Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers knows all about heart, intensity, hustle and coaching a physical brand of basketball. Just look at the Boston Celtics’ teams that he coached from 2004 to 2013.
Before accepting the job to coach the Clippers a year ago, the Clippers were perceived to be soft. They were pushovers. They were known to cave in under intense physical play by their opponents.
When Rivers took the job, most thought that perception and reality would change. The Clippers would shed their ‘Lob City’ nickname and become a more physically dominant force. They would get a tough rebound when they needed it. They would throw a Kevin Garnett-type elbow when necessary. They would constantly send a message to their opponent that they aren’t to be bullied anymore.
Apparently Rivers is still waiting for that to happen. On Wednesday night, the Clippers lost 121-104 to the up-and-coming stars of the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors, under new head coach Steve Kerr. After the game, Rivers fumed with his coaching staff for about 10 minutes before addressing his team in the locker room. But for the next 15 minutes, it wasn’t Rivers doing most of the talking, it was his team.
When asked afterwards what happened in the locker room, Rivers was as candid as a coach would ever be in this situation.
Photo source: Instagram
“I didn’t say much,” Rivers said. “I just let them blow smoke up each other’s [expletives] because that’s all they did in my opinion. But I let them just talk it out. But I think if you’re going to talk, you got to be real. I am not a fan of group meetings unless they are real group meetings.
“I said something is going to happen [Wednesday night], and it’s going to be good or bad for us. We are going to find out exactly what we need to find out. And what we found out is [the Warriors] are way better than us right now.
“If this was a playoff series, we’d lose in four games. It would be a destruction.”
What annoyed Rivers most was his team’s poor effort on defense. ‘Soft City’ gave up 65 points in the first half (they went to the half trailing 65-42) which sent Rivers over the edge.
“I’ve never been in a game where a team scored 65 points and we had one foul,” Rivers said. “That, to the core of me, bothers me to no end. I have never seen that before. And I think the foul was late and it was a mistake. It probably wasn’t a foul. So for me, I’m doing something wrong.
“That’s just soft as you can probably get in a game. One foul? At halftime? Are you [expletive] kidding me?”
Was Rivers happy about anything he saw during the rout? Apparently not.
“I don’t think we are bringing anything into the games, period.
“What was it, five games in seven nights? But what we lacked is heart. I don’t mind being tired. We can use that as an excuse. I just know me. If I’m tired and getting my butt kicked, I would leave the game with no fouls left. To me that was just weak on our part.”
Clippers guard Chris Paul and forward Blake Griffin were more ‘politically correct’ in their comments about the game.
“There is no secret,” said Paul. “We are trying to find ourselves and trying to win at the same time because you have to do that in the West. It’s no secret that we are not playing the right way and we have to play better.”
“We knew Doc was going to be emotional,” Griffin said. “We were all emotional … not necessarily emotional but passionate about what we were seeing. Some good is going to come from this.”
Judging by the comments made by Paul and Griffin, they just don’t get it. Even their comments are soft. Although they are saying the right things, they need to light a fire under their teammates. Just look at what LeBron James is doing in Cleveland right now. If you’ve got something to say, then say it. Just don’t say that things will get better just because.
Doc Rivers has his work cut out for him to make his team more physical which may require some roster changes.
And for the sake of the Clippers franchise, ‘Lob City’ needs to cease to exist.