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Making Sense of Doc Rivers’ L.A. Clippers Tenure After Sudden Exit – Bleacher Report

Los Angeles Clippers' Doc Rivers coaches during an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2src2src, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

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Few things in the NBA are truly shocking, but the Los Angeles Clippers‘ decision to part ways with head coach Doc Rivers on Monday afternoon was a rare exception.

Even after the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals, nobody saw this coming. Most figured the coach who ushered the franchise through 2014’s Donald Sterling scandal, made the playoffs in six of his seven seasons and helped bring relevance to the most irrelevant organization in the league would be as close to untouchable as any coach not named Gregg Popovich or Erik Spoelstra.

The timing was odd. It’s been almost two weeks since the Clippers lost Game 7 to Denver, and there wasn’t a peep that Rivers’ exit was even on the table. As ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday, Rivers has two years remaining on his contract, and they aren’t cheap—his $11 million annual salary is one of the highest for a head coach in the NBA.

The team’s official announcement called it a “mutual decision,” but, for what it’s worth, Rivers thanked Clippers Nation and not the Clippers organization or team governor Steve Ballmer in the statement he posted to his Twitter account. Draw your own conclusions there.

Was Rivers’ seven-year tenure with the Clippers a success? It depends on how you measure it.

Rivers came to the Clippers in 2013 after nine seasons with the Boston Celtics, which included two trips to the Finals and an NBA title in 2008. With a blossoming Big Three of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan already in place, the belief at the time was that upgrading from Vinny Del Negro to Rivers would be the move that transformed the Clippers into true contenders for the first time in franchise history.

Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press/Associated Press

By those expectations, Rivers came up short. His Clippers never made the Finals, let alone won a title. He didn’t even get them to the Western Conference Finals, despite leading 3-1 in the second round in 2015 against Houston and this season against Denver.

Most of the Clippers’ early playoff exits can be explained away by injuries or other extenuating circumstances; the two indefensible ones are the two blown 3-1 leads. His best coaching job was the 2018-19 season, when he led a young group with no All-Stars and no playoff expectations to the eighth seed in the Western Conference and unexpectedly took the Golden State Warriors to six games in the first round.

Ultimately, Rivers won three playoff series in seven seasons with rosters in five of those years that were expected to contend. There’s no way to spin that as anything other than a massive disappointment.

But Rivers’ impact on the Clippers cannot purely be measured by on-court results. He brought stability and credibility to an organization that had previously had none.

When he was looking to move on from Boston following the breakup of the Kevin Garnett-Ray Allen-Paul Pierce Big Three, he likely could have had any job he wanted. He chose the Clippers because they offered the most upside with Paul and Griffin locked in. That the Clippers could even get a coach of Rivers’ stature, and were willing to pay for one, changed their perception around the league.

During the 2014 playoffs, when TMZ published a leaked recording of then-governor Sterling making racist comments, it was Rivers that held the organization together through the fallout. He was the one addressing reporters every day about a controversy he had no part in creating. He was the one keeping his players united (they considered boycotting Game 4 of their first-round series with the Warriors in response to the Sterling tape). He was the one attempting to keep up the morale of employees throughout the organization.

The Clippers needed a reliable, trustworthy public face as they reached one of the lowest points any pro sports franchise has ever reached. Rivers proved up to that job, and then some. A lesser coach—a lesser leader, really—might have mishandled it, or taken the opportunity to jump off the sinking ship. Rivers didn’t. And when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life and the league facilitated the sale of the Clippers to Ballmer, there was no talk of the new team governor bringing in a new coach. Rivers had proved he was someone you wanted representing your organization.

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

When Rivers joined the Clippers in 2013, he was given the dual titles of head coach and senior vice president of basketball operations. After he was promoted to president of basketball operations in 2014, that status as the most powerful person in the organization below the ownership level gave him the gravitas to lead the team through the Sterling debacle.

The downside: He wasn’t a very good GM.

As an executive, Rivers tended to fall back on what he knew, signing past-their-prime veterans he had either coached (Pierce, Glen Davis, Brandon Bass) or coached against (Matt Barnes, Hedo Turkoglu, Stephen Jackson) in Boston. When the Clippers needed fresh bodies in the playoffs those years, they never had the depth to compete. Any discussion of Rivers’ playoff shortcomings with the Clippers must include the role his own front-office decision-making played in putting those teams together.

It’s no coincidence that in the summer of 2017, when Ballmer removed Rivers’ front-office responsibilities so he could focus solely on coaching, the Clippers’ rosters started to make much more sense. The payoff was that 2018-19 run, led by Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and rookie point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Rivers’ responsibilities would have been spread too thin to coach that group to its full potential if he still had his front-office job, and Lawrence Frank and Michael Winger were more than capable of building him a quality roster.

