The Los Angeles Clippers have not formally requested permission to interview Celtics coach Doc Rivers in the wake of widespread reports about Rivers' potential departure from Boston, but there is strong mutual interest between the parties, according to sources close to the situation.
Sources told ESPN.com on Thursday that Rivers is highly intrigued by the idea of coaching the Clippers in the event that he and the Celtics part company after nine seasons together and one championship in 2008. Sources say the Clippers, meanwhile, would immediately vault Rivers to the top of their list if he became available as they continue a coaching search that, to this point, has focused on Brian Shaw, Byron Scott and Lionel Hollins. The Clippers brought in Hollins for a second straight day of interviews Friday, coaching sources told ESPN.
The Los Angeles Times, citing several NBA executives, reported Wednesday that if Rivers decides he doesn't want to coach in Boston anymore, the Clippers would be interested in him and he would become their No. 1 choice.
ESPN.com has also learned the Celtics and Clippers -- in an offshoot of February's Kevin Garnett-to-L.A. trade talks -- discussed expanded trade scenarios that could have sent both Garnett and close friend Paul Pierce to the Clippers before the league's Feb. 21 trade deadline.
Sources say those talks, before breaking down, were centered on Boston getting back both prized Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe and young center DeAndre Jordan and did not involve Clippers star forward Blake Griffin.
It is not yet known whether the Clippers intend to revive those trade discussions and pursue either Garnett or Pierce -- or both -- in conjunction with this month's NBA draft. But one source familiar with the Clippers' thinking told ESPN.com the club plans to be "very aggressive" and "shake every tree" in terms of upgrading the roster this offseason. Acquiring Garnett or Pierce -- or both -- would make Rivers even more of a natural coaching target for the Clippers.
In the February trade talks between the two clubs, the Celtics also were trying to send Jason Terry to the Clippers, but the Clippers did not want to take back the two years and $11 million that remain on Terry's contract.
While the Clippers certainly would love for Rivers to coach their team, one source said they cannot mortgage their future by giving up an exorbitant amount of assets to get him.
Rivers, now regarded as one of the NBA's consensus top-five coaches after his considerable success in Boston, played one season for the Clippers on the franchise's first L.A. playoff team in 1991-92 after breaking in with the Atlanta Hawks.
The Clippers, sources say, are determined to pursue a bold course with their roster this summer no matter who is hired to succeed Vinny Del Negro. Step 1 is re-signing All-Star point guard Chris Paul when he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1, but sources say Clippers management then intends to be aggressive in upgrading the cast around Paul and Griffin in the wake of a disappointing first-round playoff exit that cost Del Negro his job.
The Clippers already had preliminary discussions with the Orlando Magic about trading for shooting guard Arron Afflalo at the pre-draft camp in Chicago, and there is a level of mutual interest on both sides, sources said. ESPN.com's Chad Ford reported Orlando is interested in a package that would include Caron Butler and Bledsoe, but the talks are preliminary at this point. It's believed the Clippers would want at least one more asset in order to part with their prized young point guard.
On the coaching front, meanwhile, Shaw, Scott and Hollins all formally interviewed for the Clippers' opening this week.
Rivers, though, could thrust himself into that race after ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard reported Wednesday that the 51-year-old believes it "may be time for a change" despite repeated insistence from Celtics president Danny Ainge that Rivers will be back on the Boston bench next season.
"Doc loves coaching," one source close to the situation told Broussard. "He loves coaching in Boston. But he feels it may be time for a change."
Sources said Thursday the Celtics want Rivers back and are determined to prevent him from coaching another NBA team next season since he has three years and $21 million left on his contract. But sources added that Boston could be moved to let Rivers out of his deal depending on the level of compensation the Celtics get from the Clippers, whether that's a veteran player or future draft picks. The thought in coaching circles is the close relationship between Ainge and Rivers might help the coach get out of his obligation.
Broussard reported Wednesday that the Brooklyn Nets and Clippers did seek permission from Boston to interview Rivers for their respective openings in May, but Ainge denied both requests.
The possibility also remains the Celtics can commit to bringing Pierce back for next season, which sources say would strongly increase the likelihood Garnett would agree to play for a 19th season. The Celtics have until the end of June to decide to pick up Pierce's $15.3 million option for next season or buy him out this month for $5 million, provided they don't trade him first.
One source close to the situation said Thursday that the Celtics do not expect any decisions on the future of Garnett or Pierce to be made before the NBA draft June 27.
With Pierce and Garnett still in the fold and Rajon Rondo expected to be back for training camp after suffering a torn knee ligament during the regular season, Rivers might decide the Celtics still have a sufficiently competitive team to persuade him to remain in Boston.
Rivers signed a five-year, $35 million extension after the 2010-11 season and said he was committed to the potential long-term reshaping of Boston's roster. After the New York Knicks eliminated the Celtics in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, Rivers said of his future: "I'm coming back until I say I'm not."
Rivers originally was scheduled to attend Boston's workout Thursday of potential draftees but was delayed after traveling back from a competition committee meeting at the NBA Finals in San Antonio. Sources say Rivers has attended most of Boston's draft workouts while deliberating about his future and has likewise been involved in Boston's free-agent planning as well as visits with veterans Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Jason Terry, who have been at the Celtics' workout facility rehabbing from injuries.
Information from ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard and ESPN.com's Andy Katz was used in this report.