By Dave Holcomb
With the moves the Los Angeles Clippers have made in the last month, the question no longer remains whether the Clippers are the team to beat in Los Angeles, but whether they are the best team, on paper, in the entire Western Conference?
Yes, the San Antonio Spurs will be there, again, this season. They always are. And don’t count out the Oklahoma City Thunder once Point Guard Russell Westbrook comes back completely healthy. But it’s hard to ignore what’s brewing in LA, and I’m not talking about Dwight Howard’s departure.
First, the Clippers traded an unprotected 2015 first-round selection for Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. Rivers is an immediate upgrade from Vinny Del Negro, who coached the team to 56 wins last season, but an early exit in the playoffs.
Rivers coached in Boston from 2004-2013, and after some controversy early in his tenure there, he became one of the most renowned coaches around the NBA. Rivers won over 400 games with the Celtics and the 2008 NBA Finals Championship.
Then on Tuesday, the Clippers best player, Point Guard Chris Paul signed a five-year $108 million contract to stay with the team.
Rumors circled around the NBA that Paul did not want to return because he and Power Forward Blake Griffin do not fit well together. Acquiring Doc Rivers, however, could have been an important factor in keeping Paul.
In addition to re-signing their point guard, the Clippers are bringing back Forward Matt Barnes and Center Ryan Hollins. The team also signed Guard J.J. Redick, Small Forward/Shooting Guard Jared Dudley and Forward Darren Collison.
Both Paul and Rivers expressed how happy they are with the Clippers moves.
“[This is] one of the biggest days in franchise history,” Paul said according to CBS Los Angeles. “We all wanted to do it together. It shows what we’re trying to do here.”
“This is a great day for all of us,” Rivers said according to CBS Los Angeles. “I’ve done a lot of begging over the last week or two, and now I can do some coaching.”
And playing. But once the playing and coaching begins, don’t be surprised if the LA Clippers become the team to beat.