The proposed agreement that would send Celtics forward Kevin Garnett and coach Doc Rivers to the Clippers in exchange for DeAndre Jordan and two first round picks appeared to be imminent, as reports from Yahoo! Sports Thursday morning indicated the teams were simply waiting on approval from Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
But getting Sterling's approval is the least of the teams' worries now as league office has raised serious concerns that the deal could violate league rules, namely that a coach cannot be traded and that a deal cannot involve any additional or side agreements.
In a radio interview Thursday afternoon, NBA Commissioner David Stern rejected the notion that that the deal could be broken up into two separate transactions.
"If you think those would now -- at this point, having been all over the media for week for the last week or so -- are separate transactions...I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I would very much enjoy selling to you," Stern said. "What the rules won’t allow, it can’t be gotten around by breaking it up into two transactions."
The Boston Globe's Baxter Holmes suggested "it would take some tweaking from each team, in some form or fashion", to get the league office to ultimately approve the deal, but it's unclear at the moment what those tweaks could be.
Rivers, who has expressed interest in the Clippers vacant coaching position, has three years remaining on his contract with the Celtics and would need the team's permission to negotiate with another franchise. The Celtics have said they would prefer Rivers to remain in Boston and would require compensation from any team before granting permission to him.
On Tuesday the Clippers told Boston the asking price of two first round draft picks was too steep and withdrew from negotiations, but a push from free-agent-to-be Chris Paul has apparently caused a change of heart among Clippers management.
According to the Yahoo! report, the Clippers have not received a firm commitment from Paul to re-sign based on the completion of the deal, but Paul communicated to the Clippers that the hiring of Rivers and acquisition of Garnett “would be essential to his re-signing as a free agent in July”, sources told Yahoo! Sports.
For his part, Rivers is pursuing the job with the assumption that the All-Star point guard has decided to stay and play for him.
"Doc is taking the job to coach Chris Paul, a league source told Yahoo! Sports. "This isn't happening if Chris planned to leave."