The Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers reopened discussions about a potential blockbuster deal that would send Celtics coach Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett to the Clippers for center DeAndre Jordan and two first-round draft picks, NBA sources told the Globe.
According to the sources, the Clippers, acting on the wishes of All-Star point guard Chris Paul, called the Celtics Wednesday to reignite talks after they broke down when the Clippers refused to include two first-round picks as part of the deal.
The talks were put on hold Wednesday evening and were expected to resume Thursday morning.
An NBA source said Paul considers Rivers his No. 1 option to fill the team’s coaching vacancy, and another NBA source said Paul’s camp feels that two first-round draft picks along with Jordan was a fairly small price to pay to have Rivers and Garnett join the Clippers.
Paul is an unrestricted free agent July 1 and the Clippers consider re-signing him (and appeasing him) as their top priority. He is widely considered perhaps the most powerful player within any single organization throughout the NBA, given those circumstances.
The Celtics do not want to allow Rivers to go to another club, but league sources have said he doesn’t want to coach a rebuilding team and would rather coach a contender — perhaps one with Paul, Blake Griffin, Garnett, and perhaps Paul Pierce, if the Celtics waive him.
Additionally, Rivers and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge met Wednesday to discuss Rivers’s future. Ainge told the Globe Tuesday the Celtics wanted Rivers to remain as the team’s coach and fulfill the final three years of his five-year, $35 million deal.
A source close to Rivers maintained “Doc wants to coach.”
However, another source close to Rivers said Rivers is split about returning to coach the Celtics, especially with the unsavory publicity his desire to coach the Clippers might have caused in Boston.
But because of the non-compete clause in his contract, Rivers can only coach for the Celtics for the next three seasons unless the team grants him permission to leave, which would require a lot of compensation.
Another NBA source said that Rivers would likely either coach the Celtics or the Clippers next season, but that it was unlikely that Rivers would walk away from the game altogether, even for broadcasting.
According to an NBA source, Clippers owner Donald Sterling, known for his frugality when paying coaches, balked at Rivers’s $7 million per season price tag and the $3.5 million trade kicker for Jordan’s contract.
Ainge, an NBA source said, pulled back when the Clippers wouldn’t send two first-round picks as part of the deal.
If Ainge is going to move Garnett and allow Rivers to depart, he wants a package that would foster the Celtics’ rebuilding plan. That likely means he would trade Pierce this summer and also look to ship out the contracts of Jason Terry and Courtney Lee.
Ainge wanted to include Lee and Terry in the deal, NBA sources said, but the Clippers are not interested in approaching the league’s luxury tax.
Ainge has promised Rivers the club holds no grudges over his indecision and would prefer him to be part of the rebuilding process.
An NBA source added that the Clippers view hiring Rivers as an opportunity to not only upstage the troubled Lakers but also compete for an NBA championship with a top-level coach.
The Clippers continue to search for a head coach, meeting with former Celtic Brian Shaw Wednesday. Sterling had dinner with ex-Cavaliers coach and former Clippers draft pick Byron Scott Tuesday.Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe