Angeles Clippers' DeAndre Jordan, left, laughs as teammate
Chris Paul, center, and Blake Griffin listen to questions
from the media during a news conference on the team's NBA
basketball media day Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, in Los Angeles.
LOS ANGELES —
Doc Rivers loves nothing more than talking basketball. And with
the scandal involving former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald
Sterling beginning to fade into the background, Rivers welcomes
returning the focus squarely to the team and its performance.
to talk about basketball and that's very nice," he said
Monday. "Last season during the playoffs there were very few
questions about basketball."
drama over the team's ownership subsided earlier this summer, with
Sterling ousted after 33 years after being banned for life by the
NBA for racist remarks, and Steve Ballmer plunking down a record
$2 billion to buy the franchise.
"It's been a
long summer," guard Chris Paul said. "A lot of
interesting things happened."
Blake Griffin added, "All the new changes have been positive
and given us new life."
is Rivers' burgeoning relationship with ownership. He almost never
spoke to Sterling. In contrast, he chats frequently by phone with
Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO who lives in Seattle.
really good," Rivers said. "He's given me a lot of room.
He's allowed us to do basically anything we wanted within
three new assistants: former NBA head coaches Mike Woodson and
Lawrence Frank, and 15-year league veteran Sam Cassell.
Angeles Clippers' Doc Rivers, sitting on a stool, smiles as
he poses with players, from left, J.J. Redick, Blake
Griffin, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Matt Barnes during the
team's NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, in
big move, giving Rivers a five-year contract extension through the
2018-19 season, was a hit with the players.
stability moving forward," Griffin said. "It shows he's
committed to making the right moves to try to win a championship.
That was a very smart move on his part."
Ballmer made a
quick first impression on 7-footer DeAndre Jordan.
time I met him he bought me dinner, so I liked him a lot," he
The Clippers open
training camp in Las Vegas on Tuesday knowing more of what to
expect from Rivers' system than they did a year ago when he was
"It'll be a
more productive training camp," said Paul, who enters his
fourth season together with Griffin and Jordan, the team's Big
Three who set the tone on and off the court. "Doc talked to
us about let's not have any bad days."
The Clippers had
the best record in franchise history at 57-25 and won a second
straight Pacific Division title last season. But they again failed
to get past the second round of the playoffs, losing to Oklahoma
City as the Sterling controversy exploded near the start of the
his team for not using it as an excuse for why it lost.
did a great job not being part of the story," he said.
Rivers was a
stabilizing force for the franchise during the upheaval created by
Sterling, who prolonged the ownership battle with a series of
court filings before a judge upheld the team's sale to Ballmer.
resilient group," said Jamal Crawford, who won the league's
Sixth Man of the Year award last season. "We showed a lot of
character and heart."
the team didn't need discord to rally around each other.
always been close," he said. "We were as tight as we
were today three years ago."
off-court tumult, the Clippers kept their core group together,
including Matt Barnes, recent first-time father J.J. Redick, and
Glen Davis. They added 7-footer Spencer Hawes to complement
Jordan, re-signed Hedo Turkoglu and replaced the departed Darren
Collison with another former UCLA star, Jordan Farmar.
"We have a
real opportunity to do something special," said Farmar, who
left the downtrodden Lakers.
Barnes, who turns
35 in March, is especially eager to atone for the last couple of
early playoff exits. He reports to camp at 210 pounds, a number he
hasn't seen since high school.
Sterling had the team heading in the right direction the last
three years, presumably with Rivers' hiring and the addition of
Paul. But he credits Ballmer's arrival as rejuvenating for the
team and the city.
gets all red and his hands get all sweaty," Barnes said.
"You don't see that every day. I love that and it gives me
chills to think about it.
time to shine."