The Clippers are supposed to be taking a victory lap this season after a summer spent acquiring a new, championship-winning coach and two shooters to spread the floor. They also inked a five-year, $107 million deal for point God Chris Paul. But real estate honcho and Clippers owner Donald Sterling almost ruined the whole thing.
Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski revealed today that the Clippers’ owner initially tried to back out of the three-team sign-and-trade bringing J.J. Redick to the Clippers on a new four-year, $27.8 million contract.
The deal also brought in Suns’ sharpshooter Jared Dudley, but necessitated unloading athletic guard Eric Bledsoe (a favorite of Sterling) and veteran Caron Butler to Phoenix plus a conditional 2015 second-round pick to the Bucks.
The loss of Bledsoe was coming anyway as he was set to become a restricted free agent this summer, and the Clippers weren’t likely to pay him his market value with Chris Paul as the starting point guard. But Redick and Dudley were exactly the players Rivers wanted for his spread-the-floor offense. Most analysts said the move by Rivers — who was also named LA’s senior vice president of basketball operations when Boston sent him over for a first round pick — was an excellent way to deepen LA’s bench while simultaneously getting a return on the potential Bledsoe showed in spot-up duty for the Clips.
Redick had spurned another — equally as lucrative — deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves in order to play for a contender like the Clippers. He bonded with Rivers when they met for dinner, and Doc sold him on the new-look Clippers competing for a championship with a well-compensated Redick.
Once a deal had been agreed upon and passed Sterling’s initial approval, Redick had turned down comparable offers, including one from Minnesota, to join the Clippers. With Redick off the market, the Timberwolves reached agreement on a four-year, $27 million deal with Oklahoma City Thunder free agent Kevin Martin.
Except, after Redick’s agent, Dudley’s agent, the GM’s for the Bucks and the Suns (John Hammond & Ryan McDonough), Rivers and Clippers GM Gary Sacks all verbally committed to the deal, on July 3, Sterling rescinded his earlier approval. All hell broke loose when word of the nixed trade spread.
In the early afternoon hours of July 3, owner Donald Sterling called Los Angeles Clippers president Andy Roeser and informed him he had rescinded approval on moving Eric Bledsoe and acquiring free agent J.J. Redick in a sign-and-trade agreement. The three-team deal – delivered the owner’s blessing only two days earlier – no longer interested Sterling.
From there, over the Fourth of July holiday, a most unholy hell threatened to unleash should Sterling have been unrelenting in his reversal, sources described to Yahoo Sports. That bizarre turn of events had stayed within a tight circle of league executives, coaches and agents at the start of free agency in July.
After Sterling vaporized the deal on July 3, leaving chaos in his wake, the owner bolted for a beachfront holiday weekend in parts unknown. From the Suns’ and Bucks’ front offices to Redick’s agent, Arn Tellem, to the credibility of the Clippers franchise itself, those involved understood that perhaps only Rivers had the freshly minted cachet and power of persuasion to undo this looming disaster with Sterling.
With Sterling, rational thought and debate aren’t always part of the discussion. Whatever his reasons, everyone else awaited Rivers’ conversations with Sterling. Rivers contract gave him ultimate management authority on deals, and several sources dealing with the Clippers say that Rivers was beyond embarrassed and humiliated. He feared the unraveling of the deal would cost him his credibility and paralyze him in future trade and negotiation talks, sources said.
The worst thing for the Clippers was the chance the unexplained change-of-mind by Sterling might have even led to Rivers resigning — possibly bringing Chris Paul with him since the moratorium meant Paul hadn’t actually signed his long-term deal, yet. Thankfully, Doc never went to Paul for more ammo to go to Sterling with, but it was Rivers who ultimately persuaded the Clippers owner to let the deal happen:
Rivers’ job was to convince the owner – for a second time, in this instance – and there were those who believed a flat refusal on Sterling’s behalf could’ve resulted with Rivers’ resignation.
“It never got to that,” one source told Yahoo Sports, “but it might have had Sterling not come around.”
But Rivers did change Sterling’s mind and the crisis was averted. On July 11, Redick signed his new deal in Los Angeles. Rivers’ credibility within the league, and the continued murkiness surrounding the Clippers’ personnel practices under Sterling, were in conflict less than two weeks after the deal was finalized bringing Doc over from Boston.
Welcome to LA Doc! This isn’t the Lakers, though, as former Clipper and current Laker Chris Kaman explained to the OC Register yesterday. There’s no accounting for the bizarre behavior of Sterling — and that’s even in comparison to Lakers head honcho Jim Buss!
To live and die in LA…
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