The LA Clippers are playing some of their best basketball of the season despite a slew of injuries. Many are responsible for the Clippers recent success, perhaps none more so than coach Doc Rivers.
What a difference a couple months can make. On November 20, the Clippers dropped their ninth game in a row and the season was beginning to look lost. The team suffered injury after injury and many called for the franchise to blow things up, including moving on from Rivers. Things are much different now. Sure, the Clippers are still dealing with injuries problems, but now they are thriving in spite of them.
The Clippers currently sit just outside the playoff picture, a borderline miracle considering their injury woes. If the Clippers are able to maintain their level of play and make the playoffs, it begs the question. Should Doc Rivers be considered a legitimate contender for coach of the year?
The Clippers have won 7 of their last 10, including their first win at Oracle Arena in years. They currently stand 1 game outside the playoffs, and are only back 2 games in the loss column from the 5th seed. The Clippers have used a league-high 19 different starting lineups this season, many of which feature rookies and G-League call-ups. Despite this, Doc has them playing harder than ever and thriving in their roles.
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Doc has been doing things differently than in years pasts and it is paying dividends for the club. Doc is now embracing the younger talent, instead of relying on older, established veterans, and they are performing far beyond expectations. C.J. Williams, Jawun Evans, Sindarius Thornwell, Tyrone Wallace and recently-waived Jamil Wilson have all been essential pieces to the Clippers recent success. All of which are rookies or on two-way contracts from the G-League. With injuries mounting, Doc Rivers may just be having his best season as coach of the Clippers.
Doc Rivers the coach vs. Doc Rivers the GM
Much of the criticism towards Doc has stemmed from the decisions he made in the front office. Doc was relieved of his GM duties this season, and the Clippers are reaping the benefits of that on several levels.
The Clippers have been flush with good, young talent this season. A far-cry from years past when most rookies couldn’t even sniff the lineup. Now that Rivers isn’t splitting his time between coaching and the front office, this could be the norm. The Clippers may have been forced into these situations by injury, but that does’t take away from the tremendous job that has been done on and off the court in LA this season. Also, you can’t forget to credit the role the Agua Caliente Clippers have played in all this. LA’s first season with a G-League affiliate has already produced several NBA-ready players.
Doc Rivers’ return to coaching full-time may be having the greatest impact of all for the franchise. The team is playing hard every single night, regardless of who’s out of the lineup or how tough the opponent. Having to play as the underdog every single night is bringing out the best in Doc, and the Clippers. Two months ago the Clippers making the playoffs seemed like a pipe dream, but not anymore. If the Clippers continue winning and make the playoffs, you have to consider Doc Rivers for coach of the year honors.