Stephen A. hearing more Celtics whispers

Less than a week after saying he had heard whispers of a Celtics-Clippers swap that would include coach Doc Rivers, and a day after Celtics president Danny Ainge said Rivers “as far as he knows” would be on the Boston bench next season, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith stirred up another hornet’s nest.

On Friday’s First Take, Smith said Rivers had considered (or is considering?) walking away from the final three years of his contract.

“According to my sources, Doc Rivers has intimated to people he’s close to that (leaving the Celtics) was something that he thought about, in terms of moving forward. As far as I’m concerned, he’s still thinking about it,” Smith said. “But he is under contract with Boston. Boston would have to let him out of his contract and give him permission to talk to somebody else, and I’m not sure he’s that willing. It would have to be a great, great opportunity.”

Ainge on Thursday scoffed at the suggestion that Rivers would not be coaching the Celtics next season, telling reporters the two are already talking about building next season’s team.

Stephen A. didn’t lend much credence to Danny’s denial:

“Danny Ainge’s words, in this matter, mean nothing to me. Absolutely nothing.”

Smith asserts that if Rivers did indeed leave Boston, the Celtics would have a hard time enticing talented free agents.

“I mean no disrespect to Danny Ainge, he’s a champion as an executive ... but nobody is coming to Boston to play for him. They come to play for Doc Rivers, that’s just a fact.

“So if Danny Ainge wants to maintain his status as a legit executive this game, it would behoove him to keep Doc Rivers happy and keep Doc Rivers in Boston. Because the day that changes is the day that a lot of guys ain’t going to be too willing to come to Boston to play for Danny Ainge.”

Rivers signed a five-year, $35 million deal in May 2011 to coach the Celtics through the 2015-16 season.