It was truly a bounty of riches for Los Angeles Clippers President and General Manager Doc Rivers this offseason. In addition to convincing his star center DeAndre Jordan to renege on his verbal agreement to Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks, Rivers brought in a bevy of players from his former star Paul Pierce, to his son Austin.
Rivers was surrounded by seven of his prized free agent signings on Tuesday at Staples Center as the Clippers unveiled their new collection of talent. The only new acquisition not in attendance was Lance Stephenson who was traded last month from the Charlotte Hornets and met with the LA media on June 18.
"I'm reminded of a recent quote from President Barack Obama, 'I know what I'm doing and I'm fearless,'" said Clippers play-by-play announcer Ralph Lawler. "It could well be that Doc Rivers might have said the same thing based on what's he's accomplished."
Rivers has indeed been fearless this offseason. After he was criticized as the Clippers de facto general manager in his first two season in LA, Rivers now deserves praise and recognition for revamping a roster with little to no cap space or draft picks available to him.
Rivers first move of the offseason was to reverse his free agent decision from last summer when he opted for the versatile center Spencer Hawes over veteran champion Paul Pierce. Rivers traded Hawes and small forward Matt Barnes to Charlotte for Stephenson, one of the league's best young players.
With Hawes and Barnes contracts off the books, Rivers was able to land his All-Star and 2009 NBA Finals MVP in Pierce, and for half the price.
"He should have been here last year too," Rivers joked with the media.
Next, Rivers replaced Hawes with backup center Cole Aldrich and got Wesley Johnson to change locker rooms, leaving the Lakers for their Staples Center roommates. Unlike Hawes, Aldrich provides a serviceable center to relieve Jordan for stretches while still protecting the rim. He added Johnson and Stephenson as valuable wing defenders, a position he lacked last year.
He then had a father-son talk with Austin, convincing the young reserve point guard to come back for another season and play for Pops. Austin succeeded when called upon last season, putting up big numbers in the first two games of the Clippers second round series against the Houston Rockets after Chris Paul went down with an injury.
Rivers greatest magic trick was creating a contingent of current and new players to descend upon the Houston home of DeAndre Jordan to sway him into staying with the Clippers, scorning the Dallas Mavericks in return. Rivers sealed the deal by staying at Jordan's home until 12:01AM EST until the star center could legally sign his contract.
"Kimberly [Jordan's Mother] fed us twice," Rivers joked. "That's the real reason we stayed."
Finally, Rivers signed veteran free agent forward and former All-Star Josh Smith to the veteran's minimum contract. In most cases, signing a guy like Smith for next to nothing would be considered theft of the finest order, but for Rivers, it was another day at the office.
Rivers made all these upgrades to his roster with perhaps the least amount of financial flexibility than any other team in the league. He solidified the bench, the team's Achille's heel last season, while adding borderline All-Stars and veteran leadership.
"I can't wait to get in the gym and just see how we're going to use them all," Rivers said of his new toys. "I think we're better than all the team's in the West. We've beaten the last two champions in the playoffs."
The Clippers are now locked and loaded and ready to compete for an NBA Championship. They have the best roster ever assembled in franchise history. Hmm, maybe Doc does know what he's doing.