For all of about 24 hours, it seemed the Los Angeles Lakers might have found an interesting option to replace Luke Walton whenever they inevitably fire him: Doc Rivers. Before Rivers’ Clippers played Tuesday night, however, he addressed that rumor and said it was always baseless.
Per Rivers, he and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer worked out an extension to keep him on the sidelines with that organization beyond this season. Here’s how he put it:
"I just wanted to make sure it was the right fit for all of us. Everybody we've brought in, I absolutely think the world of. As far as a workplace, this is a great place to work." - more Doc Rivers— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) March 20, 2019
If we’re being completely honest with ourselves, this rumor was always pretty outlandish. Rivers has become synonymous with Clippers basketball, having now coached the vast majority of all the exciting seasons they’ve ever had.
The Clippers are also in a much better spot than he’d be signing up for with the Lakers. Yes, the Lakers currently employ LeBron James, but beyond him, there are more questions than answers across the roster.
Will Lonzo Ball recover fully from his ankle injury, and is he capable of making it through an 82-game season?
How might this blot clot situation affect Brandon Ingram?
Is James himself already showing signs of aging, and how might he handle the later chapters of his NBA career? Phil Jackson famously said that coaching a star as they decline is the worst experience for a coach, so it’s fair to wonder if Rivers would rather opt for the security he’s built for himself with the Clippers.
There’s also this to consider: We know the NBA coaches fraternity is a tight group. The way Magic Johnson has handled Walton probably won’t resonate all that well. Combine that with the way the Lakers have cycled through coaches in recent years and the franchise has some serious work to do on their reputation in this regard.
When you take all that into account and look across the hall at how the Clippers are currently operating under an owner with bottomless pockets not directly tied to basketball revenue, cap space this summer, an organization all seemingly running in lock-step and, frankly, this probably wasn’t all that difficult a decision for Rivers.
It’s on the Lakers to change that for whoever their next desired candidate might be.