Bill Simmons' draft night hijacking of Rivers' decision to step away from the rebuilding Celtics and join the well-assembled Clippers brought about the negative reaction from Boston fans. In an interview with USA Today's Sam Amick, the new Clippers coach didn't quite take the bait to defend himself. Asked if there were any misconceptions about the process of him leaving Boston, the coach held back except for one point.
"You know, I don't get into it, and I won't," Rivers told Amick. "I think the only thing I keep hearing is that I initiated this, and I really didn't. That's where I think the miscommunication has been in that. But once it was initiated, I definitely pursued it. I thought it was a good thing to pursue for me. But the one thing I didn't do was initiate it. That's not true, so whoever says that - that not true."
That comment isn't completely unfathomable. All along, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge said that while Rivers wavered on returning, both parties were fulling willing to go all-in on Rivers returning up to a day before the change was made. That was after talks between Boston knowingly releasing Rivers to sign in Los Angeles had failed multiple times.
It's easy to surmise that the Clippers had a role in indirectly letting Rivers know they had interest in him. Rumor had it free agent point guard Chris Paul wanted Rivers in Los Angeles, and that rumor spread to the media and certainly could have reached the coach's office in Boston, be it from an inside source or otherwise.
The core group of Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan has won in the regular season, but it's now about putting the Lob City highlight mentality aside to win when it truly counts. Rivers puts Paul in the same room-to-grow category with Griffin and Jordan.
"For young guys, that's hard to understand that if you win, you do stand out," Rivers said. "Or, you can stand out alone and you'll get a lot of accolades, but you won't win and that's an individual thing. For us, and I don't know our guys yet, but for the young ones - that's DeAndre, Blake, and Chris - that'll be the key is sacrificing even some of their games for the good of the win. And that's what - if we can get that right, then I think we're going to be really good."
The Clippers lost Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler to the Phoenix Suns but in the trade got J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley in the fold -- two players who have gone deep into the playoffs and know how the winning deal works. The pieces are now there, but it's up to Rivers to work his ego-molding magic into creating a winning unit.
As for the Celtics, well, Rivers actually played a part in their hiring of Brad Stevens.
Weeks before his move to LA, Rivers told Amick that he spoke with Stevens about joining another NBA team.
Check out the full interview with USA Today here.