“Before Blake got here, this wasn’t a great franchise,” Rivers said Tuesday before his team faced the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center. “Once Blake got here, and [Chris Paul] followed and [DeAndre Jordan] and all those guys, that’s when this team was talked about.”
But with Griffin abruptly traded Monday to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for three players and two draft picks, the Clippers prepared for their first game of the post-Blake era, absent a five-time All-Star whom they drafted first overall in 2009 and who immediately made their seemingly forever-forsaken team relevant.
Rivers maintained that the deal came together almost as quickly as it seemed.
In total, the Clippers dealt Griffin, Willie Reed and Brice Johnson to the Pistons for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, a first-round draft pick and a second-round pick. The first-round pick will be protected if it falls within the top four from 2018-20 before becoming unprotected in 2021.
“It’s rare when things come quick in this league,” Rivers said. “It’s even more rare when things come quick and get done in this league. But it came out of nowhere and it came pretty quick.”
For all the Clippers’ struggles prior to Griffin’s arrival, the team reached the playoffs six times in his seven-and-a-half seasons and won at least 50 games in five consecutive seasons, the second-longest active streak in the NBA behind the San Antonio Spurs (18), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“We had a nice run,” Rivers said. “But we didn’t get it done. It’s funny how that will always be viewed, whether that was a great run, a good run. You win 57 games every year, you have multiple All-Stars, you’re an exciting team to watch, but our goal was to win a title as a group and that’s the down part of this.
“We were fun. We were exciting. But we didn’t get it done. And it’s not [the fault of] Blake or [Paul]; it’s Blake and [Paul], [Jordan], myself — it’s all of us who didn’t get it done. But that’s why you’re in sports: You keep trying. There are players who have tried all their careers to get it done and most don’t get it done. This group went after it the right way and it just didn’t work out.”
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers addresses the blockbuster trade surrounding Blake Griffin and says that it was “Detroit’s call … it’s the truth.”
“We all will have the regret of not winning it and of not even going to the Western finals,” Rivers said. “We had our two chances, for sure. The Oklahoma [series], which I thought was the beginning of the end, when something like that happens. And then the Houston debacle; both of those were very difficult for us. After that, we’ve had a lot of injuries. Every playoff we had. But we had our shot, we didn’t come through.”
Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari said he spoke to Griffin shortly after the trade.
“He didn’t expect it, I guess,” Gallinari said before Tuesday’s game. “Every one of us didn’t expect it. When I called him, he was just trying to realize the moment a little bit.”
The Clippers will continue to explore trade opportunities for Jordan, their All-Star center, and guard Lou Williams ahead of the Feb. 8 trade deadline, targeting young players and draft picks while competing for a playoff spot this season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
When asked if his team was done dealing, Rivers said, “I don’t think anyone knows. Right now, we’re pretty much done, but that doesn’t mean ever, if you’re done. We’ll see. The one thing I want to just keep saying is this team has not changed its goals about the playoffs.”
Entering Tuesday, the Clippers stood in ninth place in the Western Conference, with a 25-24 record. Given that the team had traded Paul to the Rockets before the season, and now Griffin, Rivers was asked about his level of commitment given that the team appears to be entering a rebuilding phase of sorts.
“I like where I’m at, I like where we’re at,” Rivers said. “I would love us to be Golden State or maybe Cleveland. But this is what it’s all about — let’s see if we can figure out a way. You don’t know what’s out there with drafts and other stuff. We just have to see. As far as my endurance, I’m fine.”