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Is This The End For Doc Rivers And The Clippers?

Doc Rivers came to the LA Clippers in the 2013-14 season to even out the score. Kobe’s Lake Show was on the way out. A Lakers rebuild was on the horizon and the high-flying Clippers had the Staples Center floor all to themselves. 

Rivers had the credentials, having won an NBA championship with the Celtics in 2008 and the squad had the buzz of a town that was owned by the Lakers. In 2012, the additions of Blake Griffin, who became a perennial All-Star and Slam Dunk champion, and future Hall of Famer Chris Paul set the stage for a cultural and organizational transition. 

The Clippers adopted more swag than a $20,000 Gucci bag, they got younger and extremely athletic. With the addition of the 7-foot, aerial master and supreme rebounding machine DeAndre Jordan, they instantly earned the nickname Lob City. Every night was a dunkfest at a Clippers game. 

Young King x Icey Prod. – “Lob City”

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They elevated to must-see NBA TV status for the first time since the franchise moved from San Diego to LA in 1984. Griffin was one of the game’s most popular ballers and Doc was riding high as the head coach and senior vice president of basketball operations. The Clippers were becoming title contenders in the eyes of the basketball world. Doc would acquire more front office power and surge to the top of the NBA’s most influential coaches list.

Rivers, now in his fifth year as head coach, won at least 51 games in each of his first four seasons. At the height of his reign, the Hollywood celebrities started showing up at Clippers games rather than Lakers games. But in the playoffs, Doc never made it to a conference final. 

So while Doc undisputedly raised the cache of the franchise, his failure to win a title with Lob City’s Big Three really started the downhill spiral the franchise is in and the rebuild mode that saw franchise leader Paul traded to Houston in the offseason, then Blake Griffin traded to the Pistons. And reports say that trade talks for DeAndre Jordan are in the works. 

Is Rivers headed back to the broadcast boost in the near future? 

Is this the end of Doc Rivers with Clippers? Stephen A., Max and Jalen Rose debate | First Take | ES

Stephen A. Smith, Max Kellerman and Jalen Rose debate if the Blake Griffin trade s this the end of Doc Rivers with Clippers.

The Lob City Era ended with the departure of Paul and Blake, so inevitably youd think that the Doc Rivers Era is also coming to an end and the demise can be marked with several key events. 

In 2014, Rivers became the first NBA coach to coach his own son, Austin Rivers and in 2016, he signed his son to a 3-year, $35 million deal. It was a move that raised some eyebrows, especially considering Kevin Durant was a free agent and the Clippers were reportedly trying to add him to the mix, which would have been a game-changer for the franchise. The move undoubtedly caused some silent friction and apparently broke the cycle of trust that the players had established with Rivers. 

In August of  2017, Rivers was stripped of his front office duties as president of basketball operations and eventually demoted to solely head coach. That move signaled another shift in the culture of the team. A culture that had been shaped in every way by Rivers in the last half decade.  

In October, after being traded to Houston, Paul questioned the Clippers team culture.

In a clip, Paul speaks with rapper Jay-Z about his decision to leave the Clippers after six seasons and ask for a trade to the Rockets. 

A lot of people see the wins and losses, but its the culture of our team, Paul said of the Clippers in the clip. If you arent trying to contend with the Warriors, then what are you doing? You know what I mean? If you arent trying to contend with them, then what are you doing?

Relationships were reportedly also strained between Doc and Griffin, but not to the point where Griffin wanted to be traded. 

Adrian W0jnarowski on Twitter

Blake Griffin had to be physically restrained from attacking Clippers coach Doc Rivers upon hearing he was traded, a league source tells ESPN.

This season has also been a struggle on the court for the Clippers and the team currently sits in ninth place, which would put them out of the playoff picture for the first time in Docs tenure. The second half of the season will be a test in how quickly they can develop an entirely new team chemistry and handle a dramatic drop in star power.  

If this is Docs last season with the Clippers, we have to reflect on his shining moment as a coach and the way he contributed to the conscious players movement that has engulfed pro sports. A movement that was triggered by the bravery and unified actions of a race of players that America said would never risk a paycheck to make a social stance. 

Doc Rivers: In the Eye of the Storm

The Clippers coach reveals the inside story of the Donald Sterling saga, plus how his own story influences his outlook

Who wasn’t proud when Doc stood tall with his players in the aftermath of the Donald Sterling racial scandal?  When TMZ released an audiotape containing racially insensitive remarks made by Sterling, it incensed people of color across America, shifted the narrative and disrupted the flow of the 2014 NBA playoffs. The Clippers were facing Golden State and they threatened to boycott the series if the NBA continued to harbor a known racist. They chose to play, holding a silent protest by leaving their shooting jerseys at center court and obscuring the Clippers logo on their warm-up shirts. 

Clippers Protest Donald Sterling | NBA PLAYOFFS

Los Angeles Clippers stage a silent protest towards Donald Sterling’s racist remarks

It inspired other players to do the same. 

Miami Heat silent protest Clippers owner Donald Sterling: shirts inside out

Miami Heat protest Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling before Game 4 against the Charlotte Bobcats.

It was an event that is forgotten in the Twittersphere posts of NBA history, but it was the Kaepernick knee before the knee. It was the I cant Breathe shirts before LeBron and them started bringing the message to the mainstream. The eyes of Black America were on the Clippers that day and Rivers stated that he would not return to the Clippers if Sterling remained as owner the following season. 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver responded to the cries of his African-American brotherhood by banning Sterling for life and forcing him to  sell the team to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion on August 12, 2014. 

When you reflect on his tenure, Doc did everything you could ever ask of a coach, GM, leader and face of the franchise. Even in the Blake Griffin trade. Hes definitely a winner and he made being a Clipper mean something. If only for a brief moment, the LA Clippers ruled Hollywood and that can be attributed to Rivers knowing how to build an organization. Kind of like Pat Riley with the Knicks back in the days, he just never won that championship. 

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