This was the latest chapter in Ballmer’s long-term quest to transform the Clippers into a destination, a true competitor to the Lakers, and it appeared to work last summer when Kawhi Leonard signed with them in free agency, bringing Paul George with him via a blockbuster trade.

The fact that a superstar the Lakers were also pursuing chose the Clippers is a testament to just how far the organization had come in the years since Sterling’s ouster. And Rivers was a huge part of that.

Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

He’s also been one of the NBA’s most prominent and trusted voices on social justice in the Orlando bubble. He’s taken on a role as a leader in this area, just as he did in moving the Clippers past the Sterling days.

It’s troubling but worth noting that after his exit, along with the firings earlier this summer of the Indiana Pacers‘ Nate McMillan and New Orleans Pelicans‘ Alvin Gentry, there are only four Black head coaches remaining in the NBA: the Phoenix Suns‘ Monty Williams, Atlanta Hawks‘ Lloyd Pierce, Cleveland Cavaliers‘ JB Bickerstaff and Detroit Pistons Dwane Casey. With more scrutiny (rightly) on diversity across the sports world, the sudden departure of the NBA’s longest-tenured and most respected Black coach is not good.

With Rivers gone, it’s unclear where the Clippers will go to find his successor. The logical move would seem to be elevating his top assistant, Tyronn Lue, a championship coach in his own right who’s been linked to all of the highest-profile openings this year.

Rivers will be fine. He’ll get another job as soon as he wants one (less than an hour after news broke of his breakup with the Clippers, The Undefeated‘s Marc J. Spears reported that the Pelicans and Philadelphia 76ers have already reached out). If he wants a break from coaching, he could easily go back to his old job as a television analyst, which he was excellent at.

Whatever Rivers decides to do next, he’ll have supporters in all corners of the basketball world. The Clippers’ disappointing playoff record during his time there is a big part of his story, but he represents so much more.

Sean Highkin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. He is a graduate of the University of Oregon and lives in Portland. His work has been honored by the Pro Basketball Writers’ Association. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and in the B/R App.

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making stocks

Stocks making the biggest moves in the premarket: Dick’s Sporting Goods, Apple, Salesforce & more – CNBC

Take a look at some of the biggest movers in the premarket:

Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS) – The sporting goods retailer earned $3.21 per share for the second quarter, well above the consensus estimate of $1.30 a share. Revenue was also well above forecasts, with comparable-store sales up 20.7% compared to a 9.9% FactSet consensus estimate. Dick’s also saw e-commerce sales nearly triple during the quarter.

Apple (AAPL) – Wedbush raised its price target on Apple to a Street-high $600 per share from $515 a share, on expectations of what it calls an iPhone 12 “supercycle.” Wedbush maintained its “outperform” rating on the stock.

Salesforce.com (CRM) – Salesforce reported quarterly earnings of $1.44 per share, more than double the 67 cents a share consensus estimate. The business software company’s revenue also exceeded Street forecasts, and it also raised its full-year revenue forecast as it benefits from the increase in remote work and e-commerce.

Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP) – Morgan Stanley upgraded Keurig Dr Pepper to “overweight” from “equal weight,” citing an increase in at-home coffee consumption among other factors.

Urban Outfitters (URBN) – Urban Outfitters surprised analysts by reporting a profit of 35 cents per share for its latest quarter, compared with expectations of a 40 cents per share loss. The apparel retailer also reported better-than-expected revenue despite a 13% drop in comparable-store sales, benefiting from an increase in digital sales amid pandemic-related store closures.

Nordstrom (JWN) – Nordstrom lost $1.62 per share for the second quarter, wider than the loss of $1.48 per share that analysts were anticipating. The department store operator also saw revenue come in below consensus, with net sales falling 53% from a year earlier as stores closed due to the pandemic.

Roku (ROKU) – Citi initiated coverage of the streaming video device maker with a “buy” rating, pointing to expectations of strong account growth as well as rising economic value per account.

Toll Brothers (TOL) – Toll Brothers beat estimates by 19 cents a share, with quarterly earnings of 90 cents per share. The luxury home builder’s revenue also exceeded consensus. Orders surged more than 26% during the quarter, and Toll also gave an upbeat forecast for home deliveries during the current quarter.

