With the Clippers and Celtics returning to the negotiating table Monday to discuss a trade that would send Doc Rivers back out West, some of you may not be aware of Rivers' previous tenure in Los Angeles.
Before joining the coaching ranks, the longtime NBA point guard was best known for his playing days with the Atlanta Hawks, and little known for his one season with the Clippers in 1991-92. But it was a good one.
Rivers averaged 10.9 points and 3.9 assists for the Clippers, starting 25 games in the franchise’s first winning season since moving to L.A. from San Diego in 1984. The 45-37 Clippers also finished ahead of the Showtime-less Lakers for the first time ever as three head coaches — Mike Schuler (21-24), Mack Calvin (1-1) and Larry Brown (23-12) — guided the team to its first playoff appearance in 16 years, a 3-2 first-round loss to the Utah Jazz.
Rivers was traded by the Hawks to the Clippers on June 26, 1991, for a package highlighted by a 1991 first-round draft pick (Stacey Augmon). Rivers immediately made an impact with his new team, racking up 11 points, four assists and four steals in his debut as the Clippers edged the Lakers, 114-109, on Nov. 5, 1991. He tacked on a dazzling 23-point, nine-assist, six-rebound, four-steal performance on Nov. 30, making all nine of his free throws over 33 minutes as the Clippers blew away the Charlotte Hornets, 130-112, to kick off an eight-game winning streak.
But a 7-14 slide spelled the end of Schuler’s year-plus tenure, and Brown, who started the season at the helm in San Antonio, was brought in at midseason. Brown became the first man in NBA history to coach two teams in one season, leading the Clippers to a strong finish and the No. 7 seeding in the Western Conference playoffs.
And for Rivers, five 20-plus-point regular-season outings aside, the playoff series was where he showcased his best play of the season. Rivers averaged 15.2 points and 4.2 assists in the series against the Jazz, including a combined 32 points on 16-for-17 free-throw shooting in the two home games (both wins). He scored 17 in a 115-107 Game 4 victory as the Clippers overcame a 44-point effort from Karl Malone at the Anaheim Convention Center (the location was moved from the Sports Arena because of the L.A. riots).
In his final game in a Clippers uniform, Rivers managed just eight points on four-for-14 shooting. Danny Manning scored a team-high 24, but the Jazz prevailed, 98-89. After the season, Rivers was traded to the New York Knicks as part of a three-team deal that brought Mark Jackson to the Clippers.
Now, more than two decades later, Rivers may be coming back to L.A.
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