Clippers, Rivers can finally exhale

Before their first practice of training camp in San Diego, Rivers gathered his players together and handed each one a piece paper with the map of Downtown L.A. on it.

As they looked down at the map, Rivers told them to pick their championship parade route.

The Clippers have never won a championship before and therefore have never had a parade, so they could choose their own route.

Some coaches are afraid to talk about winning championships that early in the process. For Rivers, there's no point in even starting the process unless you're willing to talk about what it's for.

"I did that right away -- you have to," Rivers said. "I just think you have to have a destination. It just can't be a journey. I don't get that. Where are you going? If you're on a journey, you know where you're going. I have never felt like that made any sense, so every year our team has to have a destination."

After everything the Clippers had gone through over the past week, none of the players were ready to drive to the team's training facility on Sunday for exit interviews. This season might not end in a championship, but there was no way they could have the hardest week many of them had ever gone through in their lives culminate with a season-ending loss.

"Our team is very tight, and we have a team group text where it's just our entire team," Chris Paul said. "Last night, guys were texting that this can't be over. It's not time for this to be over. We just felt in the timeouts and at halftime, we just knew it wasn't time for our season to be over."

Some Clippers players had already begun smiling when Darren Collison walked to the free throw line with two seconds left and the Clippers up by three points, but when they saw Rivers let his emotions out, they began celebrating as if they had won a title. Even Rivers admits he probably celebrated Saturday's win on the sideline more than he did the NBA title he won with Boston in 2008.

"[Doc] of all people has probably been through the most," Griffin said. "He really had to deal with it the first couple of days when we as a team decided not to really speak on it. He was the guy that everybody was looking to, and he's the leader of our team. Emotionally, I can't imagine what he was going through. You could tell he really had a sense of relief once this was over."

Rivers let out a big sigh as he sat down at the postgame podium and let out another sigh as he left to walk back to his office to be with his family. While he's hoping this is just the beginning of the Clippers' playoff run, the end to the longest week of his professional career couldn't have come fast enough.

"I needed to exhale," Rivers said. "This was a hard week. Was it a week? I don't even know. It felt like two months. It's been hard. It was for me, too. I just needed to be able to smile and laugh and cheer and be proud of something, and I was very proud of my players."

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