Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers gave credit to the Utah Jazz for the season they are having but still he believes the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Clippers are the teams to beat in the Western Conference.
Rivers coached the Clippers for a decade before joining the Sixers after last season. "Listen, Utah has been great. But I still think the Clippers and Lakers are still the teams to beat in the West," Rivers said, per ESPN.
"I thought Denver had a great trade deadline -- they did great moves. Utah is playing unbelievable basketball, so they are going to be right there. Portland, I thought improved their team as well. "But I still think it's the Lakers and the Clippers."
Rivers says the Clippers run the same stuff he run
"They're a different team," Rivers said of the current Clippers team. "They don't have a lot of the same guys, [but] they run a lot of the same stuff that I run.
Going through [their plays at] shootaround today, I thought we were going through our shootaround at times. But I wouldn't have changed much offensively, either. I mean, they were pretty darn good last year." The Clippers entered last season as the top favorites to win it all but they ended up blowing a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Semifinals to the Denver Nuggets.
"The difference is they've had a chance to practice together, you know?" Rivers said. "And you can see that. I think they've given the ball to P.G. more, which I think has helped him. So they've made some good changes.
The biggest change I see also is defensively. I think they are a better defensive team. It's funny, the numbers don't exactly say that, but when I watch them, I think they're going to be a better defensive team, one of the better defensive teams when the playoffs start."
The Clippers traded Lou Williams to the Atlanta Hawks in an exchange for Rajon Rondo. "It was difficult at times last year," Rivers said of not having a point guard like Rondo. "Especially without the practice time that we didn't have, to run a play down the stretch where you didn't already have the ball in P.G.'
s or Kawhi's hands. Now you don't have to do that. You can actually run a set where Rondo can deliver the ball. "But I think as important as that's gonna be, his voice is going to be even more important," Rivers said.
"I think he's one of those guys that will speak up, will speak the truth and tell everybody and hold everybody accountable. I think that's important."