggled to make a big impact thus far.