Plaschke: Doc Rivers is longshot for Lakers coach, still top shooter

So the Lakers presented their top three coaching candidates to the media this week as a kind of trial balloon.

Terry Stotts! Kenny Atkinson! Ham Darvin!


The news fell flatter than a jump shot from Russell Westbrook. The options quickly lost all air, the shrunken remains floating harmlessly in the cluttered mess that is the Lakers’ summer landscape.

Seriously? Is that all you got? It’s seen as a weak coaching market, and the Lakers are seen as a hard sell, but still…that’s it?

Terry Stott? Wonderful man, great tactician, but in 13 NBA seasons in Atlanta, Milwaukee and Portland, his teams have only reached the conference finals once.

If you’re going to hire Stotts, you should never have fired Frank Vogel.

Kenny Atkinson? Energetic dude, currently on the staff of resurgent Golden State, but his specialty is developing kids, as he did with D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Spencer Dinwiddie during four mostly miserable seasons in Brooklyn .

If you’re going to hire Atkinson, you should have hired him before LeBron James and Anthony Davis showed up.

Darvin Ham? He is the only one of the three candidates to have played in the league, and he was a respected assistant with the Lakers, Hawks and Bucks, but he was never an NBA head coach.

If you’re going to hire him, well…the last time they hired someone with no NBA head coaching experience, his name was Luke Walton, and how did that go?

Certainly, Stotts could resurrect the offense like he did in Portland, and Atkinson could breathe some life into veteran culture, and Ham could be the next Willie Green, another former role player who has been great. this season in his head coaching debut in New Orleans.

But generally, this list feels… meh.

Which tells me the Lakers could still fish someone who isn’t there.

Yeah, I’ll double down on Doc.

A month ago, it was written in this space that Doc Rivers was the Lakers’ top pick, and despite everything that’s happened with him and his Philadelphia 76ers during that time, he’s still the top pick.

Here’s hoping some of the Lakers quietly think the same. Hopefully the news of their top three contenders has been leaked and confirmed as some sort of smokescreen for their true intentions, which are to work behind the scenes to help Rivers and the Sixers end a union that’s going nowhere. go.

Maybe not. Maybe by the end of this week they’ll have a press conference to feature the grateful Stotts, the honored Atkinson, or the humbled Ham.

Still, as long as there is a chance to acquire Rivers, they should take that chance.

Yes, he still has three years left on his contract with the Sixers. Yes, last week Rivers sat next to team president Daryl Morey and listened as he told reporters that Doc isn’t going anywhere.

“I just think he’s a great coach,” Morey said. “I love working with him. I feel like I’m learning from him…and we’re going to see where this journey takes us…but we feel very good about where it takes us, and that’s where we’ll have a very good chance of winning the title.”

A vote of confidence, perhaps. But Morey didn’t hire Rivers, and some say Morey is still in love with his longtime favorite coach Mike D’Antoni, and surely Morey wasn’t happy that a team with Joel Embiid and James Harden couldn’t. not go past the second round of the playoffs.

What if Morey made that statement as an opening move in an effort to get more compensation from the Lakers in exchange for Rivers? There’s no way the Lakers are giving up one of their prized future draft picks for coach, but, heck, there’s always money.

If both parties really want this to happen, it should happen. Although it seems like a long time, it could still happen, because I guess Rivers wants it to happen.

In the past, he’s always expressed his fondness for Los Angeles, and once almost left the Clippers for the Lakers, and right now he’s the perfect coach for that imperfect situation.

Doc Rivers greets Mayor Eric Garcetti as Clippers coach at an event at Fairfax High to launch a volunteer program to recruit mentors.

(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

They’re not cut out to win a championship, not while the aging James is paired with the fragile Davis, so they need a coach who can just keep this tumultuous group calm, competitive and relevant until the start of the next. time.

Rivers ably managed the Clippers during the Donald Sterling debacle, so Rivers can do that.

They need someone who can keep the path smooth for James as he breaks Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s goalscoring record next season and possibly retires the following year.

Rivers won an NBA championship with three free-spirited veteran superstars in Boston, so Rivers can do it.

They also need someone who can somehow salvage Russell Westbrook’s career if the embattled player isn’t traded, someone who can keep Westbrook’s attention longer than pre-season training. , which Vogel failed to do.

Rivers dealt with the difficult Chris Paul and the mercurial Blake Griffin and the inconsistency DeAndre Jordan – all at once – so Rivers can do it.

As much as anything, with the turmoil tugging at the franchise from every corner, the Lakers need a likeable and respected personality who understands their place in this community and can serve as a trusted voice and face of home that can shape and convey their message.

Rivers wouldn’t just win the initial press conference, he would win every press conference.

If Rivers wasn’t already under contract, I guess he would be coaching the Lakers now. He can still be. The Lakers are known for doing incredible things to make seemingly unattainable acquisitions. This one would be worth the work.

As if this momentous decision was a game show, Lakers fans were presented this week with three potential head coaching options.

The Lakers should pick the No. 4 gate.

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