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Clippers, Doc Rivers agree to contract extension

The Los Angeles Clippers have extended the contract of head coach Doc Rivers, the team announced Wednesday. Rivers, who has been with the team since 2013, is the organization’s all-time leader in wins (259) and win percentage (.632). Terms of the deal were not immediately available.


Los Angeles Clippers have been terrific under Rivers in the regular season

As a regular-season win percentage of .632 (259-151) would suggest, the Clippers have been very good in Rivers’ five seasons at the helm. In his first season in Los Angeles, his team went 57-25 — the most wins in franchise history — and grabbed the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. They beat the Warriors in the first round but fell to the Thunder in the second round. The next year, the team once again finished third in the West and lost in the conference semifinal, this time to the Rockets.

After back-to-back first-round exits in 2016 and 2017, the Clippers began to look for a new core. They traded star point guard Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets in return for a bevy of players, a draft pick and cash. Then, midway through the season, they traded big man Blake Griffin to the Pistons for multiple players and draft picks, leaving center DeAndre Jordan as the lone member of the Clippers’ “Big Three.”

Even with a roster many viewed as quite depleted, the Clippers hung tough in the challenging Western Conference thanks to Sixth Man of the Year candidate Lou Williams leading the way offensively. At 42-40, the team finished 10th in the Western Conference, the first time it missed the playoffs under Rivers’ direction. Still, the emergence of many players and a surprisingly solid offense were positive developments.

Rivers had one more year on his contract going into the 2018-19 season, but instead of going into next year facing questions regarding Rivers’ contract, the Clippers brass decided to get the deal out of the way.

Steve Ballmer was excited to get the deal done

Clippers chairman Steve Ballmer had the following to say about his team’s head coach:

“Doc is one of the top coaches in the NBA, coming off one of his finest seasons since joining the Clippers. We trust Doc to lead a competitive, tough, hard-working team while upholding a culture of accountability expected to resonate throughout the organization.”

What’s next for Rivers and the Clippers?

The next thing on the agenda for Rivers and the Clippers is pre-draft workouts and then the NBA draft on June 21. The Clippers hold the No. 12 and No. 13 picks in the draft. They could also look to trade up or down using those picks as leverage. They also have several key contributors — including Jordan (if he opts in), Tobias Harris, Milos Teodosic (if he opts in), Patrick Beverley, Wesley Johnson and Austin Rivers (if he opts in) — entering the final year of their contract.

Los Angeles can fill a variety of needs with their draft. They could use an infusion of youth in the backcourt, and an upgrade at wing would certainly pay dividends. If Jordan departs, they could also look at one of several athletic, high-upside big men available in the draft as well.

With so much up in the air, locking down Rivers is a positive move for a franchise that had been a cellar dweller for much of its history. The Clippers made the playoffs in only six of their first 29 years after moving to Los Angeles. They have made it four of the five seasons Rivers has coached them. And while the playoff failures with the Paul-Griffin-Jordan trio were certainly disappointing, the blame shouldn’t be solely on Rivers. Paul and Griffin both suffered multiple untimely injuries causing them to miss or struggle in postseason play. In his career, Rivers is 82-79 in the postseason.

Rivers is one of the most respected coaches in the game, an NBA champion with the Celtics in 2008 and the NBA Coach of the Year with the Magic in 2000. A former player who played in the league for over a decade, Rivers is only 56 and will be a steadying presence for a team that has undergone significant transitions recently and will continue to change over the next few months.

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