The modern NBA is low on beef. There are relatively few players or coaches who don't get along with the vast majority of other players and coaches. DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Kidd are two examples of lightning-rod characters with a bunch of in-league foes. Matt Barnes has some very specific beefs. The Mavericks have a habit of feuding with various players like Rajon Rondo and DeAndre Jordan. Dwight Howard is a beef magnet. Raptors assistant Jerry Stackhouse probably keeps a list in his pocket of folks who deserve fisticuffs. But by and large, people in the modern NBA get along.
That's what makes the growing feud between Clippers coach/president Doc Rivers and Blazers coach Terry Stotts so bizarre. Both are considered nice, personable basketball lifers. Rivers had a long playing career before becoming a coach. Stotts was a longtime assistant from the George Karl tree before striking out on his own. They are both in their mid-50s. They are card-carrying members of the coaches' club. What gives? Why are they feuding?
OCTOBER 22, 2015: THE SPARK
The Blazers went up by as many as 35 on the Clippers in both teams' preseason finale. L.A. came back. During the comeback, Clippers players were standing in front of their bench and possibly on the court. At one point, DeAndre Jordan whispered something into C.J. McCollum's ear and they got into it a bit. Stotts apparently yelled his disapproval directly at Clippers players. That is something you don't do, according to Doc. So he yelled at Stotts and Stotts yelled back.
Doc explained his side in the post-game. He claimed Blazers players were stuntin' in the first half when Portland was up big. Stotts acted as if nothing happened. Blazers players said they appreciated Stotts sticking up for them. Classic kindling for real beef right there.
NOVEMBER 30, 2015: HACKING GONE MAD
Perhaps trying to make an example of Jordan, Stotts ordered an intentional fouling regime unlike DAJ had ever seen. Jordan attempted 34 free throws, a career high. (He made 12, also a career high.) But it was actually worse than that. In the fourth quarter, Stotts ordered intentional fouls on nine straight possessions, resulting in 18 free throws in 90 seconds of game time.
Doc left Jordan in. Beef watchers everywhere will consider that an F.U. to Stotts. After the game, Doc said the strategy to intentionally foul poor free throw shooters "hurts the game."
JANUARY 6, 2016: SORRY, C.J.
The Blazers' trainer circled the wrong dude on the lineup card, leaving McCollum (the second best Blazer) listed as inactive even though he was healthy and ready to play. Stotts signed the card without noticing, and Portland turned it into the refs. Before the game, they realized the error and attempted to submit a corrected lineup card. The Clippers objected. Here's Joe Freeman of OregonLive.com:
Behind the scenes, the Blazers were fighting for McCollum to play. They sought a rules clarification from the NBA and disputed the timing of the incident. Don Vaden, the NBA's director of officials, was at the game and mediated the situation with both teams.
In the end, according to a league source, the NBA gave Clippers coach Doc Rivers the option to let McCollum play. He declined.
Stotts, per usual, accepted blame and didn't throw Rivers under the bus in his post-game comments. Rivers stunted a little, calling out to McCollum after the final buzzer and giving him a big ol' smile.
CJ McCollum and Doc Rivers postgame pic.twitter.com/kUE2bCtgbD— Casey Holdahl (@CHold) January 7, 2016
Of course, Doc deserves no criticism for declining to help the Blazers out of a self-created pickle. You think Stotts would green-light the Clippers adding Chris Paul or Blake Griffin to the active roster at the last minute? Nope. But clearly this episode agitated the Blazers, who thought they corrected the lineup card in time.
Plus, the Clippers are clearly better than the Blazers, and were favorites to win before McCollum was ruled out. You can see how this would fuel further anger from Portland toward Doc and L.A. on machismo grounds. The Clippers relied on a technicality -- a totally valid one, but a technicality nonetheless -- to get the advantage on the Blazers. It's easy to frame that as cowardly when you already have reason to dislike the other side.
The beef continues on. The teams next play March 24 in Los Angeles, their final game of the season.