A couple of days after Doc Rivers was fired as the Los Angeles Clippers head coach, we're learning more details about his tumultuous 2019/20 season with the team, despite having the deepest team in the league and two stars in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. It looks like Doc's problems with the team started some time ago, as they had a different point of view in two key issues for the Clippers front office.
According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, Rivers favoring Montrezl Harrell over Ivica Zubac cause some disturbance within the team, as well as the coach's reluctance to work on developing young players, something that rarely happened with the team. The last good young player they had was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and we already know what happened to him after just one season with the Californians.
Two philosophical points of contention between Rivers and the organization were, more recently, his insistence on playing backup center Montrezl Harrell over starting center Ivica Zubac and, at large, his reluctance to develop or empower the team’s younger talent throughout his tenure.
After a Sixth Man of the Year regular-season campaign, Harrell missed a month in the bubble due to the sickness and eventual passing of his grandmother. Upon returning, he was visibly not himself, offensively or defensively.
Yet Harrell’s postseason role was that of an effective rotation player (18.7 minutes per game), despite the Clippers posting a team-worst minus-11.6 net rating with him on the floor in the playoffs, including a mind-blowing minus-30.1 net rating while sharing the floor with Leonard and George.
In comparison, the Clippers had a plus-17.7 net rating with Zubac on the floor in the playoffs and a plus-11.1 net rating with Zubac alongside Leonard and George, both marks ranked No. 1 among the team’s rotation players.
It was clear to many that Zubac was the better matchup on both ends versus Dallas and Denver. There was an internal thought process of “How does Rivers not see that Zubac is the more productive player and the better postseason matchup?”
A common criticism from some within the team — inside and outside the locker room — was that Harrell’s energy and effort was only consistent on the offensive end of the floor, multiple league sources said.
Meanwhile, Rivers maintained, publicly to the media and privately to his staff and the organization, that Harrell was the better player, in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary
The Clippers, just like other teams in the league, need a change of culture, but some might think it was better to get rid of players before making any coaching change. Now Rivers is out and the team is looking for his replacement. These must be two key points for whoever comes to LA to coach this team. They are a mess right now and the brave person who takes the challenge will have to make some hard decisions in the upcoming months.
As things stand right now, only Kawhi Leonard is untouchable on the roster. The rest, only time will tell if they will continue with the Clips next season.