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Doc Rivers liked what he saw in the Clippers

Talented roster is the key reason why coach left Boston to come to Los Angeles. Getting Chris Paul to re-sign is the big step.

June 26, 2013|By Broderick Turner

At a news conference Wednesday when he was introduced as the Clippers' new coach, Doc Rivers said what caught his eye about the team last season was its roster full of talented players.

"The reason why I wanted this when it was made available, it was because of what they have and not what they don't have," Rivers said at the Clippers' training facility in Playa Vista.

Rivers was fully aware the Clippers lost a first-round playoff series to Memphis, and he knew there had been grumblings among the Clippers' players about Coach Vinny Del Negro, who subsequently was not rehired.

PHOTOS: Doc Rivers introduced as Clippers coach

Still, Rivers remained intrigued enough to get out of his contract with the Boston Celtics and to sign a three-year deal with the Clippers for $7 million a season to be the coach and senior vice president of basketball operations.

"I clearly think this is an extremely talented basketball team. There were times last year when they were the best team [in the NBA]," Rivers said. "What we have to figure out is with what we have, can we now do that in the postseason as opposed to just the regular season."

For Rivers, 51, it all starts with getting free-agent point guard Chris Paul re-signed.

Rivers was somewhat coy when asked if he had talked to any of the Clippers, specifically Paul.

"The answer is yes," Rivers said, smiling.

And how did that go?

"It went great," Rivers responded. "I haven't talked to all the players, obviously. I texted some and got responses back."

The Clippers plan to offer Paul a maximum five-year deal for $107.3 million when the free-agency period starts Sunday at 9:01 p.m. The assumption is that Paul will sign now that Rivers is the coach.

Rivers said he didn't know Paul personally, but there is something he admires about the All-Star guard.

"I like his feistiness," Rivers said. "I've always liked that in guards…I like players that have a fire about them, so I've always liked Chris because of that."

To get Rivers, the Clippers had to send the Celtics an unprotected first-round draft pick in 2015. The Clippers also had to give Rivers the ultimate say in personnel moves.

Rivers said he will work alongside Gary Sacks, the vice president of basketball operations, to put together a championship-quality team.

"When that part was added, at least from my end, it became very attractive for me," Rivers said. "It's a different challenge. It's not only coaching a team but trying to help build a team with the moves that you want to make all the time."

Rivers said some of the building blocks are already in place.

He sees All-Star power forward Blake Griffin, and center DeAndre Jordan — who was offered to Boston as part of a trade for Kevin Garnett before the NBA stopped it — as two cornerstones of the Clippers' defense.

"With DeAndre and Blake, I think you can absolutely form an unbelievable defense," Rivers said. "They're long. They're athletic. That always starts a good defense and we have that in-house right now."

Rivers spent nine seasons coaching the Celtics, winning the NBA championship in 2008 and losing in the Finals in 2010, both against the Lakers.

During the nearly two weeks of negotiations between the Clippers and Celtics, Rivers said there were times when he was unsure if a deal would be completed.

He called Sunday a "comical day" because of the on-again, off-again talks that finally led to Rivers' agreeing to become coach of the Clippers.

"I always think things find their path," Rivers said. "And I thought this just took a long, winding path, but it found its way and so I'm happy."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

Twitter: @BA_Turner

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