Teva Pharmaceutical (TEVA) – The Justice Department charged the drugmaker of conspiring with other pharmaceutical companies to raise prices for generic drugs. Reuters reports that the charges came after Teva refused a settlement that would have required it to admit wrongdoing and pay a penalty. Teva said it firmly rejects the allegations and will vigorously defend itself in court.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) – HPE reported quarterly earnings of 32 cents per share, 9 cents a share above estimates. Revenue beat Wall Street forecasts as well. The enterprise computing company also resumed forward guidance, giving a better-than-expected forecast for the current quarter and the full year.

Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) – Bed Bath & Beyond will cut about 2,800 jobs as part of a restructuring, in a move that the housewares retailer expects will save about $150 million per year.

Carnival Corp. (CCL) – Carnival’s Princess Cruises unit canceled cruises scheduled for early 2021 for two of its ships, the Island Princess and Pacific Princess, citing Covid-19 related restrictions. This comes a day after Carnival’s Cunard brand extended cancellations for that line’s cruises through mid-May 2021.

Intuit (INTU) – Intuit reported quarterly profit of $1.81 per share, beating the consensus estimate of $1.05 a share. The financial software company’s revenue also above Wall Street forecasts. The maker of TurboTax, QuickBooks and Mint saw an 83% sales surge, with activity picking up following the completion of a delayed tax season.

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making stocks

Stocks making the biggest moves after hours: Dell, VMware, La-Z-Boy and more – CNBC

Facade with sign and logo at the La-Z-Boy furniture store in Pleasanton, California, April 16, 2018.

Smith Collection | Gado | Getty Images

Check out the companies making headlines after the bell.

Dell Technologies, VMware — Shares of Dell Technologies and VMware spiked 18% and 10% respectively in after-hours trading on a report that Dell is looking at options for its $50 billion stake in the information technology company. The options include spinning off its 81% stake or buying the rest of VMware, according to the Journal.

La-Z-Boy — The furniture manufacturer’s stock whipsawed in extended trading after La-Z-Boy reported fourth-quarter earnings. The company reported earnings of 49 cents per share excluding some items on revenue of $367 million, while analysts estimated 20 cents per share on revenue of $385 million, according to Refinitiv. La-Z-Boy is also permanently closing its Newton, Miss. manufacturing facility and reducing its global workforce by approximately 10%, according to a company statement

Carnival — The cruise operator’s stock dipped 1% after the closing bell. Carnival was reduced to junk status by S&P Global Ratings, which downgraded the company’s credit rating from BBB- to BB-. “We expect Carnival’s credit measures to remain very weak through 2021 because of its plans for a gradual reintroduction of capacity and our forecast for continued weak demand,” S&P said in a statement. The agency warned that Carnival remains on credit watch and could be downgraded again. Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises also saw their shares fall 1% in after-hours trading. 

DraftKings — DraftKings’ stock climbed 1% in extended trading. Earlier Tuesday, the sports betting company announced the launch of a standalone mobile casino app in New Jersey, which will include new games exclusive to DraftKings as well as updated classics such as blackjack and roulette.

Beyond Meat — The meat substitute maker’s stock dipped about 1% in extended trading. Earlier on Tuesday, Starbucks launched a new breakfast sandwich made with plant-based sausage from Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat’s competitor. The Impossible Breakfast Sandwich is now available on most Starbucks menus in the U.S. 

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Apple making

Meet the man making sure Apple TV Plus’ show See respects accessibility – CNET

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See cast members Hera Hilmar and Mojean Aria discuss a scene with Joe Strechay (center).


Apple

About midway through the first season of the Apple TV Plus show See, several characters on a raft need to share a message without alerting others around them. Normally, people would pass a written note, gesture with their hands, shoot messages with their eyes, or soundlessly mouth instructions. But in the world of See, where all characters are blind, communicating without making a sound can be tricky. 

That’s where hand signals come in. One by one, the characters in the scene squeeze the arm of the person next to them before tracing a message on their neighbor’s hand. The message is passed from one person to the next until everyone on the raft knows what’s going on. Those hand signals are inspired by the real-life techniques used by Joe Strechay, the show’s associate producer and blindness consultant.

“My wife and I, when we’re out in the world, we kind of use these alarm systems,” said 41-year-old Strechay, who has been legally blind since the age of 19. “One squeeze means, ‘How are you doing?” Two squeezes is an alarm, ‘Let’s be aware.’ Three squeezes is alarmed, ‘Let’s get the hell outta here.”http://www.cnet.com/”

Strechay has a unique role in the entertainment business: making sure people with visual impairments are portrayed realistically — well, at least as realistically as they can be in a sci-fi show about a post-apocalyptic world where everyone is sightless. That even comes to fight scenes, with Strechay working with stunt coordinators on how someone who is blind would fight.

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“Getting to show blindness and see yourself in a different way is so powerful,” Strechay said in an interview with CNET. “That’s something our show did.”

