Doc Rivers Integrity: Dead On Arrival

Doc Rivers likes to preach values that define manhood such as trust, honesty, compassion and ethics. His voice often articulates those things that are decent about humanity. Even after a grueling NBA game has devastated his team, Rivers has the character of a man who knows he has to tell the truth, even if it hurts. During the Donald Sterling saga that thrust the Clippers into perception hell- they were Sterling’s toy so they were Sterling’s commodity- Doc Rivers took the reins of an organizational ship that was blindsided by allegations, entitlement, prejudice and looking the other way. Not only did he settle his team, he calmed and guided the front office through the media nightmare that had descended upon them and changed their professional lives.

And so what happened in Texas on Wednesday night was puzzling only in that Doc Rivers had set an example, one in which consistency was the foundational principle. It brought to mind the saying my grandmother used to repeat at every opportunity: character is what you do when no one is paying attention.

As news broke that DeAndre Jordan reached out to the Clippers because he had changed his mind about joining the Dallas Mavericks, the conversation skewed away from Jordan to the man whose job it was to guide Jordan through these unchartered waters. No max player had ever changed his mind which lends some to ask: DeAndre Jordan was a max player…um….why?

Take the media gluttony out of it, the Clippers had no other choice but to see the process through. It would have been irresponsible not to and no one in that situation would have looked the other way instead of jumping on the opportunity to convince Jordan to return to Los Angeles.

There was nothing unfair about Rivers and the entire Clippers crew landing like battle troops on Jordan’s residence to seal the deal. So much was at stake. Without Jordan, the Clippers are nothing special. With Jordan they are still the fourth best team in the Western Conference behind the Spurs, Warriors and Grizzlies. But Jordan gives them a fighting chance to do something they have never done before, get to the Western Conference Finals. So you get the drama of it. And the seriousness of it.

But this is where Doc Rivers failed. Not as a coach. Not as a general manager. Not as the most important person in the Clippers franchise. He failed as a man. A man is taught: don’t lie, cheat or steal. A man is taught: your word is your bond.

When DeAndre Jordan waffled with indecision, when he went back on his word, when he backtracked from his stance of wanting to be the man and wanting the offense run through him and wanting to be the star everyone talks about, when he changed his mind about creating a new DeAndre Jordan identity, when he generated havoc and embarrassment on a night when nothing much was supposed to happen, Doc Rivers was supposed to be there to guide him through the tough part.

Doc Rivers is considered a father figure to many of the players who have played for him. But what does a father do? A father makes you stand up and do what is right. In this case, what was right was calling Mark Cuban on the phone and talking to him man to man. But Jordan, shepherded into house arrest, acted like an adolescent, a teenager, hiding from those very people he was too afraid to talk to. DeAndre Jordan is 26 years old, soon to be 27 in twelve days. But last night he was like a 14 year old who hides his report card from his parents because he’s afraid he’s going to get into trouble. And now he is on a 10-day cruise, still hiding from Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks.

Here’s a novel idea. Start with the truth. That always works. If you truly believe in something, don’t hide. Shout it from the rooftops. Tell Mark Cuban, I don’t want to come to Dallas. I thought I did but I changed my mind. Be a man. Think like a man. Talk like a man. Act like a man.

This is what the Doc Rivers advice should have been. It was what Doc Rivers should have made Jordan do. Instead he turned the entire episode into one big joke, like they were in Texas for a post-4th of July barbecue, a game of Bid Whist and a party they deserved, when the opposite was true. There was an aggrieved group of people that Doc Rivers not only didn’t care about but did not respect.

Which is what the takeaway from this incident is, what leaves a sour taste. Most agree Jordan suffers from Dwight Howard-itis and he’s a little clueless and very immature. He needs guidance and appropriate advice. This is what Doc Rivers job was last night and this is where Doc Rivers failed.

All that is coming next, besides Jordan in Los Angeles, is karma. That is the second thing my grandmother always preached to me: what goes around comes around so be careful.


photo via