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The Clippers, mostly misrun since the franchise’s 1978 inception, are reportedly in a move to pry away a trusted adviser from a hated rival, someone who has mostly gotten it right for his entire career. Jerry West, a winner as a player and executive and current Golden State Warrior consultant, has a contract that runs out in July.
According the ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Clippers are on it:
The LA Clippers are actively courting NBA legend Jerry West in a bid to hire him away from the Golden State Warriors, league sources told ESPN.
The Clippers would like to bring West into their organization in an advisory capacity, similar to the role he has held with the Warriors since May 2011, according to the sources.
Los Angeles, again working short-handed, lost in the first round of the postseason this season to Utah. Run by Doc Rivers as both coach and president since 2013, the team has boasted both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin together since 2011-12, but the group has yet to advance to even the Western Conference finals.
Rivers hamstrung the club with a series of short-sighted trades and moves bent on buttressing his stars on the cheap, whiffing with nearly every decision he’s made since deciding to spend his winters in Los Angeles back in 2013. Ballmer, owner since 2014, let Rivers retain his president status upon taking over in the wake of the Donald Sterling dismissal.
This would be a very Doc Rivers/Steve Ballmer signing. Jerry West is a couple of years past his last championship, his role would be muddled and barely defined (yet well compensated), he’s clutch in late game situations yet probably not moving the needle much for Chris Paul or Blake Griffin in the first or second round of the playoffs. Sometimes he sidelines himself for crucial games.
West was a champion executive as a leader of the Los Angeles Lakers title runs, up to and including the 2000 version under Phil Jackson that helped drive him away. He resurfaced as a successful GM in Memphis before stepping aside. Later, he joined the Warriors as a consultant in 2011; a year before guard Stephen Curry signed the four-year, $44 million extension he currently works under. In 2012, when Rivers last made the Conference finals as coach of the last-gasp Boston Celtics.
Rivers made waves on Tuesday when he stumbled into a year-old milquetoast take at the home of the best of those sorts of servings, in all of sports: ESPN’s Mike & Mike program. When asked about Kevin Durant’s move to Golden State nearly 11 months after he left Oklahoma City first Finals with the Warriors:
“I don’t have any issue with it because they’re free. That’s what ‘free agency’ means: they have the ability to go where they want.”
Rivers should have probably stopped there. There’s a lot of space to fill up on sports talk radio, though:
“It is tough when you see a guy join a team — in Durant’s case what he did this year. That was tough for anybody, anybody’s that’s competitive, to watch. He lost, and then he joined. Having said that, it was his choice, I have no problem with him, but it’s something from a competitive standpoint, you would think you wouldn’t do.
“I have no problem with him doing it, it’s just something from a competitive point, for me, I guess when I played it would have been tough for me to join Detroit. Having said that, he has the ability to do it, guys are doing it, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Doc Rivers won a title in 2008 due to his fine coaching, but also because superstars Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce (through a series of decisions, through backchannels and legitimate, NBA-OK’d discussions) made it known that Boston would be the best choice for KG, given the Celtics retained enough assets in the deal meant for Ray Allen.
Same as it was for LeBron James, after Chris Bosh signed and Dwyane Wade re-signed in Miami. Same as it was for the Lakers’ attempts in 2012, same as the Knicks tried after the 2011 lockout, same as LeBron helped influence in 2014 and the same as Kevin Durant worked toward in 2016.
With the third star in place, most of these outfits went on to the sort of title-winning runs that Durant and his new Warrior teammates hope to finish off in June. That’s just how these things work; and no player, coach, and executive has taken advantage of it as much as Doc Rivers (dating back to the early 1990s), and he should be credited for as much. We can also call him out when he refuses to align himself with Kevin Durant, as he recalls his own “competitive” (his word) instincts.
The Clippers, already capped-out, pinned their championship hopes on Doc Rivers acting as that third star in Los Angeles. Once the Donald Sterling situation finally forced a previously dormant NBA into acting, Rivers was the perfect coach to preside over the mess. Once that dust settled, though, it was thought that his ability wrest more from a group of role players than should be expected would act as enough to put the Clippers in the championship conversation.
That hasn’t worked, clearly, with Rivers the general manager infamously repeatedly failing Rivers the coach, and with Rivers the coach not exactly turning in transcendent work with the top-heavy mess that front office left with him.
Jerry West, most assuredly, would count as yet another star for LAC. He is a shining point, one of several, in Golden State’s loaded front office. One that wants him back, a front office that can count on no singular presence (not West, not general manager Bob Myers, coach Steve Kerr or any number of much-liked and respected W’s executives) as credited mostly for turning the Warriors into what they’ve become. Despite their bosses attempts and myth-making.
Magic Johnson deserved to be lightly mocked for his basketball wilderness work in the years before he officially returned to the Lakers, but Magic has done an expert job in L.A. so far, and hired a first-time general manger in Rob Pelinka whom much is expected from. If West were to truly take over as Magic has with the Lakers, he would need ownership’s blessing to turn over the Clipper front office. To out-president the president, Doc Rivers.
If West exists as just a consultant, then, what is there left to do? Would the 79-year old advise Rivers to rebuild? If he moves to re-sign free agent Chris Paul for hundreds of millions of dollars and retain Blake Griffin, then what will Jerry West do to create roster flexibility with such an obvious mess?
Everyone knows what to do with the Clippers, a unit that long ago established itself as the top-heaviest dresser in the NBA. It’s the structural limitations that come from commitments to both Paul and Griffin, topped with a paucity of even its own low-level draft picks, and you have a team that has to be dragged into the Finals by its stars.
Let’s see them try to drag Jerry West out of Golden State.
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