Clippers Left Doc Rivers ‘Surprised’ on Monday

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The Los Angeles Clippers loaded up on notable talent last summer with the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Considering Leonard’s spectacular playoff performance last season with the NBA Champions, the Toronto Raptors, the Clippers were believed to be the favorites coming out of the West.

After wrapping up the 2019-2020 regular season, the Clippers notched the second seed in the Western Conference with a record of 49-23. Everything was going as planned as they defeated the Dallas Mavericks 4-2 in the first round of the postseason.

The Clippers really got hot in the second round, as they had a 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets. Then, the breakdown happened. With their backs against the wall, Denver churned out two-straight wins to force a Game 7 down in Orlando. By the time that final game rolled around, Los Angeles was doomed.

For the third time in his career, Doc Rivers’ team blew a 3-1 series lead in the playoffs. Many claimed that was enough evidence for the Clippers to move on from the veteran head coach, but an early report made it known Rivers was going to “run it back” with the Clippers for an eighth-straight year next season.

That’s what the head coach believed, but Los Angeles’s organization must’ve had a sudden change of heart as they reportedly surprised Rivers with a termination notice on Monday, according to Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times. 

“The Clippers have built a reputation around the NBA for making important, effectual decisions without much warning, bolts of lightning that have quickly pushed the franchise in new directions.

They dealt Blake Griffin without much notice and traded Tobias Harris in the middle of the night. They swooped in to sign Kawhi Leonard and acquired Paul George in a way that stunned the rest of the league.

And Monday, the Clippers did it again, cutting ties with coach Doc Rivers after seven seasons and six postseason trips. The official release said the sides reached a “mutual decision,” but people with knowledge of the situation said Rivers was surprised to learn the Clippers wanted to move on.”

What’s next for Rivers now that he’s not the guy that will steer the ship for the Clippers moving forward? Well, for starters, he wants to continue coaching. At first, some believed Rivers could take a season off to reassess everything and get into broadcasting potentially, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

On Tuesday, ESPN’s NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski learned that Rivers would consider other coaching options. The Philadelphia 76ers and the New Orleans Pelicans are two organizations that have already reached out, while the Houston Rockets have reported interest also. At this point, Rivers’ availability might not last long as he immediately becomes one of the best candidates available. 

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_