He came to the LA Clippers riding on an impressive reputation. He came to the Clippers, having taken his previous NBA team to an NBA championship parade,
having taken them to the NBA finals twice in three years, to the Eastern Conference Finals thrice in five seasons. He knows what it takes to get the job
done, to take a talented team past the final hurdle and it looks like Doc Rivers seems set to make the Clippers franchise this season what he made the
Boston Celtics in his stint there as head coach.
It’s difficult not to talk about what Rivers has done in Clipper-land over the past few weeks. The Clippers, who are in the midst of an eight-game winning
streak, having trounced the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Houston Rockets and the Phoenix Suns (twice) in this stretch. The Clippers, who handed their
cross-locker room rivals, the LA Lakers, their worst ever loss in 67 years during this run. The Clippers, whose 0.692 win percentage has them on course to
post their best regular season record ever. Charles Barkley, appropriately, called them the best team in the West while my NBA India co-blogger, Karan
Madhok, put their success in proper perspective in his latest piece here
The NBA’s regular season schedule of 82 games is a marathon. It’s not a sprint to the finish line. Teams go through ups and downs through this phase, with
only the sturdiest and the most-talented left standing to battle it out in the postseason. It does not matter how you begin the season, what matters most
is how you finish it. And Rivers seems to have helped the Clippers discover their identity during this most crucial stretch towards the business end of the
Through four-and-a-half months of the 2013-14 calendar, the Clippers have emerged a
top-10 defensive team
second-best offensive team
, with the best
in the league. However, Rivers’ impact can be felt most in how the two stars in the Clippers’ frontcourt have played this season. DeAndre Jordan is posting a career-best 2.4 bpg and an
off-the-charts 14.0 rpg (
) after Rivers compared him to NBA legend Bill Russell. He has become the Clippers’ defensive enforcer, averaging 10 more minutes per game this season than
he did in 2012-13. Then there is Blake Griffin who is averaging 24.4 ppg this season, six more than he did all of last season. His game has
improved tremendously, with his 14-for-16 shooting performance that yielded 37 pointsagainst the Suns on Monday night yet another sampler of his devastating, MVP form in 2013-14.
But Rivers has made his presence felt in other areas too. He snared, what I believe,
were two of most important players available at the trade deadline. By snagging Danny Granger and Glen Davis, the Clippers now have, arguably, the deepest
bench in the league with Hedo Turgoklu, Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford also coming off it.
Last season too, the Clippers had the same 45-20 record after 65 games. Last time, too, they finished fourth in the Western Conference standings and were
ousted by the relatively less-fancied Memphis Grizzlies in six games in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. However, this season should
play out very differently for the Clippers, who with Rivers by their sidelines, pulling all the necessary strings ever so deftly, seems to be veering the
franchise to a deafening crescendo at just the right time.