Doc Rivers is still stinging from the Los Angeles Clippers' second round loss to the Houston Rockets. But, Rivers is ready for the challenges of the off-season.
NBC Sports is reporting that questions Rivers raised about the core group for the Clippers, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan, are having trouble getting along. Most specifically for Rivers is the relationship between Paul and Jordan. Paul, an extreme competitor, has often derided Jordan for Jordan's inability to consistently make free throws when other teams employ the "Hack-A-Shaq" defense. Teams will continuously foul Jordan because Jordan does have some difficulty making free throws.
Rivers quickly tried to address the issue. "I can put this to rest: They get along great," Rivers said on Thursday. "Clearly, like everybody, they don't get along all the time, and they don't get along with me all the time, either, by the way. I don't see that as an issue," Rivers said. "I think all three, and I'm including Blake in this as well, understand how important the other guy is to them. Meaning, they all three need each other to win, and I think all three get that and all three know that and all three want to do it together. To me, that's the most important thing."
According to the Los Angeles Times, the big question Rivers has to answer now is whether or not to re-sign Jordan to a new contract. Jordan will be a free agent at the completion of the playoffs, and, even with his issues as a free throw shooter, will be highly prized by other teams, and Rivers, as a defensive center, shot-blocker, and presence in the middle.
Rivers knows the importance of having young, experienced players at the core of the team. Both Jordan and Griffin are 26. Rivers points out that Michael Jordan and LeBron James were both 27 when those two superstars won their first NBA championship.
"We're right on schedule," Rivers said.
Rivers knows that when you have a working element to a team, you want to keep it together, so long as it keeps working. Keeping the nucleus of Rivers' team together builds confidence, which the Clippers will need after their epic collapse against the Rockets. Rivers knows this all too well.
"Other than Game 7 of the Celtics-Lakers [series in the 2010 NBA Finals], those two games back to back [Games 6 and 7 against Houston] were the toughest I've ever been involved in, but it doesn't stop me. I'm more energized today. I love this group, and I think we're right there and we're going to get there and we're not going to stop trying," Rivers said.
[Image courtesy of Rolling Out]