They won an NBA championship together in 2008 and lost in the Finals in 2010 when they were with the Boston Celtics, when their bond and kinship was stronger than ever.
Now Clippers Coach Doc Rivers and Brooklyn Nets forwards Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are on opposite sides, but that won’t test their friendship when L.A. plays host to Brooklyn on Saturday night at Staples Center.
Sure, Rivers admitted, it’ll probably be an emotional time for him and his former players.
That championship the three won in Boston will always be their signature moment together.
Rivers left Boston over the summer to become coach and vice president of basketball operations for the Clippers. Pierce and Garnett were traded later in the summer by the Celtics to the Nets.
“It’s going to be different, probably emotional,” Rivers said about the reunion. “I don’t know how I’m going to respond. I love those two guys. Without them, I wouldn’t be sitting here.
“Really, players make coaches. They really do, and I had two wonderful ones and I don’t have anything but ... they’re the best. Every coach should have a chance to coach Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett at some point in their lives. And I was one of the lucky ones that had that chance.”
The Clippers have won their last three games and are 6-3 overall, 4-0 at home.
Brooklyn, on the other hand, has struggled to a 3-5 record, winning Friday night in Phoenix in overtime on a last-second shot by Joe Johnson. Starting point guard Deron Williams is questionable for Saturday’s game because of a left ankle he sprained against the Suns.
“They’re huge,” Rivers said about a Nets team that has no starter shorter than 6-foot-3 and 7-0 center in Brook Lopez. “They are the biggest team in the league, their starting five, from guards to every single guy, is very big on their team.
“So it’ll create some unbelievable matchups. But we’re fast. And so we want to create matchups with our speed.”