LOS ANGELES -- As Doc Rivers sat on a dais inside of Staples Center, flanked by the players the Los Angeles Clippers signed this offseason, he smiled and said he liked his chances against any team in the league next season.
"It's been a great summer for us," Rivers said. "I love what we've assembled. Now the next step for us is to take all this talent on paper [and turn it] into a team. On paper, I like us against anyone."
The Clippers' offseason initially appeared disastrous when DeAndre Jordan committed to the Dallas Mavericks, but their fortunes turned when Jordan had a change of heart and decided to rejoin the team. In addition to Jordan, the Clippers traded for Lance Stephenson, re-signed Austin Rivers and signed Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, Cole Aldrich and Wesley Johnson in free agency.
Jordan has not spoken to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban since changing his mind and re-signing with the Clippers. When asked if he owed Cuban an apology or a phone call, he said he didn't call Rivers after originally committing to Dallas.
"Originally when I committed to Dallas -- I mean I loved Doc -- but I didn't call him," Jordan said. "We talked a little bit later. But I mean when we make decisions in life and then we go back and change our minds on them, I feel like the only thing you can do is man up and apologize for it and voice your opinion, and that's what I did. And I can't speak for Mark or anybody else or anything. I'm speaking for myself, and that's what I did."
Jordan said he thought he needed a change when he initially committed to Dallas but realized the Clippers were still the best fit for him when he went home and thought about it alone.
"Well, originally when free agency started, this whole fiasco was not my intent, but originally with Dallas, I thought I wanted change, and I needed change in my career," Jordan said. "I wanted a bigger role and more responsibility. And I was ready to embrace and accept that challenge, but when I got by myself, and I was able to think about everything that just happened, I realized that being with the Clippers was the best decision for me."
The addition of Pierce has been three years in the making for the Clippers. They originally tried to trade for him along with Rivers when they acquired Rivers from Boston. Then they tried to sign him last year before he eventually signed with the Washington Wizards. This time, the two finally came to an agreement on what Pierce believes will be his last run in the NBA.
"Well, last year I had an opportunity, but sometimes just things don't work out the way sometimes you want them to," Pierce said. "I would have loved to have been here last year. But like I said, had a chance to go to Washington. That was a great experience for me. And I think things really happen for a reason. I think this is the right timing and a perfect opportunity here today. I'm glad to say I'm a Clipper today."
Pierce, 37, is now reunited with Rivers, who was his coach in Boston for nine seasons. The two teamed to win the 2008 title during a run in which they also won five straight Atlantic Division titles and went to two NBA Finals.
"I played with Doc longer than any coach I ever played for in my career," Pierce, a California native, said. "I'm definitely comfortable being around him and being with him. That really helps out, especially when you go into a new situation, being around things you're comfortable with. And it's great to be home. I mean, get an opportunity to play in front of family and friends and have an opportunity to win a championship.
"I guess my biggest concern is probably tickets. But this is a tremendous opportunity. I mean, it's like a dream come true growing up right here. I always want to play in my hometown for an opportunity to win a championship. So this is awesome. This is probably the last ride of my career. I think this is where I'm going to end it. So I'm going to go all in. And if we can win a championship here for the Clippers this will be everything for me."
Pierce is projected to be the Clippers' starting small forward, with Lance Stephenson and Wesley Johnson backing him up. Last season, Pierce started all 73 games he played in Washington and averaged 11.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists.
Washington offered Pierce $6.6 million next season, more than any other team, but Pierce took the Clippers' tax-payer mid-level exception, which will pay him about $3.3 million in each of the next two seasons. The Clippers also hold a team option on a third season. Josh Smith also took a pay cut to play for the Clippers, turning down $2.5 million from the Rockets to sign for the veterans minimum of about $1.5 million with the Clippers.
"Well, obviously when you're a free agent you make decisions based on where you feel is the best fit for you, in order to make yourself the most successful for you and for your team," Smith said. "And so looking at this roster, being able to have an opportunity to play for a point guard, arguably one of the best point guards in the game, and a dominant big like DeAndre and Blake [Griffin], and the supporting cast that surrounds it, it was very attracting to me, and this is why I made the decision."
Smith will still be getting $5.4 million next season from the Detroit Pistons, who waived him last season.
"It wasn't about the money, because of the Detroit situation," Smith said. "But at the end of the day, you know, I do have a family. So it is going to be a little harder on me this year, but I'm going to push through it and, you know, try to do something long term after this year. But I think this year focusing on doing something special with this group of guys. We have an opportunity to be able to do something special.and right now this is what I want to focus on."