NBA Commissioner David Stern says a trade between the Los Angeles Clippers… (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images )
NBA Commissioner David Stern said Thursday that the proposed blockbuster deal that would have the Boston Celtics sending the rights to Coach Doc Rivers plus forward Kevin Garnett to the Clippers, for center DeAndre Jordan and two first-round draft picks, is prohibited by the collective-bargaining agreement.
Stern said on an ESPN radio show that the league's collective-bargaining agreement doesn't allow a team to trade players "involving coaches' contracts."
"The only consideration that can be done here in player transactions are other players, draft picks and a very limited amount of cash," Stern said. "But coaches' contracts don't qualify as extra consideration or acceptable consideration in player transactions."
Stern said the Clippers and Celtics have had this "confirmed to them" over the last few days while they tried to broker the deal.
The Clippers contend these are separate transactions, but the league sees the proposal as a package deal involving Rivers and Garnett for a player and draft picks.
"What the rules won't allow ... it can't be gotten around by breaking it up into two separate transactions," Stern said on the radio show.
As of late Thursday, the Clippers were willing to continue negotiating with the Celtics for Rivers even if L.A. can't get Garnett, said NBA executives who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
The executives said the Clippers might now offer Boston just a second-round pick for the rights to Rivers, instead of a first-round pick.
Even if the Clippers and Celtics tried to break the trade into separate transactions -- a deal for Rivers, and a second deal later involving Garnett -- the NBA would frown upon that because there is an apparent linkage between them. "They are chasing the tooth fairy," an NBA official said.
One Eastern Conference general manager who wasn't involved in the Clippers-Celtics negotiations said there is always a boilerplate question the NBA's lawyers ask of a team when it makes a trade proposal.
"Are you basically saying there is no side agreement?" the GM said. "That's part of the NBA's bylaws."
The GM also said players can go to the NBA Players' Assn. to help them settle disputes with the league. "But for teams, if the league rules one way, I don't know if the team has any recourse," the GM said.
If the Clippers don't hire Rivers, they will look to hire either Brian Shaw, the associate head coach of the Indiana Pacers; Byron Scott, the former coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers; or Lionel Hollins, the former Memphis Grizzlies coach.
Shaw, Scott and Hollins all have interviewed with the Clippers' front office and have met with owner Donald Sterling.
Larry Coon, an expert on the NBA's collective-bargaining agreement, said the Clippers and Celtics could try to reach an agreement for Rivers this month, and then try to work out some sort of deal involving Garnett and Jordan in July or August.
"That is a possibility," Coon said. "The league still could argue that this is attached to the earlier deal.... I think the league right now is trying to make sure that the two teams don't make it a blatant circumvention of the collective-bargaining agreement."
The Clippers have been prepared to offer Rivers a five-year coaching deal worth $6 million to $7 million per season.
"Maybe Doc says, 'Look, I'd love to have KG, but I'd like to coach the Clippers anyway,'" the GM said. "So I wouldn't say no to Doc being the [next Clippers] coach."