After days of wrangling, negotiating and posturing, the Los Angeles Clippers
have agreed in principle to a deal with the Celtics
for coach Doc Rivers, pending league approval, according to sources.
Sources confirmed on Sunday that the Clippers will sign Rivers to a three-year, $21 million contract. They will send a 2015 first-round pick as compensation to the Celtics, who have agreed to release the coach from the three years, $21 million he has remaining on his deal with the club.
Sources close to the process told ESPN that the Clippers believe the deal with Rivers will clinch Chris Paul
's signature on a new five-year max contract. Paul becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1.
Contrary to previous reports, according to league and team sources, the Celtics have been complicit all along in assisting Rivers make the switch from Boston to Los Angeles.
Although Danny Ainge, the Celtics' director of basketball operations, was initially irked that Rivers was lukewarm about returning to Boston, where a rebuilding process soon will be underway, team sources said he recognized the best way to accumulate the first-round draft picks he covets would be to relinquish his two most valued assets -- Rivers and Kevin Garnett
. Since then, he and Rivers have been working side by side to secure a deal that is best for both parties, sources said.
Team sources confirmed Ainge also has been trying to secure a first-round pick for veteran Paul Pierce
, who can be bought out by June 30 for $5 million. The Celtics have been unsuccessful thus far, leaving open the possibility they keep Pierce and his $15.3 million contract and attempt to deal him again at the trade deadline next winter, when teams historically look for veteran help and are willing to overpay.
Celtics ownership, which blanched at the thought of paying a coach $7 million a season for a team that will not be in contention for a division title, never mind an NBA title, is also on board with Rivers' departure, sources said.
League and teams sources also confirmed that for now, any deal involving Garnett and the Clippers is on hold in light of commissioner David Stern's objections to the appearance that the KG deal (for DeAndre Jordan
) and Rivers were related.
One source with knowledge of the NBA's thinking told ESPN.com that the league does not intend to change its stance as expressed by Stern in multiple radio interviews Thursday, meaning that the league would view any subsequent trade agreement between the Celtics and Clippers involving Garnett to be part of the Rivers deal and thus in violation of league rules.
Team sources also indicated that Rivers is frustrated with the perception that he was the driving force behind the push to go to the Clippers, or that he was unwilling to coach the Celtics if Pierce and Garnett were not going to be on the roster.
"Doc never said any such thing," a source close to the coach said. "He just wasn't sure if he could rev himself up for years of rebuilding. He never issued any ultimatums about anyone."
The Celtics have a news conference scheduled for noon on Monday, where, sources said, Rivers is expected to explain his decision to leave Boston after nine seasons.
The Clippers always believed they would be able to land Rivers and never considered Friday's breakdown in talks to be anything more than a "cooling off" for both sides. Clippers president Andy Roeser and vice president of basketball operations Gary Sacks called Boston early Sunday morning to revisit the talks.
The Clippers were prepared to hire either Brian Shaw or Byron Scott on Monday if the deal for Rivers could not be worked out, sources said.