May 3, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Darren Collison warms up prior to the game against the Golden State Warriors in game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Clippers let Darren Collison walk, revealing free agency strategy?

Free agent point guard Darren Collison agreed to a three-year, $16 million deal with Sacramento on Thursday.

“You know our first guy, I’ll be honest, is one of our guys that opted out. He’s a little guy. That’s very important for us.” – Doc Rivers, June 29, 2014

The deal, made one day before July 4, gives Collison his independence to compete for a starting job in the NBA. The pace of the signing, coupled by Los Angeles’ silence toward its backup guard, basically mean team president Doc Rivers has laid out a few of his cards. It also highlights the masquerade that is NBA free agency.

Take this Rivers quote from LA Times’ Broderick Turner on the eve of hunting season:

“You know our first guy, I’ll be honest, is one of our guys that opted out,” Rivers said. “He’s a little guy. That’s very important for us.”

Turner himself acknowledges that Rivers didn’t mention Collison by name, but he certainly wasn’t referring to Chris Paul. Touted as the team’s top priority entering the offseason, Collison was one of the first eight players to agree to a deal while Rivers continues to flail around in a money small forward-blowing machine.

Collison may have in fact been No. 1 on Rivers’ wish list. But you get the feeling, especially based on this tweet from ESPN’s Arash Markazi, that the term ‘priority’ was misappropriated with respect to Collison.

No, bringing in premium insurance for Paul was not first on Rivers’ docket. Convincing a team that they should be interested in acquiring some combination of Jared DudleyMatt Barnes and Reggie Bullock, that’s what Doc’s been about. Indeed, upgrading the team’s weakest link in an otherwise championship-caliber starting lineup should take top billing. This smells like an atonement for the failed Dudley and Danny Granger signings and admitting that you can’t win a ring with Barnes in your first five.

Yet, Rivers refused to offer any of his actual attractive pieces like DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick. He oddly believes that someone has to like the Barnes-Dudley-Bullock trio beyond their ability to help shed salary. The former Celtics coach has unsuccessfully tried to force them on the Brooklyn Nets in a sign-and-trade for personal and local favorite Paul Pierce.

He’s also dangled Barnes and Jamal Crawford in another sign-and-trade for Cleveland free agent Luol Deng. Adding the sixth man extraordinaire to these offers suggests Rivers has some sense of reality. You can make the argument that Crawford is actually forcing the team’s hand in this situation:

Deng appears interested in the Clippers’ situation as well, but it might take more than the four aforementioned trade-bait Clippers to get him. Rumors abound that Redick would have to go back, but this is pure conjecture:

The Clippers have a looong way to go in shoring up their wing rotation because why doesn’t anybody want Jared Dudley and Matt Barnes?


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Tags: Darren Collison Luol Deng NBA Free Agency Paul Pierce Trevor Ariza

  • Alfredo Rodriguez

    If you’re wondering if Doc Rivers has a strategy, he does. It’s “trade the farm for a superstar.”

    In 2007, Doc Rivers saw Danny Ainge trade seven players (Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West, Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff, Gerald Green and Sebastian Telfair), two draft picks, and cash considerations to bring in two superstars, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. It was the unity of superstars that erased a Finals drought which lasted for 20 years, and by beating their arch nemesis Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics were the 2008 NBA Champions.

    Doc needs one more superstar for a couple reasons, one of which is to replace Chris Paul’s production. Paul lost his superstar status after experiencing his worst Game 5 of his career in the second round, coughing away a lead with 3 blunders in the final minute to allow the Oklahoma City Thunder to steal a win. The reason why he’s failed to get out of the second round is because he wants to be idolized as a hero, the same way Isiah Thomas did during the days of the Bad Boy Pistons. But Paul has to understand that in the playoffs, point guard driven teams are the easiest to exploit and dissect. Big men and post play are what decide the difference between a victory and defeat. The only way Paul can get out of the second round is if he gives up being a superstar and commit to being a role player. He must allow Blake Griffin to be the leader, the superstar, and a go-to guy.

    By Doc trading the farm for a superstar like Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love or Kevin Durant (to pair beside Griffin and Paul), he is teaching Paul a lesson in that he should give in to his teammates more, and not allow the pressures of a playoff game to turn him into a ball hog.