Philadelphia 76ers: Doc Rivers wasn’t the Clippers’ problem? Interesting

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

There’s a commonly held belief that the Los Angeles Clippers underperformed in 2019-20.

Did they? Probably not. The team was expected to be one of the top teams in the Western Conference, finished out the season with the second-best record in the NBA, and made it all the way to the Semifinals, where they lost a hotly contested series in seven games to the Denver Nuggets.

If you were expecting the team to hang a red, white, and blue banner in the hallowed rafters of Staples, then yeah, I guess it’s understandable to call the season mildly disappointing, but considering the unique circumstances of the 2019-20 season and the fact that Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were in their first year of a long-term team up – and only played together in 37 games – it would be completely understandable to call it a building block year from which to grow from and come back hungry for a better second-year showing.

Or Steve Ballmer could fire his head coach in the hopes of shaking things up. I mean hey, what could go wrong?

The Los Angeles Clippers’ trash was the Philadelphia 76ers’ treasure in 2020-21.

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Look, I’ll be the first to admit; Doc Rivers isn’t for everybody.

As one of the most tenured, successful NBA head coaches of his era, Rivers can get a bit too in his ways at times and stick to rotations/lineups/pairings that consistently fail to impress for no real reason in particular. Rivers also has a bit of a reputation for rubbing some players the wrong way – just ask Blake Griffin – and struggles to adapt his unique style to the varying personalities on any given NBA roster.

But if there’s one thing Rivers knows how to do very, very well, it’s win NBA basketball games; I mean, he does have well over 1,000 wins in his 22-year head coaching career, after all.

After watching the remnants of an incredibly fun but ultimately fruitless ‘Lob City” squad slowly fall apart, Rivers earned praise league-wide for how he transformed a motley crew of role players and youngsters alike into a surprise eighth seed in 2019 and parlayed that success into a chance to coach Paul George and Kawhi Leonard; even if Rivers and George had some pre-existing beef due to a certain relationship issue that you can read more about here.

Apparently, following only one season together, George and Leonard weren’t particularly jazzed on playing for the 10th-winningest head coach in NBA history, so thus, a change was made.

Since kicking Rivers to the curb in the name of improved team chemistry, the Clippers still finished out the regular season second in the Pacific Division, watched their SRS rating dip from 6.66 in 2019-20 to 6.02 in 2020-21, and ultimately finished out the regular season with two fewer wins and two more losses.

Oh yeah, and the team essentially tanked for their final two games of the season to avoid having to face their cross-town rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers, in the first round – a move that Rivers would have never pulled and has quite clearly backfired in a pretty spectacular way.

Down 0-2 versus a Mavericks squad riding the coattails of a red-hot Luka Doncic, the Clippers look like prime upset candidates as they take their show on the road to Dallas, where they will surely struggle to even force a Game 5. While the team could surely bring things back and make it a series, as they have two of the three best players in the series and thus can’t be counted out so easily, the Clippers aren’t exactly playing like a team ready to shock the world.

Through the first two games of their current postseason run, the Clippers have looked sloppy, uninspired, and at times, downright disconnected. They’ve trailed the Mavericks in every shooting category save free throws and struggled to find lineups with positive plus-minuses, and worst of all, have watched their fourth-ranked 107.8 points allowed per game balloon all the way up to 120, which just so happens to be the most points allowed by any top-four seed through the first two games of the 2021 NBA postseason.

And as for Rivers’ new team? Well, you know how they’ve been playing; darn good. Once again tasked with making a pair of similarly sized superstars co-exist, Rivers’ squad finished out the regular season with the best record in both their division and conference – a feat the Clippers were never able to accomplish – and look to make a long and healthy playoff run on a lightly contested path to an expected Eastern Conference Finals bout against the Brooklyn Nets.

Next. Alec Burks is heating up for the New York Knicks. dark

So, in summation, the Philadelphia 76ers should send one heck of a thank you card to Steve Ballmer and the underperforming Los Angeles Clippers, as firing Doc Rivers was the best thing that could have ever happened to this organization.