Celtics  coach Doc Rivers  joined Dennis & Callahan to talk about how important his bench has been, the now-infamous Rajon Rondo  vs. Chris Paul  tiff, how getting more sleep has helped the Celtics, and his problems with Tim Donaghy.
Does it bother you when people start talking about winning 70 games?
No, it’s unrealistic, but it’s talk and people can talk about it, obviously. But it’s not what we’re focused on, I can tell you that.
On the Minnesota game:
You could see it early on, it was just one of those nights. Nothing was going for us. It didn’t look like we had legs, which happens during the year. Rasheed Wallace , Eddie [House ] and Ray [Allen ] were wide open on a lot of shots and some of them weren’t even close, so you knew it was one of those nights. Sometimes it’s a good thing when you can win with that, especially down the stretch, the last two or three defensive possessions we held them from scoring, it’s a good sign for your team.
Is it difficult to keep focus?
It’s not difficult at all because we have so many things to do defensively. We have things to do to get better offensively. We have yet to put in things. We’re not getting to the third and fourth options because we just don’t know them well enough yet, so we have a ton of work to do.
We looked at the schedule and we found only three losable games between now and the end of the year. Those are pretty high expectations.
That’s pretty good, my goodness. You’ve gone two months ahead of the schedule then I’ve gone.
What has pleased you more, the defense or your bench?
That’s a a tough one, I would say my bench, clearly. Every night they’ve played well. A couple of nights they’ve bailed us out. The Philly game was a blowout, but it was a tie game before they came in. Last night, we were down nine when we put the bench in and they got the game to a tie. I would say that. The other one is Paul Pierce . He didn’t have his best game last night, but other than that he’s been absolutely phenomenal.
If the Celtics bench were a starting team in the NBA, how many teams as starters could they beat?
That’s a tough question. I like our bench I can tell you that. Having said that our bench has really been four [players] with Paul with them for the most part. That’s the combination that’s really worked. A couple of times it’s been Ray with them, so we’ve left one of our starters on the floor with them. One of our good starters.
The Timberwolves  clearly had a strategy to let [Rajon] Rondo beat them, and he beat them. Do you expect other teams to do that?
Oh yeah. We’ll see it more then we saw it last year and we’ll see it a ton once the playoffs starts. That’s the next step for Rajon and he’ll be able to make that. The only thing I told him at halftime was I thought in the first half he was shooting but he wasn’t stepping up and shooting them. In the second half, especially in the third quarter, he got more aggressive. It’s going to affect him a little bit now because he hasn’t seen it in a while, but he’ll see more of it.
With good passing big men, do you welcome this strategy?
I wouldn’t mind it in the regular season so he can get used to it for the playoffs. We do have good passing bigs and we can put more shooters on the floor and that helps us. But Rondo at the end of the day has to make shots and he has to stay aggressive. He can’t let it affect him when teams are doing it that he’s not doing his job anymore, and I thought that happened in the first half. The second half he got better at it.
In regards to Rondo where is the line where confidence is helpful as opposed to hurtful for a point guard?
It affects your decisions. Not only your point guards, that’s with every player. When your confidence starts affecting your decision making then it’s probably too high. But Rondo is a confident player and he has to be, like you guys just said, to be good. I think right now he has it in the right place.
Did he cross the line with Chris Paul?
No, that wasn’t confidence. I don’t know what that was. Chris did an interesting thing. I think he thought that he got under Rondo’s skin during the game so he tried to continue it during the game. It was a learning less for Rajon. After the game he even said, ‘I can’t let talk affect my play.’ And it did in that game. That’s what players do. They think they can get you in any way, they’ll do it. Chris Paul did it.
Everyone is portraying Rondo as the antagonist, but it sounds like he was responding to what Chris Paul was doing.
Which is fine. I told him, it’s a competition, and it’s great to play in great competition, but once the game is over then the competition is over and you let it go. I thought during the game it was more Paul. That’s part of competition. But once the game is over, you let it go. You shake the guys hand and say we’ll get you again.
Is he a work in progress for you?
Yeah, but he’s a great canvas. If you’re going to work with someone Rondo would be a guy you want to work with. The thing with Rondo and I’ve said it several times, we’re not going to coach you to who you are today, we’re going to coach you to where we think you should be someday. You have to be able to receive that and Rondo’s done that.
