Putting it bluntly, Doc Rivers doesn’t mince words with Clippers
The pleasantries quickly gave way to a more sobering discussion when Doc Rivers first met with Chris Paul.
Topics of conversation did not include Paul’s six All-Star game appearances, his unmatched ability to close out games or his status as possibly the best point guard in the NBA.
“He pretty much told me I wasn’t anything,” Paul said Monday during the Clippers’ annual media day. “He told me I hadn’t done anything, and he was right.”
Welcome to life with the league’s most painfully sincere coach.
Hard questions can be asked. Perceptions of one’s self can change. Feelings can be hurt.
But here’s the thing: Championships can be won.
“I’m honest,” Rivers said in the biggest understatement of the day.
For a Clippers franchise that has never gotten to the conference finals, Rivers’ candor is as alluring as the new light-blue alternate uniforms the team unveiled. His frankness grabs your attention like an open parking space in a dusty media lot suddenly overrun by reporters drawn to the buzz of the most captivating team in Los Angeles.
“He’s been straight-up, he’s been very real and when he talks you can tell he has the attention of everybody,” super-sub Jamal Crawford said. “Winning that championship, being there contending, he did it as a player and now as a coach. He has everyone’s respect.”
Not that it’s always fun to hear what Rivers has to say.
He told DeAndre Jordan that he should contend for NBA defensive player of the year. He told Blake Griffin that he needed to develop his face-up offensive game. He told Paul that he could help him improve on both sides of the ball.
“Until somebody goes 100% from the field or stops someone every time on defense,” Paul said, “you can always get better and I feel like Doc along with our staff is doing everything possible to help us get better.”
Griffin already appeared to be reading straight out of Rivers’ improvement manual, echoing concerns about transition defense and stopping teams from making three-point baskets as if his coach were whispering in his ear.
Rivers even wants to change the way the Clippers approach practice. He labeled each session “a playoff practice,” noting it was important to capture postseason focus in October if you expected to keep playing into June.
No one is off limits from Rivers’ true feelings. Not even the media.
Rivers wasn’t even five seconds into his opening remarks when he let reporters and photographers inside the team’s Playa Vista practice facility know how he felt about them.
“Good to see everyone,” Rivers said. “I don’t really mean that, but good to be back and back to work.”
There will be plenty of that between the start of training camp and a season the Clippers hope stretches well beyond the point last season ended, a first-round playoff collapse against Memphis. If Rivers needs to remind his players of the ultimate goal, all he’ll have to do is flash the championship ring he won in 2008 with the Boston Celtics.
“We have to embrace hard all the time and embrace what we’re trying to go after,” Rivers said. “It’s going to be hard and we’re going to get tested as a group, especially in the locker room. That’s an area that we have to be the strongest in. Instead of splintering when things don’t go right, we have to pull together.”
Rivers already has been a galvanizing force in his role as senior vice president of basketball operations, convincing quality backup point guard Darren Collison to sign a contract that will pay him a relatively meager $1.9 million this season.
“He really sold the job to me,” Collison said. “I could have been anywhere else, but the fact that Doc came out of his way and gave me the call, it meant a lot.”
So have his philosophies on life. Among them is a preference for his players to get extra sleep, something the fathers on the team have wholly embraced.
“I just think the whole culture change of what he’s going to bring to this organization is kind of like a new start,” forward Matt Barnes said. “Last year we had all the pieces we needed, we felt. So this year we can prove that. To improve, our coach is really going to be the missing piece.”
Don’t bother asking Rivers about that assessment. He would certainly find something else the Clippers could use.
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