ANAHEIM, Calif. — Forget the journey.
Sunday, for the Clippers, it was all about the destination.
After 10 days of uncomfortably public chatter between the Clippers and the Celtics, the teams finally agreed to a deal that would bring the Clippers their next head coach.
Sunday afternoon, the Clippers and the Celtics agreed in principle on a deal that would allow the Clippers to hire Doc Rivers as the team’s head coach. In return, the Clippers would send an unprotected first-round pick in the 2015 NBA draft as compensation for the Celtics waiving Rivers’ non-compete clause.
The Clippers will pay Rivers $21 million over the next three seasons. Rivers is the highest-paid coach in the NBA.
According to multiple team reports, the deal with Rivers virtually clinches that the team will re-sign Chris Paul once Paul becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
The deal still must be approved by the NBA, which could Monday.
While rare, trading for a coach isn’t unprecedented in the NBA. The Orlando Magic hired Stan Van Gundy in 2007, sending multiple picks to the Miami Heat as compensation.
Word of mutual interest between the Clippers and Rivers surfaced two weeks ago, but talks really began to heat up a week before last Friday.
That weekend, it appeared the Clippers were close to agreeing on two different transactions with Boston. In addition to the pick-for-Rivers talk, it seemed like the teams were willing to swap DeAndre Jordan for Kevin Garnett. Boston also initially asked for Eric Bledsoe in the deal, which caused the first stalemate.
Talks picked up and quieted down multiple times over the course of last week, with them being classified as “dead” multiple times in different reports.
Things took a strange turn Thursday, when Commissioner David Stern spoke about the talks in a number of radio interviews.
“I would say that if we know that what the parties really want to do is one (deal) and they are going to break into two for purposes of trying to avoid the restrictions that the collective bargaining agreement places on it, we know how to deal with that as well,” Stern told ESPN radio.
Stern later made it even clearer.
“If you think those, at this point — having been all over the media for the last week — are separate transactions … I have a bridge that I would very much enjoy selling to you,” he said.
With a realization that the Clippers wouldn’t be able to acquire Garnett and Rivers, the Clippers narrowed their focus on their top priority — Rivers.
And while talks gained significant steam Thursday, by Friday morning, they had fallen apart again, with Boston unhappy about the Clippers’ offer of a future second-round pick.
One report had Rivers calling the Clippers and telling them he was no longer interested in the job, but despite the published pessimism, several high-ranking Clippers’ executives were confident a deal could be salvaged.
The teams re-engaged Sunday morning, and by mid-afternoon, all parties agreed on the terms.
Had the Clippers been unable to come to an agreement with Boston, the Clippers would’ve likely hired either Indiana associate coach Brian Shaw or former Cleveland coach Byron Scott.