Developed by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight, See was one of the first shows on Apple’s new TV service when it launched in November. The plot revolves around society 600 years in the future, after a virus wiped out most of humanity. All 2 million of the people left are blind — except two children who are born with sight in the first moments of the series.

When it comes to the on-screen portrayal of blind people over the years, the image has been far from flattering, experts say. 

“It’s been completely extremist,” showing people who have extraordinary abilities or people who need a lot of help navigating the world, said Lucy Greco, a web accessibility evangelist at the University of California at Berkeley. “There’s very little showing just normal blindness ideas and adaptation.”

See tries to avoid those stereotypes, but there’s nothing normal about the show’s plot. The fantasy show mixes elements common to blockbusters like Game of Thrones, including power struggles and persecution. The evil, mad Queen Kane sends an army of witch hunters to find the sighted children, while their adopted father warrior, Momoa’s Baba Voss, does all he can to protect them over the first season’s eight episodes. 

See is notable for more than being one of Apple TV Plus’ first shows. It’s also one of the first shows anywhere to include a large cast of people who are blind or low vision. See’s stars, Jason Momoa and four-time Emmy winner Alfre Woodard, aren’t blind, but many other members of the cast and crew are. They “helped bring this inclusive and authentic world to life,” Apple said

Gender and racial diversity have been a focal point for companies for several years — and have become even more urgent with the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of Minnesotan George Floyd. People with disabilities have also rallied for corporations and the public to respect their needs, and last week marked the ninth annual Global Accessibility Day, which highlights that effort. The novel coronavirus pandemic has brought new challenges for people with disabilities, who are trying to ensure their needs aren’t left behind as society adapts to a new normal. 

Globally, at least 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment or blindness, according to a World Health Organization report from last year. In the US, over 1 million people over the age of 40 are blind, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By 2050, that number could skyrocket to about 9 million because of the “increasing epidemics of diabetes and other chronic diseases and our rapidly aging US population,” the CDC said. 

Still, roles like Strechay’s are rare. And in the past, such consultants rarely were blind themselves. 

“I don’t know that there are other Joes out there,” said Eric Bridges, executive director of the American Council of the Blind. “He’s himself blind so there’s authenticity there.”

Strechay’s background

Strechay’s blindness was caused by a genetic disorder called retinitis pigmentosa. That prompted him to work as an orientation and mobility instructor in New Jersey after getting a master’s degree from Florida State University in 2006. He has taught people with low vision how to travel with a cane, prepare for college and join the workforce.

In 2009, Strechay worked for the American Foundation for the Blind’s CareerConnect web program, writing about employment, as well as popular culture and the portrayal of blind people in the media. Casting departments started reaching out for Strechay’s advice, leading to work on three episodes of a USA Networks show called Royal Pains. 

In 2013, Netflix called about a new top-secret project. It turned out to be Marvel’s Daredevil, a show about a blind lawyer who becomes a superhero crimefighter at night. 

“I reviewed the scripts and provided suggestions,” Strechay said. “I worked with the lead actor and trained him on blindness skills, not how to pretend blindness, but the little things that people who are blind know how to do.”

Strechay didn’t give up his day job, though. In late 2015, he moved to Pennsylvania to run the commonwealth’s services for blind and low vision people, while still helping with shows like Netflix’s OA. 

Eventually, Apple became one of those companies. When it called in March 2018 — a year before unveiling Apple TV Plus to the world — Strechay jumped at the chance to work on See.

Making tech accessible

Apple has made accessibility a focus for decades. It builds features into its technology to help people with low vision navigate the iPhone’s touchscreen and allow people with motor impairments to virtually tap on interface icons. Nearly four years ago, Apple kicked off one of its flashy product launches by talking about accessibility and showing off its new, dedicated site.

“Technology should be accessible to everyone,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the time. 

See takes that sentiment a step further, by hiring people who are blind and low vision and by making them front and center in Apple’s major new streaming service. The company doesn’t say what percentage of people working on See are low vision, but Strechay said there were dozens of actors on the show with disabilities, and about 30 background actors portrayed hundreds of different characters throughout the first season. The low-vision cast members even included two stunt performers.

“There are a lot of portrayals out there that don’t show people with disabilities or people who are blind or low vision as competent human beings,” Strechay said. 

He got involved with the production of See early on, working part-time reviewing scripts and suggesting changes to make the action and characters more authentic. In July 2018, he left his work with Pennsylvania and traveled to British Columbia to get started on the show two months before filming began.

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Joe Strechay works as a blindness consultant for companies like Apple and Netflix. 


