The Los Angeles Lakers are narrowing down their head-coaching search and Doc Rivers appears to be out of the mix. The 60-year-old received a strong vote of confidence from Philadelphia 76ers brass to return for his third season in the City of Brotherly Love.
That means the rumors sending him out of town are over, right? Not exactly. A weird one surfaced on May 20 courtesy of Gery Woelfel – a self-described “Pro Basketball Writers Association award winner” – who discussed a potential trade sending Rivers to the Lakers in return for draft picks. The Sixers would name Mike D’Antoni their new head coach in a corresponding move, according to Woelfel.
There is a lot to unpack there. For starters, the Lakers don’t own any picks in the 2022 NBA draft. Los Angeles dealt their first-rounder to the New Orleans Pelicans (the No. 8 overall pick, via the Anthony Davis trade) and their second-rounder is owned by the Washington Wizards from a 2019 trade. Their draft situation gets even more complicated in 2023, thanks to a series of pick swaps.
Draft picks aside, Rivers is under contract in Philadelphia through the 2024-25 season. That doesn’t mean the franchise couldn’t move on from him but it would cost them money, including an $8 million cap hit. Not likely. Especially not after hearing Sixers president Daryl Morey gush about Rivers during exit interviews.
“I just think he’s a great coach,” Morey said on May 13. “I love working with him. I feel like I’m learning from him. I think Elton [Brand] and I and him make a great team, and we’re going to see where this journey takes us. But we feel very good about where it’s going to take us, and it’s going to be where we have a very good chance to win the title.”
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Insiders Shoot Down Lakers-Sixers Trade Rumor
Several NBA writers took to Twitter on Friday to throw sand on Woelfel’s “long-running rumors” from NBA pre-draft camps. Michael Kaskey-Blomain of CBS Sports said there is “no truth” to speculation of Rivers possibly being traded to the Lakers. Ditto for Paul Hudrick of Liberty Ballers. So, there you have it.
It is important to note that Woelfel was simply relaying rumors he overheard. His tweet wasn’t meant to be digested as a report of an impending move. That being said, The Ringer’s Bill Simmons was more than happy to throw some shade at the Lakers “as they continue to buy time for Rivers.”
3 Finalists Emerge in Lakers Head-Coaching Search
The Athletic’s Shams Charania identified three finalists for the Lakers’ head-coaching vacancy: Bucks assistant Darvin Ham, Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, and former Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts. Charania made no reference to Doc Rivers being a candidate in any capacity.
According to The Athletic, Ham made the strongest first impression on Lakers brass during the first round of interviews. He won a championship as a player in 2004 with the Pistons, and another one as an assistant coach with the Bucks in 2021. Charania and Sam Amick wrote the following:
In terms of the Lakers’ preferences, sources say team officials have prioritized a coach who can command respect and authority from the locker room and who has a strong enough presence and voice to manage the varying roles and relationships across the roster. Those characteristics bode well for Ham’s candidacy.
Again, there is zero mention of Rivers in The Athletic’s reporting. He’s coming back to Philadelphia.