Plaschke: Doc Rivers is a long shot for the Lakers manager, still the best shooter

Like this, the Lakers their three leaders floated candidates for coach to the media this week as a kind of test ball.

Terry Stott! Kenny Atkinson! Darvin Ham!

Psssssst.

The news fell flatter than a Russell Westbrook jump shot. The options quickly lost all air, withered remnants floating harmlessly in the messy mess that is the Lakers’ summer landscape.

Seriously? Is this all you’ve got? It’s considered a soft coaching market and the Lakers are considered a tough sell, but still … is that right?

Terry Stott? Wonderful man, great tactician, but in 13 NBA seasons in Atlanta, Milwaukee and Portland, his teams have advanced to the conference finals only once.

If you were going to hire Stotts, you should never have fired Frank Vogel.

Kenny Atkinson? Energetic dude, currently on the staff of the reborn Golden State, but his specialty is developing children, as he did with the likes of D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Spencer Dinwiddie during four mostly miserable seasons at Brooklyn.

If you were going to hire Atkinson, then you should have hired him before LeBron James and Anthony Davis showed up.

Darvin Ham? He is the only one of three candidates to have played in the league, and has been a respected assistant with the Lakers, Hawks and Bucks, but has never been an NBA head coach.

If you’re going to hire him, well … the last time they hired someone with no NBA head coaching experience, his name was Luke Walton, and how did it work?

Sure, Stotts could resurrect the offense like he did in Portland, and Atkinson could inject some life into veteran culture, and Ham could be the next Willie Green, a fellow former role player who’s been awesome this season. in his debut as head coach. Orléans.

But in general, this list looks like … meh.

Which tells me the Lakers may still be looking for someone who isn’t there.

Yes, I’m going to double down on Doc.

A month ago, it was written in this space that Doc Rivers was there the best choice of the Lakersand despite everything that happened to him and his Philadelphia 76ers during that time, he is still the best choice.

Let’s hope that perhaps some of the Lakers are quietly thinking the same thing. Hopefully, the news of their top three candidates has leaked and confirmed as some sort of smokescreen for their real intentions, which are working behind the scenes to help Rivers and the Sixers end a union that’s going nowhere. .

Maybe not. Perhaps by the end of this week they will organize a press conference to introduce the grateful Stotts, the honored Atkinson or the humiliated Ham.

Still, as long as there is a chance to acquire Rivers, they should take that chance.

Yes, he has another three years left on his contract with the Sixers. Yes, Rivers sat next to team president Daryl Morey last week and listened to him tell reporters that Doc isn’t going anywhere.

“I just think he’s a great coach,” Morey said. “I love working with him. I feel like I am learning from him … and we will see where this journey takes us … but we feel very good about where it will take us, and it will be where we have a very good chance of winning the title. “

A vote of confidence, perhaps. But Morey didn’t hire Rivers, and some say Morey is still in love with his longtime favorite coach Mike D’Antoni, and surely Morey wasn’t happy that a team with Joel Embiid and James Harden couldn’t advance past the second round of the playoffs.

What if Morey had made that statement as an opening move in an effort to get more Lakers payouts in exchange for Rivers? There’s no way the Lakers will have to give up any of their valuable future manager draft picks, but heck, there’s always money.

If both sides really want this to happen, it should happen. While it sounds like a tall order, it could still happen, because Rivers is supposed to want it to happen here.

He has always expressed his passion for Los Angeles in the past, and almost left the Clippers for the Lakers once, and right now he’s the perfect coach for this imperfect situation.

Doc Rivers shakes hands with Mayor Eric Garcetti at an event at Fairfax High to launch a program to recruit mentors.

Doc Rivers greets Mayor Eric Garcetti as he coaches the Clippers at an event at Fairfax High to launch a volunteer program to recruit mentors.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

They’re not meant to win a championship, not as long as Elder James is paired with frail Davis, so they need a coach who can simply keep this stormy group calm, competitive and relevant until the start of the next era.

Rivers skillfully handled the Clippers during Donald Sterling’s debacle, so Rivers can do it.

They need someone who can keep the path smooth for James as he beats Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s goal record next season and possibly retires the following year.

Rivers won an NBA championship with three veteran free-spirited superstars in Boston, so Rivers can do it.

They also need someone who can somehow save Russell Westbrook’s career if the struggling player isn’t swapped, someone who can hold Westbrook’s attention longer than pre-season workouts, which Vogel has failed to achieve. do.

Rivers faced tough Chris Paul and fickle Blake Griffin and inconsistent DeAndre Jordan – all at once – so Rivers can do it.

More than anything else, with the turmoil pulling the franchise from every corner, the Lakers need a likeable and respected personality who understands their place in this community and can act as a trusted voice and welcome face who can shape and convey the their message.

Rivers would not only win the initial press conference, he would win all the press conferences.

If Rivers weren’t already under contract, he would now be the manager of the Lakers. He can still be. The Lakers are known for doing amazing things to make seemingly unattainable acquisitions. This would be worth the job.

As if this important decision were a game show, Lakers fans were presented with three potential head coaching options this week.

The Lakers should choose goal n. 4.