SAN DIEGO -- Doc Rivers said he never wanted the Los Angeles Clippers to trade DeAndre Jordan to the Boston Celtics for Kevin Garnett last June when the two teams were working on a deal for the head coach.
One of the proposed trades attached to the eventual deal that got Rivers out of the final three years of his contract in Boston and allowed him to sign a new three-year deal with Los Angeles had the Clippers sending Jordan and a draft pick to the Celtics for Garnett.
It was a side deal that the NBA nixed because such side deals go against league rules. Rivers said he's happy the deal fell apart. He had hoped there would be a way for the Clippers to land Garnett, but not at the expense of Jordan.
"I couldn't get involved in that whole thing," Rivers said. "That was the strangest thing in the world. I was seeing the trade talks and I was saying, 'Wait a minute! We don't want to give away that guy!' We wanted that other guy too. That was the home run to get both.
"[Jordan] is just too young and too gifted to let walk out your door, bottom line. He's a game changer defensively. He can single-handedly change a game with his defense. There's five guys, and that number maybe too high, that can do that single-handedly with their size and athleticism and he's one of them. When you have one of those guys, you want to keep them."
Rivers has praised the Clippers' 25-year-old center during the team's training camp in San Diego. He has called Jordan the team's defensive captain and a candidate for the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year this season.
"No one's been better than that guy," Rivers said of Jordan's performance during training camp. "He's been on another level."
Jordan said he has embraced Rivers' challenge of being the team's defensive captain this season.
"It's about maturity," Jordan said. "I have to set an example for my teammates, so do Chris and Blake. But my thing is mainly defense. That's my only focus this year. I'm not really focused on anything. Defense is my first, second and third priority."