Could be the missing ingredient
After Doc Rivers was introduced as the new coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, he was presented with a No. 25 Clippers jersey, which was the same jersey number he wore when he played for the team over two decades ago.
Those who might scoff at the actual impact Rivers will make in his first season with the Clippers will point to the fact that he will not be wearing that jersey. As good as Rivers might be as a coach, he will not be taking a single shot or collecting a single rebound.
While that's true, the importance of an experienced, championship-level coach for a young team on the brink of greatness cannot be underestimated.
Look at what Phil Jackson did with the Chicago Bulls, who knocked on the title door for three seasons with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen before Jackson showed them how to open it. Or what Jackson did with the Los Angeles Lakers, who knocked on the title door for three seasons with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, before Jackson was hired.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are entering their third season together. They might not be as great as the aforementioned duos and Rivers might not be as great as Jackson, but history tells us that great duos can become championship duos when paired up with a great coach.
Rivers has a knack for getting players to buy into his system and playing together for one purpose. There's no question the Clippers will be addressing a few roster needs this offseason but they have laid the foundation for a championship team with Rivers, Paul and Griffin.
Too soon to say this will bring a ring
It's so easy to compare the Clippers hiring of Doc Rivers to coach Chris Paul and Blake Griffin with what the Los Angeles Lakers did in 1999, when they brought in Phil Jackson to coach Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.
It's so easy, it's too easy.
Jackson came to town with six championship rings. Rivers has one. And as exciting and talented a combination as Griffin and Paul are, they aren't on Bryant and O'Neal's level. So compare all you want, but the Clippers still have some work to do to get this roster over the top and win a championship. Griffin still must develop his game. The Clippers still need more outside shooting and perimeter defense. A big man who can hit a jumpshot and space the floor for Griffin would be nice, too. Rivers was empowered to have a say in all those kind of moves going forward, but on his first night holding such an important role, it sounded as if he was still getting a handle on the current roster, and thinking about the best ways to add to it.
That work begins now. And until the Clippers start tackling their issues in earnest, it's too soon to call them championship contenders.