As the team president and head coach, Doc Rivers‘ input on personnel decisions overrides all but the owners meaning all critiques on that front, from whatever source, are aimed at Rivers. There have been a few questionable moves through the last two summers, but none bigger than the Clippers trading Dudley in a salary dump to the Milwaukee Bucks alongside the teams’ 2017 first-round selection for Carlos Delfino and Miroslav Raduljica, both of whom were waived 24 hours later to make room for Ekpe Udoh, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Hedo Turkoglu.
And while the public has yet to fret from expressing their emotions on the above move–as well as others (Mullens, Jamison, etc.), other front office executives are taking notice to what’s going on in Los Angeles. In a report by Bleacher Report scribe Ric Bucher, unnamed team executives have taken to criticizing what Rivers has done
"For whatever reason, Rivers has received a full pass on moves that have made the Clippers marginally better yet significantly more expensive. You don’t have to make more than a call or two to find someone in the league who, as one GM said, views Rivers’ moves with Dudley as a “head scratcher.”“If [former Minnesota GM] David Kahn made those deals, they’d have been burning crosses on his lawn,” said another NBA executive."
Whichever general manager this is that chose to disperse his message through Ric Bucher, he’s right. If these deals were done by a general manager or pushed by a head coach whose backgrounds suggest they’ve a penchant for making moves that cripple the franchise (or coach without a championship), the public perception amongst fans, bloggers, writers, etc. would be a bit different, a bit hectic.
Since making his first moves in the summer of 2013 as Vice President of Basketball Operations, I’ve found myself overly critical of what Rivers has done, but the rest of the wagon didn’t follow suit until recently. Rivers’ moves last off-season weren’t make or break the Clippers’ 2013-14 season transactions, but they were the opposite of what’s done by championship winning organizations–when your team needs defense, signing Byron Mullens and Antawn Jamison isn’t smart, especially when assets (2nd-round picks) are sacrificed to clear those same contracts three months later.
To be clear, Jared Dudley‘s presence wasn’t going to be the difference between the Clippers winning it all and them faltering . . . again, even if last year was arguably the worst of his career. But this situation could have been handled better and it’s drawn a lot of attention to how the front office–aka Doc Rivers–works, with some suggesting the need for a full-time general manager to allow Rivers to focus solely on what he’s best at: coaching.
Could this have been handled any differently? Sure. The Clippers could’ve held out on trading Dudley until the deadline–it’s difficult seeing a situation play out where he plays worse than he did the previous year. The Clippers could’ve also waited until the off-season to move Dudley’s contract which would have been an expiring unless Dudley decided exercise his early-termination option–again unlikely. Or the franchise could have stretched Dudley’s deal which would’ve saved 1) a similar amount to what the franchise is saving by stretching Delfino and Raduljica and 2) the 2017 first-round selection. Wanted flexibility to add a defensive presence like Ekpe Udoh to the roster? Udoh was available and reportedly interested in the Clippers when the team re-signed Glen Davis . . . for the same amount. That’s $984K saved on the books there. There were options and Rivers and company reacted prematurely, almost in a panic it seems.
Regardless of the outside criticism–the trade may have brought more attention to an already bubbling situation–all eyes will be on Rivers this off-season, but this time, not for his ability–or inability-to lead the Clippers to a championship, but for how he manages DeAndre Jordan‘s upcoming free agency. The past moves have been miniscule, but Rivers’ management of Jordan’s contract could greatly affect the Clippers through the remainder of Chris Paul‘s and Blake Griffin‘s contracts (both end in 2018/19).
The Clippers pay Doc Rivers to be the best at whatever he does, coaching or front office management. It’s about time his actions reflect that or the Clippers championship hopes could be cut short because of his inability to build around his stars.
And that’s not what the Clippers signed up for in 2013.