After stirring the Golden State Warriors’ pot just two weeks ago, Los Angeles Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers has taken a step back..
Saying that the Warriors needed luck to avoid his Clippers and win the NBA championship to finish the 2014-15 season, the Chicago native inspired several verbal retaliations. But only from the Dubs, surprisingly.
On Oct. 6, the 2000 NBA Coach of the Year told Grantland’s Zach Lowe:
“You need luck in the West — look at the Golden State Warriors. They didn’t have to play us or the Spurs.”
Among the Warriors players to react was Klay Thompson:
“That sounds pretty bitter to me. … I’m pretty sure we smacked them (this year). … Didn’t they lose to the (Houston) Rockets? So that just makes me laugh. … Weren’t they up 3-1, too? Tell them I said that, too.”
Though Thompson and his team were the clear target of the comments, there are others who should feel as if they are in the crosshairs.
Rivers may have meant to slight a New Orleans Pelicans team (who went 1-2 against the Clippers) that lost to the eventual champions in a sweep.
He may have meant to disparage the season of the Memphis Grizzlies (2-2 season record against the Clippers) who were the toughest matchup for the Dubs, being the only team to ever have a series advantage over them in the playoffs.
There is, however, no way other way to view his remarks than to say that they were meant to affront the efforts of not just the Warriors, but also the Rockets (2-2 record against the Clippers).
After all, it was the Rockets who arose from a 1-3 series disadvantage to bounce the Clippers from the tournament.
How have the Rockets responded? Their two biggest stars have taken to personal vindication over responding to insults of their team’s efforts.
Center Dwight Howard explained away his individual struggles by claiming that, during their series with the Warriors, he was playing with a torn meniscus and MCL. MVP runner-up, and face of the Houston franchise, James Harden has launched a personal campaign claiming that it was him, not Stephen Curry, who was the “real MVP.”
Harden told NBA.com’s Fran Blinebury:
“I am the MVP of the league. I believe that. … That’s 100 percent given all the things that happened last season… That award means ‘most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West. … I led the league in points scored. Minutes played.”
Instead of defending the play of his team, and their deserving to take a crack at the champs, Harden was too busy defending his personal successes. He did leave out his league-leading 321 turnovers (and NBA playoff record 13 turnovers in the Western Conference Finals clinching game five), however.
Despite Rivers’ comments, there were no *real* upsets. Both five seeds beat the four seeds in the first round of playoff games, and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals. So, truthfully, no one was lucky or unlucky.
On Oct. 18, Rivers back pedaled, telling the LA Times that he meant no offense with his comments:
“What I said was true – not the way it was said to them. I never said the Warriors were lucky. That’s unrepresentative of what I said.”
While the Rockets may have been too busy considering personal success over that of the team, and the Clippers (or at least their coach) explain away their own failures, the Warriors go to work.
The reigning title conquerors of the league have more than just the Clippers (and Rockets for that matter) to prove wrong this season. In a preseason matchup with their southern California rivals on Oct. 20, the Dubs will show how they plan to use the 2015-16 season to prove the nay-sayers wrong.