The Philadelphia 76ers coach faced his former team on Saturday for the first time since his dismissal following the Clippers’ 3-1 series collapse to the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs. And although he says the Clippers don’t run a lot, which is different from where he called the games, Rivers said the Clippers and Lakers were the favorites in the West.
“Look, Utah has been great. … But I still think the Clippers and Lakers are still the teams to beat in the West, ”Rivers said before facing the Clippers.
Rivers admitted the sighting was made “from afar,” saying he doesn’t watch as many Western Conference games now that he’s on the East Coast. But, he said, “I don’t see anyone better than these two teams.”
Entered Saturday night, the Utah Jazz (33-11) had the best record in the NBA. The Rivers Sixers had the second best record in the league. As the Clippers were third in the West heading into their game against the Sixers and the Lakers held fourth despite not having LeBron James and Anthony Davis injured, Rivers said it all depended on the teams from Los Angeles, like he was supposed to. being last season when the Lakers and Clippers were considered big favorites to win it all.
The Denver Nuggets, who were fifth in the West entering on Saturday night, caused a stir on the trade deadline to allow Aaron Gordon of Orlando and JaVale McGee of Cleveland to better match with the elite teams in the Where is. And Rivers mentioned that Utah has Bojan Bogdanovic back this season after not having him in the bubble.
“I thought Denver had a great trade deadline, they made some big moves,” Rivers said. “Utah is playing amazing basketball so they’re going to be there. Portland, I think, also improved their squad.
“But I still think it’s the Lakers and the Clippers. ”
The Clippers released a welcoming tribute video to their former coach, who was with the organization from 2013-20. Rivers has left his mark throughout the franchise, turning what was once a laughing stock into a playoff contender and helping him out of the Donald Sterling scandal to become a title contender with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Current coach Ty Lue is a protégé of Rivers.
“It’s a different team,” Rivers said. “They don’t have the same guys a lot, [but] they do a lot of the same stuff as me. Go through [their plays at] filming today, I thought we would go through our filming sometimes. But I wouldn’t have changed much offensively, either, I mean, they were pretty damn good last year. ”
Rivers said he didn’t have much time to train last season due to injuries to Leonard and George and others, then the pandemic break and bubble disruption.
Rivers said the Clippers now have more continuity.
“The difference is they got the chance to train together, you know?” Rivers said. “And you can see it. I think they gave the ball more to PG, which I think helped him. So they made some good changes. The biggest change I see too is defensive. Funny the numbers don’t say it exactly, but when I look at them I think they’re going to be a better defensive team, one of the better defensive teams when the playoffs start. ”
The Clippers have added former Rivers playmaker Rajon Rondo in a trade with Atlanta for Lou Williams. Rivers won a championship with Rondo in Boston and said his former quarterback would help orchestrate the offense, relieve Leonard and George and provide much needed leadership.
“It was tough at times last year,” Rivers said of not having a point guard like Rondo. “Especially without the practice time that we didn’t have, to run a play down the straight where you didn’t already have the ball in the hands of PG or Kawhi. Now you don’t have to do this. You can actually perform a set where Rondo can throw the ball.
“But I think as important as it may be, his voice will be even more important,” Rivers said. “I think this is one of those guys who will speak up, tell the truth, tell everyone and hold everyone accountable. I think it is important. ”