Dec 12, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Washington Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell coaches against the Houston Rockets during the first quarter at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Cassell Rumors: Los Angeles Clippers desperate enough to trade for coaching depth

The Los Angeles Clippers are so desperate for assistant coaches that they’re close to becoming the first team to trade for one in Sam Cassell, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Seeing Cassell mentioned in trade rumors shouldn’t elicit so much as an eyebrow raise–if this were 2007. The Washington Wizards assistant changed teams eight times in his 15-year playing career, six via trade. Cassell was a member of the last Clippers team to make the playoffs before the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin era, averaging 14.6 points and 5.4 assists per game in two-and-a-half seasons from 2005 to 2008.

Boston acquired Cassell late in its 2007-08 season to serve as a veteran backup to Rajon Rondo. He played 21 playoff games, averaging 4.5 points and 1.2 assists in 12.6 minutes per game as the Celtics made their title run. Cassell was then traded to Sacramento in the offseason and promptly waived by the Kings before joining the Wizards staff, meaning his last minutes as an NBA player came under Rivers.

Cassell coached the Wizards to the semifinals of the Las Vegas Summer League tournament, and Glen Rice Jr. to the tournament MVP award. 

Doc Rivers, who himself was the first NBA coach traded, saw two of his top assistants hired away as associate head coaches this summer and another moved to the front office. The Cleveland Cavaliers made Tyronn Lue the highest paid assistant in the league while Alvin Gentry joined Steve Kerr at Golden State. Kevin Eastman was promoted to vice president of basketball operations.

Mike Woodson joined Armond Hill and Brandon O’Connor on Rivers’ staff earlier this month after being relieved of his head coaching duties with the New York Knicks.

Rather than sign someone off the unemployment line, promote from within, poach from college or find a coach in the dozen other places he could look, Rivers has zeroed in on another of his former players. This courtship follows the tradition of Doc seeking out both former players and guys who used to play well against his teams:

  • Glen Davis, signed by the Clippers late in the 2013-14 season, played for Doc in Boston from 2007 to 2011
  • JJ Redick came to Los Angeles in a three-team trade after killing Doc’s Celtics teams in the playoffs in his years with the Orlando Magic
  • Rivers unsuccessfully negotiated to bring in Paul Pierce via sign-and-trade early in free agency
  • Doc has tried to add Lawrence Frank, who coached under him for one season in Boston, to his staff this summer

As CBS Sports’ James Herbert notes, there’s more to this move than meets the eye:

It’s funny timing, as Cassell reportedly was part of the reason why Paul Pierce left the Clippers to sign with the Wizards in free agency. He called Pierce after a summer league game to talk his former teammate into joining the existing talent in Washington, according to the Washington Post‘s Michael Lee.

Compensation would likely come in the form of a second-round draft pick, as players and players’ rights cannot be involved in a coach trade. The earliest pick the Clippers can send to Washington is in 2017.

Tags: Doc Rivers Sam Cassell

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