The proposed blockbuster deal between the Celtics and Clippers has taken another wild and confusing turn, one that may have put it at grave risk of completely falling apart.
The Clippers have turned their focus to Doc Rivers, setting aside a deal for Kevin Garnett, a league source said. However, the Clippers have refused to offer any compensation at all in exchange for Rivers, who is under contract with the Celtics for the next three years.
Such compensation would, under terms the teams previously discussed, be a first-round draft pick, but the Clippers have made no effort to offer that, the league source said.
That has talks at a complete standstill -- and to be crystal clear, there is no "deal" at this point because neither team has agreed to any terms. The Celtics have an asking price, and the Clippers are refusing to meet it.
But the Clippers' stance also raises the question of why they would consider including an asset in an earlier form of a proposed deal -- one that turned out to be against league rules -- but not include it in a proposal of a deal that could, in fact, work out.
The NBA office made it clear to the two teams that the terms of the proposed swap they had been previously discussing were against the rules. Specifically, teams cannot trade coaches for players, but teams can trade coaches for other compensation, such as draft picks.
In 2007, for instance, Orlando sent a second-round pick and the option of swapping a first-round pick to Miami in exchange for coach Stan Van Gundy. That is pretty straightforward.
But the Clippers and Celtics had talked about a different kind of deal -- one in which Rivers and Garnett would go to the Clippers in exchange for DeAndre Jordan and two first-round draft picks.
The league doesn't allow side deals in transactions, and while the teams may have considered those two separate transactions -- draft picks in return for Rivers, and then a player-for-player trade -- the league office disagreed.
"What the rules won't allow, it can't be gotten around by breaking it up into two transactions," NBA commissioner David Stern said in a radio interview.
Both teams were informed days ago by the league office that their supposed deal was against league rules, an NBA source said, which only adds to the deal's bizarre nature.
No deal was ever brought to the league office Thursday, either.
When asked in the radio interview about the possibility that the deal could be broken up into two separate transactions, Stern laughed.
"If you think those would now -- at this point, having been all over the media for the last week or so -- are separate transactions ... I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I would very much enjoy selling to you," Stern said.
Because Rivers has a non-compete clause in his contract, he can't coach anywhere else for the next three seasons -- the duration of the Celtics deal he signed in 2011 -- unless the Celtics grant permission.
Given how the current deal with the Clippers is unfolding, and the growing likelihood that completing any kind of deal is all but impossible, a league source expects Rivers to actually be coaching the Celtics next season.
It's well-known that Rivers has no interest in coaching a rebuilding team, but sources close to him maintain that Rivers still wants to coach. If that is so, his only options on the table at the moment are with the Celtics or with the Clippers, and the latter option is fading fast.