Will head coach Doc Rivers be finishing the season with the Los Angeles Clippers?
The question seemed a little ludicrous a few weeks ago. The Clippers were 4-0 and sporting one of the NBA’s best defenses. Since, then, though, they’ve lost 11 of 12 games, including their last nine. No team in the league is allowing more points per 100 possessions during this time, and the offense ranks 22nd in efficiency, according to NBA.com.
Injuries to Patrick Beverley and Danilo Gallinari haven’t helped the cause. Beverley only just returned in Monday night’s drubbing at the hands of the New York Knicks, and Gallinari is barely on the peripherals of his return. But neither of them will help the Clippers’ shoddy rim protection; their defense is too far gone for DeAndre Jordan to cure.
Knowing Rivers was stripped of his presidential duties over the offseason, a move that some saw as the beginning of the end, is he now among the head coaches most likely to be canned before the end of the season?
Specific chatter hasn’t started just yet, but the speculation is coming—and soon, as The New York Times‘ Marc Stein noted:
Nine straight defeats, as well as the manner of tonight’s fourth-quarter surrender at Madison Square Garden, will inevitably foist hot-seat scrutiny on Doc Rivers … one of only six active NBA coaches to own a championship ring
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) November 21, 2017
Midseason firings are always a little tough to predict. Many tend to believe coaches deserve the entire year on the heels of a serious makeover to make their case. Rivers finds himself in that situation now, following the departures of Luc Mbah a Moute, J.J. Redick and Chris Paul over the offseason. He also hasn’t enjoyed a full-strength roster in quite some time, and even when the squad is completely healthy, it suffers from a dearth of switchable wings.
But Rivers is, at least in part, responsible for the makeup of this group, too. He gave away first-round picks like candy as an executive, which hamstrings the Clippers’ ability to make a move on the trade market.
Most of all, he’s been in charge of the team for the past five seasons, including this one. Sometimes, voices just grow stale. And while the Clippers’ roster looks drastically different, some of its most important core pieces—Jordan, Blake Griffin, Austin Rivers—are holdovers from the previous era.
Ask me to render a verdict on Doc’s fate this year, and I won’t have an answer. A cop out? Maybe. Probably. Whatever. Most of me feels like the Clippers will give him the entire season to figure things out. But if Gallo returns and this slump continues and they’re unable to re-enter the playoff picture, it stands to reason upper management will stage a teardown that begins with both firing Rivers and selling off Jordan ahead of his free agency (player option).