A couple of smaller items to touch base on. Ray Allen sometimes loses track of where his feet are in relation to the 3-point line. Should he be more aware of his footwork?
There was one, it was amazing, I watched it twice and I still thought it was a 3, maybe I’m a little biased. You should [be aware], but it’s tough on movement. There were a couple of shots where it happened on movement plays. You have a split second to get that shot off and if you have to stop to get it off before the defense recovers. Sometimes you have no choice.
Rasheed solves the problem by being five feet behind the line.
The thing with Rasheed is that he’s a spot-up shooter and Ray takes a lot of shots on the move. Rasheed does. He takes all doubt of the equation.
On Rasheed getting technicals and how it allows the other team to shoot a free throw:
People have explained that to him, as well as the financial gain for the league.
In a 21-point blowout it’s no big deal. In a two-point game last night it could have been devastating.
Yeah it could be, but it’s not going to change, I can tell you that. I think he’s better with us then he has been with other teams at this point. Rasheed’s the type of guy, he has a history. So he’s not going to get as much rope as other guys. He understands that, but right now you can tell, he just can’t help himself at times.
Do you ref the scrimmages?
Yeah. They don’t get as mad at me as they do at the officials. It’s pretty interesting. I’m the worst official of all time. I never call fouls. They always turn around and look at me and I tell them, ‘I’m terrible.’ What can you say when a guy tells you that.
Well, I am not so sure about that (laughs).
Have you looked at the film? You got a break on that one.
It was a tough one. I really believe they thought he lost the ball on the way up, and once that ball is loose they’re not going to call a foul on that.
What was your relationship with [Tim] Donaghy when he was officiating? Did you have a problem with him? Did you wonder about him?
I didn’t wonder about him with the way that things turned out. But you remember, I had a huge problem with him to the point that they had to schedule a meeting with him and I before a game once because it had gotten so bad. You have to remember that he threw me out of a game four minutes into the game. It made me feel better later when all this stuff came out. He must have thought I had an impact on the game after all.
How do you get past that?
At least that day it was a Sunday afternoon. It was the Sunday of the Masters, so it wasn’t all bad.
On changing the practice time to the afternoon to get more sleep:
Our practices have been better then they have in years because our guys are fresh, they’re alert. So they absolutely have helped, but I think they’ll help more later in the year. This stretch here that we’re going through is as tough of a stretch that we’re going to go through. Eight games in 12 days to start the season, it’s brutal. It’s a brutal stretch and so far so good.
What is there beyond: Get your rest?
It’s really interesting. Nate McMillan of the Portland Trail Blazers did it last year and had great success with it. You create a ‘Celtics Time.’ We went to each player this summer and asked them what time do they fall asleep after games? The interesting thing that we found out is, it doesn’t matter. Once the season starts you tend to go to be around the same time. the average time was between 3 and 4 in the morning. Whether they went out and partied, or whether they went straight home, it was the same time. So we tried to create between 3 and 11 is a no Celtic gym time. That allows us a chance of getting eight hours a night.
On the Kinesio athletic tape:
I have no idea what that is. [Trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] loves it and the players love it. The first practice I was like, ‘What is all this tape on guys?’ he explained it and halfway through it I lost interest in what he was saying. But he said it was good, so I’m good with it.
Is it an acupuncture thing?
It is an acupuncture thing, it is. The way they tape it, it forces the muscles in a certain direction that eliminates pain.
Just think about how good you would have been if you had a sleep coach and this athletic tape back in your day.
Oh my goodness. Just a trainer in general, would have been nice. We didn’t have a weight room until my ninth year in the league. We weren’t even lifting weights. It’s amazing when you see what these players do now compared to what we did. We ate hot dogs and went out and played a basketball game.
Kevin Willis didn’t lift weights?
Well Kevin did, yeah. But it wasn’t in our weight room. We don’t know where he was lifting weights.
Well, no, we didn’t think he would play this much, this early. But we did expect a lot out of him. He needed a chance to play. He needed a positive environment, and we think we’ve given him that. I’ve been very happy with Shelden.