A seminal moment in Doc Rivers stewardship of the Los Angeles Clippers is approaching faster than the winds moving in from the Santa Ana’s. Rivers most important moment as Clipper front man and Clipper behind the scenes man is nearly here. Rivers is smart but more than that he knows how to get human beings to bend to his will. He understands socialization theory, that the group is strengthened by the strong and at the same time that the group can be torn into pieces by the doubtful, lazy and weak.
Doc Rivers in the trenches personality has, in such a short amount of time, erased the stain of the former owner whose bizarre, prejudicial and downright sickening behavior had an elliptical effect on the franchise.
Doc Rivers is the Clippers. The new logo the Clippers will show off this upcoming season should be scrapped for hideous reasons and replaced with an image of Doc Rivers. He is the organization. He who has no hard ass boss to overrule him has to be the police of himself now. This season is dependent upon Rivers skill. Can he keep DeAndre Jordan in the fold?
DeAndre Jordan is a free agent and is being actively pursued by Mark Cuban and received the Cuban sales pitch as only Cuban can give it; Cuban can make an Eskimo drink slush. Jordan and Chandler Parsons have been conversational. Dallas isn’t far from Jordan’s hometown of Houston.
In the light of his competition, Rivers has to use all of his motivational tools and social psychology to convince Jordan that the Clippers have the ability to ascend in the Western Conference and dethrone the Golden State Warriors as division champions. It’s the one motivating factor all NBA players are swayed by: a NBA title ring. And Doc has one to show off.
DeAndre Jordan was drafted by the Clippers in 2008. He was a second round pick who had no offensive game but was an athletic freak who loved dunking the ball and rebounding. It took about 4 years for Jordan to push mediocrity into his rearview mirror and credit Doc for that bit of tough love. His relationship with Jordan in which he challenged Jordan to embrace his innate talents as a rim protector- and this is the best part- he pushed Jordan into beliveing he had more in common with Kevin Garnett and Bill Russell than he had in common with Kwame Brown, was all part of the Rivers mythology. Doc did what Doc is known for, taking a player under his wing and pushing him to do more and be more ala Vince Lombardi and his famous speech about chasing perfection.
Which brings us back to DeAndre Jordan. If he bolts the Clippers, the Clippers are left holding an empty bag of nothing. Already over the cap, the Clippers cannot sign a middle class free agent, only minimum salaried players. Possibly, there might be a sign and trade for Roy Hibbert but he and DeAndre are as different as night and day. And so the Clippers will have to sift through the remains of the day and try to pretend a Jordan loss is not catastrophic when it is. Jordan changes shots and blocks shots and he is their post defender. He erases so many of the Clippers mistakes.
And so does Doc Rivers. The Clippers went all season long with holes on their roster but were still expected to ascend to the Western Conference Finals, a place they had never been, because of Rivers ability to motivate, inspire and create results.
Doc has to play the trump card in his final hand. Everything is riding on this last act of salesmanship, convincing DeAndre Jordan Los Angeles is the place to call home. To keep the core trio of DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul in tact will be one more work of magic by the Clippers own miracle man. He has had a good week so far, bringing Paul Pierce back home.
One down, one to go.