Talks between the Celtics and Clippers about a blockbuster deal that would send Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett to Los Angeles remained at an impasse Sunday, a league source told the Globe.
The linchpin holding up the deal, the source said, is Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe.
The Celtics would like to acquire the athletic Bledsoe, along with center DeAndre Jordan and draft picks. In return, Rivers, who is under contract to coach the Celtics for the next three seasons, would ultimately become the Clippers’ coach.
Garnett would also head to the Clippers, presuming he waives his no-trade clause, which it is believed he would do because of his and Rivers’s close relationship.
However, the Clippers were wary about including Bledsoe in a proposed deal with the Celtics in February, a league source said, and haven’t changed that stance.
Bledsoe is a valuable insurance piece for the Clippers if Chris Paul chooses not to re-sign after Paul becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Paul is widely considered to be the Clippers’ power broker, a player whose opinions about roster moves are enough to sway front office decisions if only to appease him.
An anonymous Clippers official acknowledged that point in a HoopsHype.com article by in May, saying, “This is Chris’s roster.” In April, Paul was quoted in an NBA.com article as praising Bledsoe while also casting doubt about Bledsoe’s future in L.A.
“I’ve said it all season long, I’m enjoying playing with him right now because there’s no way he can be here next year because we probably won’t have enough money to pay him,” Paul said, according to the article. “He should be a starting point guard.”
Bledsoe, 23, averaged 8.5 points last season and is under contract to make $2.6 million next season. The Clippers could look to trade Bledsoe if they want to offer Paul a five-year deal worth $108 million, $28 million more than any other club can offer.
So, even if both teams are waiting for the other to blink, a conclusion is expected soon.
Throughout this process, Rivers has remained publicly silent. Because of a non-compete clause in his contract, Rivers cannot coach anywhere else in the NBA for the next three years unless the Celtics grant permission, which they won’t do without “large” compensation, a league source said.
Rivers does not want to coach a rebuilding team in Boston, and if the deal with the Clippers falls through, a league source said Rivers may return to broadcasting.