|11.18.09 at 1:49 pm ET|
Doc Rivers has known Don Nelson a long time. When he arrived on the scene in the NBA, Rivers was a point guard on the Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta would have knock down, drag out bouts with Nellie’s Milwaukee Bucks when the Bucks were winning Central Division titles year after year.
This year though, the Warriors are tops in the league in scoring through 10 games, at 111.6 points. Note to Celtics, the Suns and Hawks are second and third and both beat Boston at the Garden.
The flip side of that is they’re allowing 113.7 points a contest, the highest in the league.
“He didn’t start out that way,” Rivers said. “Don’s been coaching a long time. He’s basically taken what he has and uses it and turns it into that.
“In Milwaukee, they might have been the slowest basketball team on Earth to play. They walked the ball up the floor, played slow and used the clock and you were in an 80-point game with them.”
Nelson broke into coaching at the age of 36 in 1976 with the Milwaukee Bucks. He is now 69 and has more wins (1312) than any active coach and is a three-time NBA Coach of the Year.
“I think his record speaks for itself. He’s been around for a long time,” Rivers said.
But Celtics fans remember a different Don Nelson, one who was on five NBA championship teams in the 1960s and 70s. And a Don Nelson who was played under Red Auerbach, Bill Russell and Tommy Heinsohn, who liked the up-tempo game. Well, with the Golden State Warriors, Nelson has gone back to the future, with teams built on perimeter shooting and the fast break.
“Then he goes to Golden State and gets [Tim] Hardaway, [Chris] Mullin and [Mitch] Richmond and I’m like, ‘Wow, it’s a whole different team,’” Rivers observed. “But I think that’s what all coaches do, all good ones do. You take what you have and kind of work with that. He has a small team that’s athletic, that are all scorers and that’s what he’s doing.”
The up-tempo style works great when you’re winning but when you’re not, players become disgruntled – like Stephen Jackson, just traded to Charlotte.
“It just takes away another scorer but Raja Bell is pretty good, too,” Rivers said. “Stephen was more of their go-to guy at times. He was a small but he was actually one of their key post guys. They’ve added even more shooting to their team with Radmonovic and Bell. They’re very difficult. They had Jackson and Maggette at the four and five the other night in the game, with three point guards.
And despite denying rumors that he wants out, Monta Ellis is reportedly not happy in Camp Nelson, where the team comes into tonight’s game 3-7.
“You don’t see those lineups very often,” Rivers said. “That’s going to be a challenge to us. There’s going to have to be a time where we’re going either to have to stay big and challenge that or match-up and do something we’re not accustomed to doing.”