The Los Angeles Clippers were a team that was lost in the wilderness before Chris Paul landed there, but when he arrived, their level of play went up. They were a team that was used to missing the playoffs and being having a Top 10 pick every season. The Clippers morphed from that team to a team that had high-flying players like Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan with Chris Paul pulling the strings as the point guard. Making the playoffs was good enough for a while, but eventually that was not enough. The Clippers fired Vinny Del Negro and then they traded for Doc Rivers. The acquisition of Doc was supposed to be the missing piece for a deep playoff run. Well, things have not quite worked out as they were supposed to, as the Clippers are still void of a Western Conference Finals appearance and the team seemed to be getting weaker when Doc took over a front office role that essentially had him controlling every move the Clippers made in terms of personnel. This offseason there was supposed to be two big decisions that were made when it came to the Clippers and that was the contracts of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, as both could be free agents. While both resolutions have come on those contracts (Paul opted into his last year to get traded to the Houston Rockets and Blake Griffin signed a huge max contract), there was one other decision that happened that no one really expected.
Doc Rivers was relieved of his front office duties this offseason and that spot was replaced by a guy that he has been working with very closely over the last few years, Lawrence Frank. Taking away the front office title from Doc was one that will allow him to focus on just being the coach of the team and not coaching along with picking the players. Some could see that as a demotion, but there is a bright light that goes along with this move. Doc is a very solid coach. People remember the run he had with the Boston Celtics that included two NBA Finals appearances, but no one talks about the mixing and matching he did with the Orlando Magic when his best players on the team were Chucky Atkins and Ben Wallace. Doc has that innate ability to tap into what players can do the best and get them to do that on the court. The problem with him doing that in Clipperland with dual titles was that he could not focus on what he was there to do: coach. That resulted in him trying to find balance in both roles, which is not something that everyone can do. It may not be what Doc wanted to happen at this point, but this was the decision that needed to be made at this time.
Just like it could be a good decision to take the dual roles away from Doc, this demotion could also be something of a sign that he is losing his grip in Clipperland. Let's just face it: the Clippers have not met the expectations that were out there for them. Now people can blame the health of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin for that, but the reality is the blame begins and ends with Doc Rivers. After all, he is the one who fought for some of those pieces to be there and even brought some of them in as well. This mess is as much on him as it is anyone. Although Lawrence Frank is a guy he trusts, that does not mean that Frank is going to go easy on Doc. The main goal of the team is to win and that is why they brought Jerry West in to help them out there. West does not come along to lose but to build title contenders and the Clippers are not that right now. The real question is whether or not this demotion will assist Rivers in focusing on one job and one job alone. With the loss of Chris Paul, it should be interesting to see how the offense runs and how his team does, Either way, it will be a crucial year for Rivers as to if he survives next NBA offseason.
The moving of Rivers to just being a coach next season was an interesting one due to the timing. There are some that felt it was an overdue move and there are others that don't understand the reasons why. We may not know the outcome of what he does, but what we do know is that all eyes will be on Doc in Clipperland this season. With the loss of Chris Paul, his coaching acumen will definitely be challenged. Will Doc answer the bell or not this season? We shall indeed see.