LOS ANGELES – They have known each other for ages, but share something more in common than just their friendship.
Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers and Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders also are among the NBA’s very few who moonlight as their team’s chief personnel decision-maker as well.
Comparatively, Rivers has made mere nips and tucks to a superstar-laden roster that has been well over the NBA’s luxury-tax threshold since the Clippers traded with Boston two summers ago so they could hire him for both jobs.
Saunders, meanwhile, has taken a team rebuilt already more than a couple times in recent years and remade it once again by trading away three-time All Star Kevin Love and aiming toward the future with youngsters Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, among others.
“It’s not been hard, Flip’s had to do a lot more,” Rivers said when asked about wearing the two hats. “They have a lot more work, far more assets than they have to try to get in and out. He has a ton of (financial) flexibility. When I came here, I looked at our roster and flexibility and there was not a lot we could do. We were more in the minimum contract and mid-level (exception) stuff.
“You’ve got to have assets and we do, but none that we want to trade. He has had a lot more work to do than I have. He’s trying to rebuild an entire team.”
Saunders said he didn’t seek Rivers’ advice about doing both jobs before Saunders decided basically to hire himself as the Wolves’ coach last summer.
“I did it in the CBA and I did it early here,” Saunders said, referring to having a general manager’s title when he took over as the Wolves coach in 1995. “It’s even easier now because we have bigger staffs. When I first came into the league, we didn’t have this number of scouts and everything else.”
Garnett sits out
Kevin Garnett was scratched from Monday’s lineup, partly because of a sore knee that has bothered him and partly to get a couple more days’ rest between Saturday’s home victory over Portland and Wednesday’s game at Phoenix. Adreian Payne started at power forward.
“Good opportunity to get a little bit of rest,” said Saunders, who intended to play newly acquired Justin Hamilton for the first time with Garnett out.
Mind your business
Monday’s game brought together Saunders and Clippers veteran guard J.J. Redick for the first time since they got in a heated exchange late in a game a week before at Target Center. Redick received two technical fouls after he complained about Saunders being on the court, Saunders responded by saying, uh, he should stay out of it. Redick automatically was ejected.
“You know, I was going to kick his butt, but I’m not,” Rivers said, referring to his pal Saunders. “No, I’m fine with that. That happens. I have my little things at times. It’s an emotional game and that’s just the way it is.”
When asked about the incident and Rivers’ comment, Saunders said, “He’s got to keep his players under control. You know, I’m sure his player can take care of themselves. They don’t need Doc.”
Going back home
The Wolves held their morning shoot at the UCLA gym where LaVine and s Muhammad once practiced when they were Bruins.
“I feel really at home here,” LaVine said. “I keep forgetting how beautiful it was here during my brief stay here at UCLA. It’s almost as warm here as Minnesota. It’s almost as beautiful, too.”
• Former Sacramento coach Mike Malone is back traveling with the Wolves for games Monday in L.A. and Wednesday in Phoenix, just as he did on a West Coast trip back in January. Saunders maintains it’s merely a professional courtesy and said he hasn’t given any thought about adding Malone in a more permanent role.
• Former Wolves point guard Pooh Richardson — the team’s first lottery pick ever chosen — attended Monday’s game and hung out at his old team’s bench before the game.