He was just what the Doctor ordered.
In 2013 the Clippers made a bulk billed appointment with the Celtics to cure the franchise of a curse that had poisoned it since its inception.
All it would cost?
A first round pick.
It was in this moment that Doc Rivers arrived in LA. It was a truly unique situation, but it was one that Clippers owner at the time Donald Sterling thought would be positive.
The union was odd from the beginning.
A team traded for a coach? Is that even legal?
(Apparently it is)
Rivers had one job really, it was to cut out the cancers within the organisation and lead the Clippers to a place where they could contend with the best in the NBA.
Doc had form for this too, we knew he had the pedigree, he lead the 2008 Big 3 Celtics to a Championship along with another Finals berth and a few Eastern Conference Finals appearances where they just happened to run into LeBron on a warpath.
Nonetheless in 2013 Doc had the reigns of one of the most talented young teams in the NBA.
Jamal Crawford. (Fun Fact – My favourite NBA player ever)
And JJ Reddick.
That is an elite line-up and now they had the right Doc to give them the right medicine.
That summer though, the Clippers received a terminal diagnosis, a tumour that had been brewing under the surface for almost 50 years and in 2014 it decided to properly rear its ugly head.
Team owner Donald Sterling had a phone conversation with his mistress leaked to TMZ where he very explicitly said some very racist things. There were always rumours that Sterling wasn’t a fan of minorities, as exemplified by his ruthless real estate empire and accusations from former GM Elgin Baylor, but this, was the first concrete evidence.
As can be expected, this news didn’t exactly go down well with anyone in the NBA. None more so than with his own employees and despite only being recently welcomed to the franchise, Doc Rivers went straight to work condemning and calling out Sterling. He quickly became a champion within the African American community as a figure of social justice and someone who deserved upmost respect for what he did.
He stood in solidarity with his players both Black and White to say no to hatred and bigotry, to say no to the man who paid their salaries.
The weight that Doc personally put on his shoulders in this situation is incredibly admirable and is a reason as to why he is so highly regarded.
All whilst this was happening, the Clippers were in a fierce playoff series with Golden State, eventually coming out on top in a tough 7 game series.
In the next round the Clippers ended up losing to OKC but many put this down to the extreme pressure and trauma of the Sterling situation.
The NBA acted quickly though, and Sterling was banned from the NBA for life and forced to sell the team after his wife proved that he was not mentally sound and the controlling interest in the Clippers was transferred to her (lol).
After an extended sale period, former Microsoft CEO and now richest sports owner in the world, Steve Ballmer purchased the team for $2 Billion Dollars, which was at the time a record.
Ballmer had one big selling point other than the unfathomable amount of cash he has amassed. He isn’t racist. So that left Doc to get back to his regularly scheduled job title of Coach and VP of Basketball operations of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Heading into the 2014-15 NBA season, Doc made a now infamous move in his coaching journey as he traded for his son Austin, which now meant there was a father son duo within the team.
In the coming years, the relationship between the two would come under fire as star PG Chris Paul accused Rivers of showing favouritism to his son when showing reluctance to trade him.
This would come up a few times within the Big 3 era in LA with Blake, CP3 and DeAndre Jordan wanting a wing player to compliment the rim running nature of the three. The largest story line here was when it was reported the Clippers were trying to trade for NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony.
According to numerous sources the Clippers had a deal in principal agreed to by the Knicks to get Melo to LA, but trade talks broke down because Doc didn’t want his son Austin in the trade. In the end the trade never happened and was a hallmark reason as to why this version of the team broke up.
Heading into the playoffs in 2014-15 though the Clippers were filled with hope as Coach Doc finally had a full season without any hate crime controversy to put together a team to contend. They upset the legendary San Antonio Spurs team in the first round and Chris Paul had an incredible game 7 buzzer beater to put the team through to face the Houston Rockets. The team got up 3-1 but eventually blew that lead. It was an embarrassing effort but still no alarm bells were ringing as the team was relatively new.
This is when some started to question Doc and if his medicine what was needed for the Clippers to succeed.
Once again after a strong season, the Clippers headed into the playoffs as the number 4 seed, facing the Portland Trailblazers. Unfortunately, well they shit the bed and lost in six games. What was even more worrying, was that the Clips got up to a 2-0 lead before losing 4 straights. It was becoming a bit of a trend for the Clips to underperform and to blow leads.
Could it have been the team?