THE biggest buzz surrounding the NBA this week, shortly before the NBA finals began, was the canning of Los Angeles head coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers after that humiliating loss to the Denver Nuggets after being up 3-1 in the second round.
Terrible timing, as just recently, Rivers’ story was featured in Season 1 of the Netflix Series called “The Playbook.” It narrates his rise from humble beginnings in Chicago, becoming an NBA star and his transition into a champion coach.
BODY OF WORK. That he is a successful coach is not an issue. He has a career winning percentage of .581 with 943 wins and 681 losses. In 2008, he coached the Boston Celtics to the championship.
The problem is when that is taken as a whole, it’s not only about the number of wins that matters. Your body of work also includes the losses and the context in which those transpired.
In 2003, his team blew a 3-1 lead against the Detroit Pistons in Round 1. In 2009, his team blew a 3-2 lead against the Orlando Magic. In 2010, he blew a 3-2 lead to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA finals. In 2012, he blew a 3-2 lead to the Miami Heat. In 2015, he blew a 3-1 lead to the Houston Rockets.
The latest debacle could not have come at a worse time. Expectations were so high of the Clippers this year after the arrival of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. They were expected to eventually have a showdown against Lebron James and the Lakers and be proclaimed the new kings of L.A.
In the first round, there were shaky moments against the Dallas Mavericks, but they were able to weather the storm.
But against the Denver Nuggets they actually had double-digit leads entering the fourth quarter on three close-out games.
In Game 6, the Nuggets chipped away at a 19-point third quarter deficit two days after overcoming a 16-point deficit in Game 5. In Game 7, they just disintegrated in the fourth quarter after double-digit leads in the third.
The fact that the Clippers were able to go ahead 3-1 and lead in double digits repeatedly entering the last quarter shows they are thoroughly capable of handling the Nuggets.
But when you can’t protect that lead over and over again, this has to be on the coaching.
Does this mean Rivers is a bad coach? Of course not. I personally do not like his style because he likes to stick to a game plan that initially works and doesn’t adapt on the fly.
This just probably means his style of coaching isn’t best suited to a particular crop of players. Or that there are certain facets in a game where he is strong and other aspects where his approach has proven to be inadequate.
In particular, that is how to protect big leads in crucial close-out games.
The firing of Doc actually came as a surprise to some since he was reportedly a big reason why Kawhi Leonard decided to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers.
But I support this decision. The Clippers will always be in contention to win a title as long as they have Leonard and George, but Doc’s style isn’t adequate to meet expectations.
I would compare him to a player who does well in the first three quarters but just can’t sustain it in the fourth when the game is on the line. Does that make him a bad player? Of course not. He’s just not a clutch.
LAST ROUNDS. Are on newlyweds James “Wahu” Quijano and Claudette Doroon, who tied the knot on Sept. 30. Congratulations and cheers!