Apple

In the beginning of shooting, Strechay gave input from a distance, only going to the set to give notes or answer questions. When it came time to shoot the the third episode, he had started blocking most scenes. By the time production rolled on the fourth episode, he was rarely far from the director, giving immediate feedback and blocking almost every scene.

“Everything you see actors do who are blind or low vision, I did,” Strechay said. “Climbing down a waterfall, I did that. Navigating rocks, I did that.”

Because Strechay couldn’t actually see the action himself, he relied on technology like his iPhone to read scripts and navigate around the set. He also worked with an assistant who could audibly describe the movement to him. 

Strechay trained sighted actors how to navigate See’s world as blind characters with techniques like echolocation, sending out sounds and using its reflection to discern shapes.

Josh Blacker, the actor who plays the Witchfinder Warrior on See, told CNET’s Patrick Holland that he and the rest of the cast had about six weeks of movement training and sightless training to prepare for their roles in the show

“I wanted to do justice to people who are blind or have low vision,” Blacker said in December. Strechay “taught me various techniques in which a person with blindness or low vision is able to navigate through the world, whether it be echolocation or the feeling of the sun on your face, or hearing the sound of a car in the distance and various things like that.” 

A vital role

Strechay played an important role in the production: making sure the set, script and entire process was accommodating for everyone. He reached out to actors before filming to learn their needs, like requiring the script to be printed in braille or using high-contrast or specific-color marks on set to show the actors where to stand. 

He also contacted organizations for the blind to get their input, and taught the sighted cast and crew members how to better work with their blind colleagues. 

“We had an orientation with every employee … whether they’re executive producer or a driver,” Strechay said. 

The American Council of the Blind’s Bridges spent time on set in British Columbia, including during the filming of that pivotal scene involving the raft. Bridges, who is blind, had to move between a barge, a small boat and dry land, something that could have been tricky to navigate.

“I literally had the actors coming up to me saying, ‘Do you need a hand?’ — not them grabbing me and guiding me,” Bridges said. “They actually knew what the hell they were doing. It was clear training and emphasis was placed on respect for colleagues who may be blind or visually impaired.”

Making See authentic came down to the little, everyday things that are common among people who are blind, Strechay said. “I kept a running list of small aspects around blindness that could be included like little things that would fit into our show, like hundreds of ideas,” he said.

He helped craft what the community’s rituals looked like and what props should like, down to the level of where the items were placed in the characters’ huts. 

Momoa “will sometimes pick these [props] based on how cool they look versus the practicality of tools useful for moving with,” Strechay said. When Momoa found things he wanted to use, he’d hand them to Strechay to test out. The two would negotiate over whether something actually made sense to use in the show.

At the same time, cultural and social norms, like making eye contact when talking to someone and respecting personal space, disappeared in the world of See.

On-screen (mis)portrayals

Despite trying to be inclusive and get the portrayal of blind people right, some advocates say See misses the mark. 

“If you take a deep look at the premise of See, the world had a vibrant civilization … then everybody lost their vision, and a world run by blind people is back to the Stone Age,” said Bryan Bashin, CEO of LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco. “To think that the world run by the blind would have sunken to a prehistory level is deeply offensive and wildly out of date.” 

Others in the blind community didn’t view the show the same way. 

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Joe Strechay (left), Jason Mamoa who plays Baba Voss, and director Anders Engstrom on set of the Apple TV Plus show See. 


Apple

“Man they did a good job of portraying a world of blind people,” Sam Seavey, a blind man who runs the YouTube channel The Blind Life, said in a December video. “It’s clear that they definitely did their research.” And RespectAbility, a nonprofit advocating for people with disabilities, said See “humanizes people who are blind.”

“What we see on screen influences how we act in real life,” Lauren Appelbaum, who leads RespectAbility’s Hollywood inclusion efforts, said in a post from December. “Apple TV+ has an opportunity to help remove the stigmas that currently exist around interacting with individuals who have disabilities.”

Strechay acknowledges that See didn’t nail it when it came to all of its portrayals of blind people. But he said the show continues to get better, and his role grew from the first episode to the last of the season, reflecting Apple’s commitment.

“If you go at things with a level of respect and education and [with the aim of] creating awareness, it can only lead to positive things,” he said. 

A second season of See was in the works when the novel coronavirus pandemic hit North America (much of the show has been filmed in Canada). Production is on pause, and it’s unclear when the new season will premiere. Apple and Strechay declined to talk about changes planned for season two, but Strechay hinted at even better representation of the blind community.

“We’ve only seen a small portion of the world in season one,” Strechay said. “Who’s to say what’s out there in the world?”

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