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Doc River Just Helped the C's Get a Little Closer to a Title

July 8, 2019

 

Doc Rivers hasn't coached the Boston Celtics in nearly six years, but fans of the Green owe a tiny bit of gratitude to the coach who brought Banner 17 to Causeway Street a decade ago.

 

Yes, I'm talking about Kawhi Leonard signing with Doc's L.A. Clippers, and taking Oklahoma City's Paul George with him.

 

Leonard, who brought an NBA title to Canada with the Toronto Raptors last season, took his time in free agency before opting to head to the West Coast, essentially throwing the reigning champs into reloading mode and making the Clips an instant title favorite.

 

Sorry LeBron, you can't get your way all the time.

 

I know a lot of Celtics fans were nervous that Leonard was going to play for that other L.A. team - if that had been the case, LeBron would have truly ruined the NBA again - but Leonard heading out West opens the floodgates here in the Eastern Conference. 

 

As long as the Bucks have the Greek Freak, they'll be in the mix. Right now, I'd put the Celtics as the No. 2 team in the East behind Milwaukee.

 

Signing Kemba Walker was a monster acquisition in free agency. He's basically a more mature, level-headed version of a certain former Celtic who is now in Brooklyn. Walker will bring out the best in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Enes Kanter is a solid free-agent pickup. Marcus Smart can go back to his sixth-man role. The ceiling could be high for this band of Celtics come October. 

 

Losing Al Horford to Philadelphia does sting a bit, but the 76ers don't have much of a backcourt. And sorry, old-school coaches, but you can't win without a great backcourt. The Sixers don't have that. The Celtics do. Next year's Celtics team will be better than last year's bunch that resembled the beer-and-fried chicken Red Sox of 2011.

 

As for Leonard, does his presence make the Clippers a favorite? Yes. Would it be a shock to see Doc coaching against his former team in June with a championship on the line? No. 

 

But, as long as the Warriors have the Splash Brothers and Draymond Green, they're the class of the West. Don't sleep on Portland, Denver or Utah either. Sorry Laker fans, but that "other L.A. team" will be fortunate to have home court in the first round of the playoffs. The Lakers have zero depth outside LeBron and Anthony Davis, the latter of whom can't stay healthy. 

 

It'll be Doc versus Brad Stevens next spring. And the "Beat L.A." chants will be directed at someone other than the Lakers.

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