The proposed blockbuster deal between the Celtics and Clippers that would have sent Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett to Los Angeles is off, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Tuesday.
And though Rivers had strong intentions to coach the Clippers — because, league sources said, he doesn’t want to coach a rebuilding team in Boston — the Celtics still want him back as coach next season.
“He has been told that all along,” said Ainge, who is scheduled to meet with Rivers Wednesday in Boston.
Rivers is under contract to coach the Celtics for three more seasons, during which time he is scheduled to make $21 million; his salary of $7 million per year is the richest among coaches in the league, $1 million more per year than San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich.
However, it’s unclear what Rivers would like to do.
The Globe reported Monday that a source close to Rivers said the coach was still grappling with a decision; no doubt that is still true. Rivers did not return a message seeking comment.
While the Celtics clearly would like Rivers to return for a 10th season, there is speculation around the league that, given the course of events, it would be simply too awkward. One league source said Rivers might be more apt to return to broadcasting.
However, there is little indication that Rivers, 51, has any plans other than coaching in the NBA — those were his intentions with the Clippers — but it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to do so anywhere aside from Boston because of a non-compete clause in his contract.
According to that clause, Rivers can’t coach any other NBA team during the time left on his extension unless the Celtics grant him permission. And as was made clear during the talks with the Clippers, they have no plans to let Rivers leave unless they receive plenty of compensation in return.
League sources said that while progress was made, the primary issue was that the Clippers did not want to give up more than one first-round draft pick in a package that also included center DeAndre Jordan.
The Clippers ultimately believed it was too steep a price to pay and decided to go after Brian Shaw or Lionel Hollins, both of whom they’ve already interviewed, to become their next coach. Until the Clippers make a hire, the faintest of possibilities remains that a deal with the Celtics could still be alive.
The Clippers received a fair amount of criticism for turning down the deal Tuesday.
“Having Doc Rivers as your coach for the next five years is worth a lot more than a few draft choices,” tweeted Steve Kerr, a TNT analyst and former general manager of the Phoenix Suns.
Said a league source: “The one time in franchise history a top coach is actually willing to coach your team and you don’t want to include a second pick? And you’re giving up an overpriced center who doesn’t even play in the fourth [quarter]? What a joke.”
However, many also believed it wasn’t worth it for the Clippers to make the unprecedented move of offering valuable assets for a coach and a veteran player who isn’t far from retirement.
Just as Rivers’s future is up in the air with the Celtics, so too is the future of his assistant coaches, whose contracts are set to expire at the end of this month.
A league source confirmed that assistant coach Mike Longabardi interviewed with Phoenix for a similar position and is mulling his options.
There are also questions about whether Garnett and Paul Pierce will return next season. If Rivers returns, it’s far more likely that Garnett — with whom Rivers is very close — will also be back.
Garnett has two years left on his contract; next season is guaranteed at nearly $12.4 million and the final season is worth $12 million, but contains a $6 million buyout.
As for Pierce, who will be 36 when next season begins, the Celtics have until June 30 to buy him out for $5 million. If they don’t, his $15.3 million deal for next season becomes guaranteed.
Those are pressing issues that the Celtics will have to answer. They also hold the No. 16 pick in the June 27 NBA draft, which is fast approaching.