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Stephen A. Smith on D&C: Some in NBA circles question ‘whether or not Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers desire to continue to coexist’

Stephen A. Smith talked with Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday about trade rumors involving the Celtics and Clippers, and what he believes the Celtics will do in the offseason.

Smith said he thinks the Clippers, who were rumored to be interested in Kevin Garnett [1] at the trade deadline, still would like to acquire Garnett, and that the Celtics might try to use that interest to get Blake Griffin [2] from them. To get Griffin, though, Smith said they might have to allow Doc Rivers [3] to go to Los Angeles.

“The Clippers, I know for a fact, were interested in Kevin Garnett,” Smith said. “[Chris Paul [4]] isn’t necessarily happy right now. He wants to stay with the Clippers. I think he’s planning on staying with the Clippers because they can offer him close to $30 million more than anybody else. But he also looks at the Clippers and has reached the conclusion that he needs help on the front line, because neither Blake Griffin nor DeAndre Jordan has the requisite post-game skills to really make room for him to operate. They’re incapable of pulling guys away from the basket and being a threat on the perimeter and therefore giving Chris Paul space to operate.

“From that standpoint, once again, the Clippers have to be willing to let go of one of those guys. They would prefer it to be DeAndre Jordan, because clearly Blake Griffin has a better upside. Plus, he’s a better player. ‘€¦ As a result, in an effort to keep CP3, who’s a guy that approaches free agency and they’re looking to re-sign, they are entertaining a plethora of possibilities.”

One of those possibilities, Smith said, could involve Rivers heading to Los Angeles along with Garnett and Paul Pierce [5].

“According to guys that I’ve spoken to in NBA circles, the Boston Celtics [6] would look at a guy like a KG, willing to unload him, and who knows, they may be willing to market [Garnett and Pierce] as a package deal,” Smith said. “If you’re the Clippers, obviously that’s not enough to let go of somebody like a Blake Griffin. But if you combine keeping CP3 as a priority, knowing that he wants legitimate help on his front line for the immediate future, combined with the fact that even though I believe Vinny del Negro has done a good job, there are others that don’t believe so. ‘€¦ If somehow, some way, you could get your hands on Doc Rivers in the same breath as you’re getting KG and Paul Pierce, it could be something that could be attractive. And if that’s attractive enough, if you’re Danny Ainge, and you and Doc Rivers, as much as you respect one another, you’ve just worked with one another for a long time — who knows what the situation is, but you might be willing to let Doc Rivers out of his contract.

“You’re not going to do it for Brooklyn or probably anybody within the Eastern Conference, but to move out west to Cali? That might be an attractive enough proposition for the Clippers to sit there and say, well, you know what, OK, we would let go of Blake Griffin under those circumstances.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the full interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page [7]. For more Celtics coverage, go to weei.com/celtics [8].

On the credibility of the rumor and Rivers’ relationship with Ainge: “First of all, I don’t quote or attribute anything to people that lack credibility. … What I would say to you about Doc Rivers is that Doc Rivers is under contract with the Boston Celtics. The Boston Celtics absolutely love and respect Doc Rivers. But there have been some questions in NBA circles as to whether or not Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers desire to continue to coexist. They have profound respect with one another, there’s no animosity involved or anything like that, it’s just when you’re working with somebody every day you do tend to get tired of looking at their faces or hearing their voices or things of that nature. There’s nothing going on — you do reach a point, however, where you would like to embrace new challenges, where you’re thinking about moving forward.

“Doc Rivers has a tremendous amount of love and loyalty to those players he’s been coaching, and that takes precedence, no doubt. But in the event that the Boston Celtics are looking to move forward with a different set of players, who’s to say that Doc Rivers would want to stick around to coach new guys. ‘€¦ I haven’t spoken to Doc Rivers about that yet, but at the same time, people who know about Doc Rivers and people who know Danny Ainge have suspected that this is a possibility.”

On how the Clippers’ fan base would react to such a trade: “I don’t believe that it would sit that well because Blake Griffin is a human highlight film. You know that you’re losing something. Plus, he’s useful, and that’s why I’m saying it would be a hard thing to happen, because people are saying, what the hell are you doing, KG is 37 and he’s in the twilight of his career. The same thing could legitimately be said for Paul Pierce, who just completed his 15th NBA season, but that’s why the Doc Rivers component is so attractive, because you know that CP3 is a franchise-caliber player and you know that Doc Rivers has a championship pedigree as a coach.

“The combination of those two dudes being long term could give you the impression that it could be offset with their presence and their arrival. Now, again, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. If you’re the LA Clippers, you hold on to Blake Griffin for dear life and you try to get them to take DeAndre Jordan. You can also make the argument that if you’re the Boston Celtics, what else are you going to get for KG and Paul Pierce?”

On what he thinks the Celtics will do: “I think more realistic is you breaking [the team] up, because you can get assets for them, unless you want to go in complete rebuilding mode, meaning, Paul Pierce, you buy him out, KG, you let him retire. Or you can look at it as, these guys are viable assets that can assist in getting valuable assets.

“Me personally, I don’t even think the Clippers are that stupid to let go of Blake Griffin. I think they’d work diligently to try and get you take a DeAndre Jordan first. But at the same time, this is Danny Ainge we’re talking about here. He always asks for the house. He ain’t looking to rent. He’s looking to pull off a complete heist if he’s capable of doing so. This is what they’re saying. You can’t put anything past Danny Ainge in what he asks for and you can’t put anything past the Clippers with what they’re be willing to do to keep CP3. ‘€¦ They consider him the franchise.”

On Derrick Rose [9]: “I think the Chicago Bulls [10] have told everybody he’s been cleared to practice, which I think was wrong on their part, by the way. Derrick Rose is a bit reluctant, but I also think that if you’re if you’re the Bulls, the mentality of players is, you’ve got to be fair to him. This is a guy that played with back spasms and turf toe and plantar fascia and all that stuff last year. He played through all of that trying to help us compete for a championship. We can’t fault him now when he’s not sure he can go. He went through this with us last year and look what it cost him. It cost him this entire season because he tore his ACL.

“What I ask everybody to remind themselves of is the fact that his brother is the one who instigated all of this by saying, why should he come back? The only reason why this story has just ballooned is because his brother sat there and took the liberty of saying, why should my brother want to come play with this team, because this team is not going to do anything, and this team has done the opposite. They’ve overachieved. The nation is watching, and now it’s looking at Derrick Rose because his brother opened his mouth.”