Following Doc Rivers’ decision to join the Philadelphia 76ers, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith explained why Rivers chose to pass on the Houston Rockets.
The Houston Rockets are one of five NBA teams without a head coach, as they are joined by the Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans Pelicans, and most recently the LA Clippers. What’s interesting about that list is that 80 percent of those teams were playoff teams during the 2019-20 season, which shows the competition the Rockets are facing as it pertains to luring some of the top coaches.
The Clippers were an unexpected addition to the list, as they were the second-best team in the Western Conference, behind only the Los Angeles Lakers, thanks in large part to Doc Rivers, who had been the Clippers’ coach for the past seven seasons. The Rockets made no qualms about the fact that they were interested in Rivers’ services, as they had their sights set on interviewing the former Coach of the Year and former NBA champion.
Rivers instead opted to go to the City of Brotherly Love, as he joined the Philadelphia 76ers almost as soon as he was added to the free agent coaching market. On Friday, ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith offered an explanation as to why Rivers went to Philadelphia, as opposed to joining the Houston Rockets, on ESPN’s First Take.
“With James Harden and Russell Westbrook, these are guys that are older. You would have to inherit individuals that have been playing under Mike D’Antoni, who had a laissez-faire attitude in alot of people’s minds.
It would have been far more difficult to make modifications and adjust those dudes to what you wanted to do, if you were Doc Rivers. So I think he recognized that fact, that’s why he took the Philadelphia 76ers job.”
Smith explains why Rivers spurned the Houston Rockets
Smith referenced Harden and Westbrook’s age, which is a valid concern on the surface, as both players are 31-years-old. But both players made the All-Star team and the All-NBA teams, while Harden was named an MVP finalist, yet again, so their play isn’t at the regression point yet.
For this reason, the age factor should be less of a concern, and the point about both players being under a laissez-faire style of coaching is a tad bit off-base, as Westbrook only played one season under D’Antoni, and only played 57 games during that season.
Another thing to consider is that Rivers is a championship coach, as he won the title during the 2007-08 season, and led the Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals during the 2009-10 season as well. The one thing that Harden and Westbrook are lacking is a championship, so they most certainly would have listened to Rivers and abided by his style of coaching, which is the opposite of the justification provided by Stephen A. Smith.
The Rockets will now have to move on to their list of other coaches, as they’re planning on interviewing former Cleveland Cavaliers coach and Rivers’ assistant Tyronn Lue, and Minnesota Timberwolves assistant David Vanterpool.
With the Rockets focusing heavily on assistant coaches and potential first-time head coaches, it’s worth wondering if any of the top targets also have Rivers’ rationale.