Doc Rivers is a relevant personality in Los Angeles because he won a title with the Celtics, and he did it by beating the Lakers. But Rivers also is stuck on one NBA title as a head coach, same as Rick Carlisle and Nick Nurse. He can’t escape losing to the Lakers when he was up 3-2 in the NBA Finals 2010. (In Game 7, he had a double digit lead.) That loss traumatized Rivers to the point of no return. He had to cover up the Lakers banners so he wouldn’t be continually reminded of his failure. In the aftermath of his trauma, Rivers finds ways to take shots at the Lakers.
But let’s remember this about Doc and his greatness. As Clippers head coach he had a 3-2 lead on the Houston Rockets in the 2016 NBA playoffs. The Clippers had never been to a conference final so it was a huge moment of anticipation and anxiety. The Clippers were on the cusp of history. Since the Lakers had been trash after Kobe Bryant’s retirement, the Clippers could have yanked all that Lakers lore and dumped it into a sinkhole as the Clippers were four games away from a NBA Finals berth. It was there for the taking. And then the Clippers lost. Up by double digits- it’s a Doc Rivers thing- and James Harden on the bench, Houston blitzed them with threes and beat the Clippers in Game 6. Then trounced them in a closeout game.
Doc loses games he should win. He loses when he’s up in a series 3-2.
Is this why he is salty whenever the Lakers come up? It makes sense to a point. Around town, he will always be second choice. Not filet mignon. But a 6 oz. ribeye. The Lakers stole something from Doc. They buried his coaching immortality. He only has one title. Even when they are an unremarkable three point shooting and defensive team, see 2018-19 season, the Lakers get publicity.
It makes Doc say things that make zero sense like the Lakers shouldn’t hang up their Minnesota banners. What? Really, Doc? Perhaps he doesn’t understand that teams can move to a different city if the owner says so. The titles the Lakers won in Minnesota- 1949, 1950, 152-54- were under the ownership of Ben Berger and Morris Chalfen. They sold the team to Bob Short in 1957 and he then moved the team to Los Angeles. Short never won a title in L.A.. He sold the team to grumpy businessman Jack Kent Cooke. The Lakers team that won 33 games in a row won the title against the Celtics in 1972.
Using Doc’s reasoning, championships belong to owners, and not teams. It erases the entire concept of teams sports. It is the team and the owner together that own the title. When the Raiders won a title in Los Angeles, the Raiders team owned the trophy. Los Angeles or Oakland, it didn’t matter. It was the Raiders title to covet.
Doc can’t help being Lakers bitter. I would be too if Game 7 and a mediocre 6-20 Kobe Bryant outrebounded the Celtics front line and then passed the ball in the most pivotal moment of his career to earn career title number 5 at Doc Rivers expense.
Rivers says he is offended that the Lakers claim their 16 titles. Lakers fans aren’t offended though that Doc was the coach in the 2010 NBA Finals. It made them champions. Even if Doc gets a title out of Kawhi and Paul George, it won’t be because he beat the Lakers to make it happen. He can’t beat the Lakers and win a championship anymore. There is no revenge story to be had. Doc had his Beat-LA chance in 2010.
It didn’t go well.