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Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Doc should just go already

By Chris Forsberg
ESPNBoston.com

Poor Brian Shaw.

Indiana's highly regarded top assistant, already passed over multiple times for quality vacancies while searching for his first head-coaching gig, was meeting with Clippers brass during a second interview when word trickled out that Los Angeles has re-engaged the Boston Celtics in trade talks with the goal of delivering Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett out west.

Awwwwwkward.

But that's this whole Celtics-Clippers fiasco in a nutshell. After five days of very public on- and off-again negotiations, trade chatter between the two teams was paused yet again on Wednesday night with sources indicating the teams planned to resume discussions on Thursday morning.

The Clippers still took Shaw out to dinner. Maybe by the time the dust settles on this whole mess, he'll be the coach of the Celtics.

Garnett/Rivers
Wednesday's developments sure seem to confirm what most started to suspect this past weekend: There's no turning back for Doc Rivers (and KG).

It's getting harder to believe that Rivers will be back in that post. When the second round of talks with the Clippers stalled on Tuesday, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and Rivers made a plan to huddle on Wednesday, presumably to determine whether Rivers was interested in walking through the door that Boston had left ajar even after this public flirtation with L.A.

Some wondered if the two would emerge arm in arm, Ainge proclaiming that Rivers would indeed be back on the Boston bench for a 10th season, and downplaying this whole L.A. fling. Instead, the silence out of Waltham seemed a bit condemning. When combined with the return of these zombie talks with the Clippers, it seems to suggest that Rivers still cannot immerse himself 100 percent in whatever lies ahead for the Celtics.

What happens next? Who knows, given this nauseating game of red light/green light being played by the Celtics and Clippers. But there's a crasser colloquialism that suggests that both sides ought to go to the bathroom or get off the pot.

There's an interesting story to be told about how we got to this point, one that explains how Rivers -- who pledged to lead Boston's roster overhaul when he signed a five-year, $35 million contract extension two summers ago -- had a sudden and overwhelming change of heart that's left him lusting over changing coasts to chase a title. But Rivers has maintained his silence since Boston's playoff ouster in early May.

That could change soon, possibly as early as Thursday if these talks consummate in a trade (or even if they flame out yet again).

The NBA draft is a week away. Free agency looms soon after. It'd sure benefit the Celtics to have a coach in place to spearhead whatever lies ahead (or at least one that's committed to giving 100 percent of himself to the task at hand).

Maybe that can still be Rivers. But Wednesday's developments seem to confirm what most started to suspect this past weekend: Maybe the Clippers and Celtics are simply in too deep at this point and need to figure out a way to make this happen.

Sources indicated Wednesday that the Clippers had relented on their previous unwillingness to surrender just one first-round pick. The question now: Is two picks and DeAndre Jordan enough for Ainge to pull the trigger? Some have wondered if the Celtics should be asking for more -- even if it's simply offloading some salary-cap clog -- but the Clippers have balked at Boston's demands twice before and Ainge might simply have to settle unless he wants this process to drag out even longer.

Some finality to this process would be welcome on both coasts, but especially for a Boston team already facing a murky offseason and left in limbo the past six weeks with Rivers' indecision. As the free-agent coaching pool dries up, the Celtics would be left scrambling to examine the remaining top options (Shaw, a former first-round pick of the team, would be an intriguing candidate if still available).

This potential swap with the Clippers would also be the first step in Boston's long-overdue overhaul process, one that's likely to see a youth movement aimed at restocking the roster for the future. The team holds the No. 16 pick in next week's draft and could potentially fetch two young players if they collected Los Angeles' 2013 pick (No. 25) in the exchange. The Celtics don't have a second-round pick in this year's draft.

Also near the top of Boston's offseason to-do list is figuring out what's next with Paul Pierce. Only $5 million of his contract is guaranteed next season if waived before June 30. The Celtics could explore trade options before that point and any such move, combined with the potential Clippers deal, would essentially complete the dissolution of the Big Three era.

For now, the Rivers/Garnett situation looks like the first domino. And after swaying a bit the last five days, we can only hope it finally falls -- one way or the other -- on Thursday.

It's time to fish or cut bait. The Celtics and Clippers have been sitting in this boat too long.