|04.08.09 at 11:35 pm ET|
In his long NBA career, Mikki Moore has seen his share of coaches come and go. He has seen the NBA world from all angles — as a starter on a playoff team, as a reserve, as a deep reserve and unfortunately as a forgotten man on a team going nowhere. Moore possesses the kind of perspective on life in the League that has to be lived in order to appreciate the situation he finds himself in now and the coach he is playing for, Doc Rivers.
“Doc is a player’s coach,” Moore said. “He knows how to relate. Some coaches are just good X’s and O’s, but he’s good on both sides. He knows how to sit down and talk to you and let you know exactly what he thinks. And take your opinions. There’s nothing hidden. He’s not playing with your mind. I’ve been through all of that. It’s straight cut and dry. He lets you know how he feels. (He) respects your opinion, but this is what I need done. That’s what I like.”
It sounds so easy, so refreshingly straight-forward, but it’s a big part of the reason why the Celtics have such respect for their head coach, and conversely, a big reason why so many other coaches fail. You can draw up the best out of bounds play known to man and Hubie Brown, and Rivers is very good at that particular aspect of his job, but if you can’t get your players to buy into what you’re selling you’ll find yourself watching games with a headset and a mic instead of a dry-erase board.
As NBA awards season begins to dawn, Rivers has received scant attention for the job he’s done this year. He is on the verge of another 60-win season, which was expected, but it’s the unexpected–the myriad of injuries that have plagued the Celtics since the All-Star break, and the job he’s done piecing together lineups, that has not received enough attention.
“Doc’s been our leader,” Leon Powe said. “He puts his team out there, whatever we’ve got. If somebody’s hurt we don’t make any excuses. If somebody’s hurt, somebody else has to step up. As a player, you respect that.”
If Rivers’ name hasn’t been bandied about for Coach of the Year, it doesn’t affect him. He’s won it before in Orlando and all that got him was a pink slip a few years later. Just like it got Sam Mitchell in Toronto and Avery Johnson in Dallas and on and on.
“Stuff like that doesn’t even bother him,” Moore said. “Both as a coach and a person. Some guys, they hit adversity they start acting differently. He’s just the same cool cat.”
On Wednesday night against New Jersey, Rivers left his second unit on the floor deep into the fourth quarter. They had been playing with energy and were responsible for the lead, so he left them in the game. (Click here for a recap). There were two methods at play with this decision. One, it was a good chance to see how the bench would do in that situation, and two, they were just playing well.
But then Rivers brought the starters back in to finish the game and someone asked if it was a message, which it was, to a point. But the important thing was it wasn’t a hidden message.
“I thought they hadn’t played well enough to sit,” Rivers said. “So that’s really why I played them, because I just didn’t think they had played well enough to sit. I thought they needed to play.”
To say NBA players appreciate such candor is a little like saying LeBron James gets some calls. It’s part of the reason why Rivers relates so well to a team full of veterans and young players with their heads in the right place. Take Powe, a thoughtful young man who hasn’t had to endure Moore’s vagabond life to appreciate life in an NBA locker room devoid of the usual craziness.
“It makes it easier for us,” Powe said. “It makes it easier to focus on basketball. That starts with the head man and his character. It trickles down to the veterans and then down to the young guys. KG, Ray and Paul showed us and now we’re showing the young guys how to act on and off the court.”
Or take Kendrick Perkins who has developed under Rivers and his staff into a very good NBA big man. “He’s great,” Perkins said. “Not only does he help the team, he’s helped me a lot. He’s not only a good teacher on the court, but off the court too. He’s got a really good mind for basketball, he puts his time in. The thing about Doc that most coaches don’t do is, he’s open. It’s not always his way. He’s open to suggestions. You don’t find that too often.”
Rivers was asked before the game if the injuries have been a challenge for him this year. “I don’t know,” he said. “I guess it’s a challenge. For me you grab the numbers you have and you make do with what you have. It’s become more difficult because you would like to get your rotation in your mind set for the playoffs.”
The injuries and the lack of practice time have forced Rivers and his staff to adjust on the fly, often during games. He hit on having Stephon Marbury and Eddie House handle the backup guard minutes, but he’s still working through how best to use Tony Allen and how his big man combinations will play out once Garnett comes back.
Those are tough decisions and bound to leave somebody feeling left out, but don’t count on anyone complaining to the press about it because 1) that’s not the way things are done with this team and 2) everyone in the locker room will know why the coach is doing what he’s doing and they will respect it.
“We’re a pretty open team,” Perkins said. “When we have a problem we deal with it. We don’t have to go to the media. That’s one thing Doc stresses.”
