After a disappointing second-round flameout that prevented them from advancing to their first Western Conference Final in franchise history, Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers are looking to revamp their roster to prevent a meltdown of that magnitude from occurring again.
Rivers has wasted no time in beginning Los Angeles’ roster re-tooling, as he executed a surprising trade earlier this week that landed the Clippers former Charlotte Hornets swingman Lance Stephenson for Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes.
With the acquisition of Stephenson, one would assume that the Clippers have found their starting small forward, but during a radio appearance on “The Beast 980,” Rivers indicated that he views Stephenson as more of a “utility player” opposed to a starter.
“I like that [Stephenson] can play multiple positions — really 2, 3 and 1 — because he’s a terrific passer,” Rivers told The Beast 980. “I don’t know if I made the trade for him to be a starter, per se, I look at him really more to be a utility player that can come in and play literally three different positions for us. When you look at us, we needed toughness and more athleticism and we get that.”
Rivers went on to say that the Clippers “still have work to do,” and that “we’re not done clearly,” so what does that mean for Los Angeles? According to Arash Markazi of ESPN.com, it could mean a familiar veteran face could be on his way to L.A.
One of the options the Clippers are exploring, according to sources, is Paul Pierce, who could sign a mini-midlevel exception of $3.37 million for up to three years if he declines his $5.5 million player option with Washington. Players don’t normally turn down money but it’s essentially a $1 million difference this season for Pierce, 37, to return home and be reunited with Rivers, who was his coach in Boston for nine seasons, including the 2007-08 championship.
Pierce had an exceptional season with the Washington Wizards, serving as a mentor for youngsters John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr., in addition to providing Washington with his constant crunch-time heroics. Pierce seems to harbor a significant amount of appreciation for the Wizards franchise and their young stars, so a return to Washington may be the most likely scenario for “The Truth,” but the prospect of playing in his hometown with the coach he won his first and only NBA championship with in 2008 is certainly an appealing one. You cannot count out the Clips as a potential landing spot for Pierce.
After being berated for his lack of competence as a general manager, Rivers seems hellbent on making significant improvements to the current Clippers roster. Rivers certainly has the freedom and flexibility to do so as the shadow of Donald Sterling no longer looms large.
Paul Pierce, 37, averaged 11.9 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists per game this season with the Washington Wizards. Pierce will be 38 by the start of next season.