How Doc Rivers went from indispensable Clipper to endangered one – Orange County Register

Now, the return of the Clipper Curse, blah, blah.

As if.

The Clippers never had a curse, or needed one, with Donald Sterling, the owner who kept them a laughingstock for decades, and the Lakers whose domination of the market insured that whatever the Clips did—like averaging 54 wins the last five seasons, No. 3 in the league behind Golden State and San Antonio—they got no credit for it.

Now this …

It’s a day like any other day in the Post-Chris Paul Era, which is to say anything that can go wrong has, with Blake Griffin joining Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Beverley and Milos Teodosic on the injured list.

Coach Doc Rivers is asked hopefully if bad times might not bring them together.

“Well,” says Doc laughing, “there’s nobody here to bring together.”

Only Rivers could look so light-hearted at such a moment. Communicator genius that he is, he has already done the hopeful bit that he surely laid on his players ( “Everyone gets paid…. I’ve been in this situation before. You’ll find your joy in it as well, as a coach and as players.”)

This isn’t one of those nightmares where the coach sounds like a robot droning, “That’s in the past, we’re just concerned about getting better every day,” until he’s removed.

“It is what is is,” says Rivers, conceding the harsh reality, but making it look somehow manageable. “There’s not much you can do about it but you can’t lay down, I can tell you that. You have to play.”

Among NBA coaches, only San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich balances charm and harsh reality better than Doc. Pop just does a scarier version with the considerable advantage of low-maintenance star players, starting with David Robinson and Tim Duncan, and a superb front office that he ruled but let GM R.C. Buford run.

Unfortunately for Rivers, he had CP3, the diminutive power behind the throne who led the recruiting effort for Doc but wound up abandoning him, and Rivers ran his own front office as multi-tasking new exec.

Steve Ballmer bumped Rivers down to coach only this season but softened the blow by putting Doc’s guy, Lawrence Frank, in charge. Now with things going from dire to worse, the question is whether Ballmer, who wants his stamp on the franchise, will bump Rivers down further to unemployed… or if Doc, who didn’t come to rebuild, will want to stay.

The cheery Ballmer has been anything but an ogre but between changing the team’s colors and logo, bringing in a new business operation to replace…

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