Doc Rivers Biggest Coaching Move of the Year? Adjusting CP3’s Game


Feb 24, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers talks with point guard Chris Paul (3) during the second quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Want the run-down of a typical Los Angeles Clippers play last season? Chris Paul and Blake Griffin/DeAndre Jordan run a pick-and-roll. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. Sometimes you’d get a Jamal Crawford isolation. Plenty of ill-advised shots from Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler existed. And every once in a while, an awe-inspiring drive from Eric Bledsoe would happen. But most of what existed was option number one.

That was the gist of the Clippers, no thanks to Vinny Del Negro being inept in regards to adjusting the offense as defensives prepared for the constant barrage of picks. With Doc Rivers at the helm, the Clippers have improved considerably on that end, not solely due to the Blake Griffin‘s outburst or Chris Paul‘s yearly brilliance, but by forcing the best point guard of the current generation to take the ball out of his hands more.

"“I think Chris realized last year in the playoffs, holding the ball, getting double-teamed, getting down to late shot clocks every time, you’re not going to win that way,” Rivers says. “Movement, quick decisions, pulling it and swinging it and trusting the pass — that makes Chris impossible to guard. And I think he realizes it now.”At the start of the season, Paul pushed back. He was used to having the ball in his hands for the majority of every possession, controlling the rhythm of the offense with his dribble. Rivers was asking him to give up the ball early and only sometimes get it back later, requiring a new level of trust in his teammates.And then Rivers asked for even more. When Paul was sidelined with a shoulder injury for 18 games in January and February, Rivers urged him to consider giving up the ball even earlier, while still in the backcourt.via Straight to the point – ESPN"

Time after time, we have been shown the evidence of Doc Rivers impact. While he may not be the best technical coach in the league, that being Gregg Popovich or Rick Carlisle, Rivers has shown he can get veteran players to do whatever is needed to make the team better. He showed it when he delivered a championship to the city of Boston as Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce manned the court while he worked magic from the sideline. The same effect is being seen with Chris Paul.

An interesting part of Rivers getting Paul, Garnett, Pierce, or any other veteran he’s coaching to buy into the system is the lack of success. When the Big 3 teamed up in Boston, neither of the three experienced any real success. Of the three, Ray Allen had the most playoff success, but that was limited as the all-time three-point leader had never been to the NBA Finals. They had escaped their selfish days and were ready to do whatever is possible to win a championship. In Kate Fagan’s article, Rivers spoke on dealing with getting Paul Pierce to adjust to team ball during his first years as the Celtics head coach.

"When Rivers took over the Celtics in 2004, he needed a whole season to convince Paul Pierce that the offense stalled when Pierce dominated possession of the ball."

Chris Paul is in the same position as those three. In the ninth year of his career, Paul has experienced less than the other top players in the NBA since entering the league. Kobe Bryant won two NBA championships and an MVP award, Dwyane Wade won a championship prior to the Miami Heat became the most hated team in the NBA, Lebron James has two NBA championships and four MVP awards, and Kevin Durant has three scoring titles, an upcoming MVP award and has experienced the NBA Finals, albeit falling to the hands of Lebron James. Even Derrick Rose has “out-accomplished” Paul, winning the MVP award in 2011 despite being a lesser player to Chris.

While Paul has been comparable to the five players mentioned, his accomplishments pale in comparison. One could argue that Bryant’s 2008 MVP award belonged to Chris Paul, but that’s neither here nor there. And when it comes to team success, the guard has exceeded past the first round only twice in his career, one with the then-New Orleans Hornets and once with the Clippers. Watching Paul play, one can argue that no one wants to win more than him and him adjusting his ball-dominant play in order to approve those around him is proof that he’s willing to do whatever.

For Doc Rivers, these type of things don’t show up when it’s time for the media to vote for NBA Awards. With Popovich, Thibs, and the surprising Jeff Hornacek leading the field for Coach of the Year, Rivers will fall short in that category. But that doesn’t make his efforts any less extraordinaire. Getting the best point guard in the world to change his game is no easy feat. Getting DeAndre Jordan to become a key rotation player is no small feat either. Now all that’s missing for Rivers to do this seasons is be successful in the playoffs.

That task begins in two weeks.