Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 7/12/13
Boston-celtics-denver
LAS VEGAS Doc Rivers leans toward the side of the bleachers. He isn't coming down. He'll be mobbed if he does, and he's just here at summer league for two games. Below him, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin mingle, Paul leaning up to joke with his new coach. Eventually, Monty Williams appears from behind one of the curtains that at summer league games function as locker room doors. His Pelicans have just finished their first game as Pelicans, and Paul stops by to chat with his former coach. Rivers yells over to say hello. Williams yells back. He and Paul are discussing the point guard's next contract, Williams jokes, and he suggests that Paul's current deal might have an opt-out clause after six months. All Rivers has to do is laugh. Life is good for Doc Rivers. The scheduling gods of summer league have smiled upon him; he just watched his son, Austin, play a game, and his Clippers are next. Then Rivers is flying out; one day of games in Vegas enough. That's where the Clippers stand these days. Their coach is one of the most respected in the game, their stars the kind that draw crowds even in the shadows of Vegas' bleachers. The team they field for summer league is in large part inconsequential; two players, first-round pick Reggie Bullock and point guard Maalik Wayns, will likely make the team, but neither will have to contribute much. Rivers can go home when he pleases, back to planning for October and November, for this new project, this new era he hopes to usher in. The Clippers may be the only 56-win team returning all of its stars and most of its supporting cast to be considered a project, but when you hire a guy of Rivers' caliber, some level of overhaul is implied. There's a sense of novelty around the team that's incongruous with its sameness at least on paper and right now, this is all about Rivers and what is different. Nearly every time he's spoken with the media since he was hired in June, Rivers has had a consistent message, and that's important. He's establishing what he stands for as Doc Rivers, Clippers coach, the message that he'll parrot for these months of talking before his team can actually take the court. His message is centered on three players: Paul, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. They're the pieces Rivers will build around, and everything they've done this offseason has been tailored to complementing the skills those three players bring. "That our core," Rivers said. "You have to know that we're either going to win with them or we're going to lose with them. That's who we are, and we're going to keep building around them." The approach is logical, and it's hardly surprising. It is, however, noteworthy in its honesty. Jordan, unlike Griffin and Paul, has never made an All-Star game. He's been criticized and nit-picked throughout his five-year career, the subject of trade rumors and the object of berating about his inability to hit a free throw. Rivers knows Jordan isn't the offensive weapon that Paul and Griffin are, and he's open about it. They're building around Jordan for his defense, and he can still develop. Maybe he's something of a project, but he's the Clippers' project. Rivers was quick to dismiss the idea that he should have to build up Jordan's confidence after the trade rumors and drama of last season under Del Negro. It wasn't he and his staff shopping the big man, Rivers is quick to point out, and there's little need to elaborate further. "That's a compliment to him," Rivers said of Jordan. "People want him. I didn't come here because D.J. wasn't here. I came because he was here and Blake and Chris were here." In fact, bring up any of the rumored drama of last season, and that's when Rivers gets the most animated. That wasn't his team or his people, and that's the gist of his message; Rivers says so in such a way as to suggest that it wouldn't be tolerated and won't be replicated. "I don't worry about that," is all he'll say. "That was last year." Even though he's bringing back most of the same players, he doesn't seem to think there's a need to worry. At the same time, though, Rivers isn't just going to bow out of last season's problems by pretending he plans some great egalitarian society in the Clippers locker room. That's just not reality in the NBA, especially not when in the next breath he's talking about building around three guys and thereby implying they're a tier above the rest. "I don't treat everybody the same," Rivers said. "Everybody's different. I tell my guys that all the time. I treat guys appropriately, the way they should be treated. It's on an individual basis on a team concept." Rivers' methods have worked before, and he's known for the level at which his players have bought in to his system in the past. His success in Los Angeles hinges on the Clippers doing the same, and it'll be a matter not of finding talent, but of molding it into a team. "The bottom line is the whole thing has to be tied to wanting to build a winner," Rivers said. "They proved last year, you can do a lot of winning, but at the end of the day, where did that get you? It got you out of the playoffs early." That early exit made the Clippers become Rivers' project. It went a long way toward bringing him to those bleachers in Las Vegas, to mingling with Griffin and Paul and looking like the luckiest coach in the game. Now, he has to make everyone forget about it.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Lawyer who reps concussion lawsuit wants to speak with Bettman

Former NFL LB Armstrong, wife reportedly killed by 16-year-old son

Tyler Eifert says he will never play in the Pro Bowl again

Australian athletes evacuate the Olympic village after fire

Russian weightlifting team banned from Rio

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Wade says Riley did not push him out of Miami

Nationals among multiple teams inquiring on Mark Melancon

McClain does not show up for Cowboys’ training camp

Andre Johnson agrees to two-year deal with Titans

Redskins GM injures hand punching wall in frustration

Report: Aldon Smith checks into rehab

Storyline from 'Ballers' plays out in Cowboys preseason camp

Texas A&M creates a very sexist version of their fight song for women

Brown, Marshall are apparently serious about their car bet

Lacy, Starks could split carries to start season

Cyborg Santos post-surgery skull photos are eerie

Dr. Phil calls out the Patriots for their cheating ways

Hockey team unveils Clinton, Trump bobbleheads

Bennett compares chemistry with Pats QBs to his love life

Crowell still making amends for controversial Instagram post

Report: LeBron urged Justin Bieber not to perform at RNC

Luck refutes Matt Hasselbeck’s assertion he never showers

Newspaper editor explains use of Jordan meme for MJ article

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Dr. Phil calls out the Patriots for their cheating ways

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker