After five seasons in Denver, where Wes Unseld Jr. helped transform the Nuggets from a middling defensive team to one that finished 10th in defensive rating last season, Malone’s top assistant is in the running for at least two jobs. Unseld Jr. has already interviewed for the Houston Rockets head coaching vacancy and was scheduled to interview for the Los Angeles Clippers job on Thursday, a league source told The Denver Post.
Sixers assistant coach Kevin Young also interviewed for the head coaching job, and he made a strong impression on the organization, sources said. The Sixers also interviewed Clippers assistant Ty Lue this week, sources said, but Lue is emerging as a strong candidate to replace Rivers with the Clippers. The Clippers are planning to interview other candidates, starting soon, sources said.
But those close to Ballmer knew it was only a matter of time before he put his stamp on the franchise. He made his fortune as a technology entrepreneur by constantly looking to innovate. And once he'd learned the ropes as an NBA owner, he brought that culture to the Clippers. Employees were urged to come up with new ideas and present evidence to support them. So when Ballmer and Rivers began discussing what had gone wrong this season, sources said that instinct is what led Ballmer to question whether a new way of looking at the team, or a new voice, is what the Clippers really needed.
Over the course of about 10 days following the Clippers' Game 7 loss to the Nuggets, the third consecutive game the team had blown a double-digit lead in the second half, Ballmer and Rivers had multiple lengthy phone conversations, sources said.
Ballmer consulted with Frank, minority shareholder Dennis Wong and consultant Jerry West. Before a final decision was made, sources said Ballmer called several key players -- including George and Leonard -- to get their opinions. Nothing the players told him, sources said, changed Ballmer's mind about moving on from Rivers. Ultimately, the decision to part ways with Rivers was Ballmer's.
Rivers didn't feel comfortable continuing as coach without Ballmer's full support, believing a solid relationship between the coach and ownership was fundamental to success in the NBA. Ballmer didn't feel entirely convinced that Rivers had a better strategy and approach to next season than a new coach with a new viewpoint would. It was made official Monday morning, but sources said it had become obvious over the weekend that the relationship had come to an end.
RIVERS AND BALLMER delved into all of these questions and issues in the 10 days following the season-ending loss to Denver. They simply could not find common ground on a vision for the future. When Rivers and Ballmer spoke Monday, the only thing left to do was discuss how they'd deliver and present the news, sources said.
According to The Athletic's Sam Amick, talk about Rivers possibly being removed started soon after the loss to Denver. Sources close to the Clippers said that owner Steve Ballmer was understandably furious at the embarrassing finish, but making matters worse was the fact that it was a troubling trend for Rivers, [who has blown three separate 3-1 series leads in his career].
John Hollinger: Losing in the second round was unacceptable for the win-now Clippers, but this is shocking. Insiders felt there was no way it would really happen, and the timing (nearly two weeks after elimination) is odd. Rivers is a top-five coach and immediately becomes a top candidate for any and all openings. Meanwhile, the question is whether the Clippers had already lined up a replacement, and if so, whom.
Mirjam Swanson: Official announcement from the team: “Doc Rivers Departs” pic.twitter.com/D9lFfaC1T3
Adrian Wojnarowski: Coach Doc Rivers is out with the Clippers, sources tell ESPN.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Steve Ballmer and Doc Rivers did a short extension over the summer that allowed both sides a chance to escape deal in 2019. As Rivers told reporters, that's been replaced with a longer-term deal. For Rivers, Lakers were never a consideration. He wanted to crush that talk today.
Dan Woike: Doc Rivers said he and Steve Ballmer have agreed to an extension. Extension originally had an out this summer, but that’s been scrapped. “This is a great place to work.”
The L.A. Clippers today announced that the team has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Doc Rivers. Per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed. “Doc is one of the top coaches in the NBA, coming off one of his finest seasons since joining the Clippers,” said L.A. Clippers Chairman Steve Ballmer. “We trust Doc to lead a competitive, tough, hard-working team while upholding a culture of accountability expected to resonate throughout the organization.”
“I am proud of the success we have had here over the last five seasons, but there is more work to be done,” said Rivers. “We are coming off a year where our team battled through many challenges and much adversity, proving deep talent and even greater potential. I am looking forward to getting back to work on the court to develop our players and compete with the NBA’s elite.”
December 6, 2021 | 6:43 pm EST Update
Ira Winderman: Jimmy Butler (tailbone) has been upgraded to available for tonight’s game vs. Grizzlies.
Sarah K. Spencer: “That does mean that he’s getting close,” Nate McMillan says of Onyeka Okongwu’s recovery timeline, with Okongwu slated to practice and potentially play a game or two with the College Park Skyhawks.
Harrison Wind: Michael Malone pregame in Chicago on Zeke Nnaji: “Zeke has stayed ready, emotionally, physically and he’s taken full advantage of the opportunity. The guy has a tremendous work ethic. He lives in the gym.”