Rivers may not be Coach of the Year, in fact he probably won’t, but he’s done as good a job as can be expected under the circumstances and more importantly, he has his players’ trust and respect.
|04.08.09 at 9:55 pm ET|
It’s over at the Garden with the Celtics holding on to a 106-104 victory over the Nets. Things got a little tighter than they might have wanted as New Jersey got a pair of 3-point looks in the final seconds that could have won the game, but both Vince Carter and Devin Harris’ shots were off the mark.
Rajon Rondo led the way with 31 points, nine rebounds and five assists. With the win the C’s stayed a game ahead of Orlando in the race for second place (The Magic held off Memphis) and kept Cleveland from clinching the top overall seed for at least one more day. One Cavalier win, or Celtics loss, will give Cleveland the No. 1 seed.
|04.08.09 at 9:20 pm ET|
With about two minutes left in the third quarter, Tony Allen announced his return to the Celtics (officially) with your standard-variety alley-oop reverse jam. Allen took the pass from Ray Allen on the break and brought the Garden crowd to its feet with one of the best Celtic dunks of the season. (Personally, I’d still take Bill Walker’s tomahawk over Darrell Arthur).
Tony Allen has put together a nice night so far with four points and three rebounds in 12 minutes of action. It’s the most time he’s seen since his return to the lineup.
|04.08.09 at 8:09 pm ET|
If point guard play is your thing it doesn’t get much better in the East than Rajon Rondo and Devin Harris. In the first quarter of Wednesday’s game, both players put on a show. Showing no ill effects from his most recent bout with a sprained ankle, Rondo scored 10 points to go with two rebounds and two assists. Harris, meanwhile, was just as effective with seven points and four assists.
|04.08.09 at 7:47 pm ET|
Pay not attention to the presence of Brian Scalabrine in uniform and on the Celtics bench tonight. There is no way he will play tonight. “He can not play,” Doc Rivers said. “If everybody fouled out he still wouldn’t play. We’d just take the techs.”
But the news is slightly more optimistic on the other injured Celtics. Kevin Garnett and Leon Powe will travel with the team to Cleveland, although neither will play against the Cavs, and Rivers hopes both can practice on Monday and then possibly play Tuesday at Philly. The key word there is possibly.
Powe reported that he was able to run at full speed and cut and do agility drills, which had him in high spirits in the Celtics locker room Wednesday night. “So far it’s been good,” Powe said. “We just want to make sure it’s right for the playoffs.”
Garnett was also in the locker room although he didn’t talk to the press (as per usual). Rivers was asked if he would be comfortable playing Garnett without practice time if it comes to that. “That would bother me,” Rivers said. “It wouldn’t bother me enough to sit him.”
Rivers was also asked if he would rest Paul Pierce and Ray Allen next week if the seeding with Orlando was still an issue. The Celtics entered play Wednesday night with one-game lead on the Magic and control of the tiebreaker if they finish tied. “Absolutely not,” Rivers said. “If you can get homecourt, you’ve got to go get it.”
|04.08.09 at 1:02 pm ET|
In promotion of TNT’s ‘40 Games in 40 Nights,’ Turner Sports is rolling out a multiplatform marketing campaign via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Just as Paul Pierce and Stephon Marbury have already done, TNT and NBA TV personalities including Craig Sager, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Chris Webber, Steve Smith, Eric Snow, Gary Payton, and Rick Kamla will regularly update Twitter pages starting on April 14.
Beginning on April 19, sponsored ads will run on Facebook inviting users to ‘Become a Fan’ of the TNT Facebook page. That same day TNT will also run ads on Yahoo! Sports to promote their playoff coverage. On April 20, YouTube will run videos from NBA players promoting that night’s games.
|04.08.09 at 12:03 am ET|
Season Series: Celtics 3-0
Last time they met: March 4, 2009
Playing without Kevin Garnett, the Celtics gave up a 13-point fourth quarter lead and found themselves down by three with just over a minutes to go. But Ray Allen kicked the Cs into high gear, scoring five points during a 7-0 run. Ultimately it was Paul Pierce’s jumper with 20 seconds left that iced the Celtics 115-111 victory. Pierce (12-14 FG) led the Celtics with 31 points. Vince Carter led all scorers with 34 points (13-21 FG).
Celtics Team Leaders
Scoring: Paul Pierce (20.5 points)
Rebounding: Kevin Garnett* (8.5 points)
Assists: Rajon Rondo (8.4 assists)
Hawks Team Leaders
Scoring: Devin Harris (21.8 points)
Rebounding: Brook Lopez (7.9 rebounds)
Assists: Devin Harris (7.0 assists)
Follow the latest news and updates from the Garden on Green Street.
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