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Rivers on D&C: ‘I’ll take us against anybody’

02.04.10 at 10:38 am ET

Doc Rivers joined the guys on Dennis & Callahan to talk about Rajon Rondo’s comments, whether he’ll ask Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to sit out the All-Star Game and which team he likes in the Super Bowl.

Compared to Christmas Day when you beat Orlando and now when you’re struggling, give us an overview of where you are?

We didn’t play well in January. We had some pretty special circumstances, and so I don’t take my eye off of that. You lose Paul Pierce going out west and you lose Kevin Garnett out west, it’s tough to win. So I keep that in perspective. I also understand that we’ve lost two games not playing great basketball to two of the best teams in the league by one final shot. So, the way I look at it, I like our team a lot. And, if we can get healthy, which I think we will at some point, I’ll take us against anybody.

Can you project or assume that this team will get healthy?

It is. It’s not like our injuries, minus Kevin … our injuries could happen to anybody playing basketball. [Nineteen-year-old] Brandon Jennings, if someone falls on his ankle the way someone fell on Paul Pierce’s ankle, he’s going to be injured. That’s just part of the game. That has nothing to do with Paul Pierce’s age. That has to do with Paul Pierce getting in the wrong spot at the wrong time. You know, it happens. But I do think we will get healthy and I think we’ll be OK.

What do you make of Rajon Rondo’s assertion that there are too many agendas creeping in?

I think Rondo was repeating, and I said it [Wednesday], basically what I told the team about three weeks ago. It was almost exactly my speech to the team. The agendas that we were talking about was more focus agendas. We are heading into the All-Star break, guys are focused on making the All-Star team. Guys are focused on going on the break, it’s just too much stuff. Not enough thought about basketball.

Did it hurt you on the floor?

I think it bothers every team. I was making a statement that this is the dog days. It happens to every team. You look at all the team during that stretch, you struggle a little bit. When we were going through that, with the injuries that were happening at the same time, my point was we need better focus to get through this.
Can a player like Ray Allen actually lose focus because of trade rumors?

I think it can affect anybody. Let me answer it both ways. I hope not, but I think he’s human. If you hear enough at some point, no matter how many times I’ve told him, ‘We’re not out shopping you,’ it’s tough to hear it every day. I think it does have some impact. I don’t know if it’s affected his game, to be honest. I just think Ray went through a tough little stretch.

Is there a mindset that you want to take one more shot with this team as currently constituted?

Yeah, it is. That doesn’t mean if someone call us and there’s a great deal out there that we’re not going to listen. Having said that, we do like this team. After the Orlando game everybody thought this was the team, then all of a sudden we got old in three weeks. I really do like this team. I like it a lot. Are we inconsistent at times? Yeah we are. Do I think we’ll be able to solve that? I have no doubt about that. If we can improve our team, or add to our team, we will. I think there’s a chance that we’ll do that. I don’t know if it will be with a trade or later in the year when some of the veteran players are buying out of their deals and want to go to a different team. I do think there’s a chance that we can add to our basketball team.

Did you emphasize Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace posting up more against the Heat?

It was a problem, but I also thought it was the speed of play. The one game I was disappointed in was the Orlando game, where I thought we had that game and we kind of lost our focus during the game. I said it at halftime, we were up 11 and our guys were happy and I was furious. I thought we should have been up 20-25 points. Then the Laker game I thought we stopped playing. We played like a team that’s not used to winning and we tried to hold on to the lead. We started walking the ball up the floor. We were working the clock and I think that contributed to why there was a lot of tough shots and not enough post play.

The last two games, we got the ball back up the court quicker. We got into our sets and back to continuity. That’s how we have to play and not for three quarters. We have to play that well for four quarters and especially in the fourth quarter.

From an X’s and O’s standpoint, why is Rondo not on the floor with seven seconds left against the Lakers?

You want shooting. You want all shooters on the floor. I knew I was going to Paul Pierce. If you’re not going to go to Rondo, and put the ball in Rondo’s hands to make the play if it’s a final shot, then you want your five best shooters on the floor. It’s not the only time we’ve done that and it’s why you do it.

If you only need two points, he can’t help with penetration?

Not if Rondo doesn’t have the ball in his hands. If it’s a low clock situation and Rondo does not have the ball in his hands, then Rondo’s guy will be the help guy. If you take that situation off the floor, then you have a great chance of having a one-on-one situation with Paul Pierce. Or what happens is they do double and the ball got swung to Ray Allen who was open. That’s natural basketball.

The way the Lakers played him, backing off him, and the way the Wizards hacked him: Do you worry about those two things catching on?

Everyone in the league is starting to do what the Lakers did. We’re seeing that a lot. Rondo’s handling it pretty well. I thought he handled it very well in that game. In the second quarter there was a stretch where Rondo basically got us back in the game and dominated the game. I was talking about that a couple of weeks ago. He’s grown in that area and I think he’s handling that. The second thing, I expected that to happen earlier. I’m surprised that it finally just happened and I think it will happen some more. I can’t be concerned about it. I think Rondo will handle that OK.

When Rashard Lewis and Ron Artest are able to get around Garnett, is that fatigue or is that the injury?

The Artest play, he was trying to deny the pass in the paint, so Kevin was just in the wrong spot. Then the Rashard Lewis play, he just took him off the dribble. Rashard Lewis is not a slow guy, but somebody else should have stepped up. That doesn’t concern me much at all. With Kevin, each game he’s going to get better. He needs more minutes and he’ll get those minutes and he’ll keep improving.

What happens when you tell Rasheed get down on the low block and he doesn’t do it?

A lot of times it is Rasheed. A lot of times it’s the play calling and the situation. In transition we call the first pick to the post, we don’t go to the right set, Rasheed rolls out and takes the shot. Rasheed is going to continue to take 3’s, and I don’t mind it as long as they’re open. I don’t ever want him to think about not taking a wide-open 3. Not just Rasheed, the whole second unit, especially right now with Paul out, it will be Ray, Eddie House, Rasheed Wallace, that’s a lot of shooting. But I don’t want them to fall in love with being jump shooters. I think Rasheed understands that.

Is this the Tony Allen we’ve been waiting for?

It is, but it’s also the Tony Allen that’s playing for a long period of time and get some rhythm, get some timing back. Defensively he’s been absolutely terrific.

With him starting you don’t get that energy for the second unit?

Hopefully it won’t be long until Paul gets back. We’re hoping Sunday that Paul will be back so we just have to get through it for a couple of games.

This is probably a better question for the GM, but we’ll ask you: Wouldn’t Ray Allen be more valuable to a team that’s trying get under the cap?

I think he would be. It depends on the team. Most of these teams are set up, but there’s a couple of teams that can get under the cap, but it’s unrealistic for those teams to get under the cap because they’re not going to get LeBron James. Teams that think they can get the LeBron James’ of the world, they’re pretty much are under it.

The only thing is that nobody knows what the [salary cap] number will be, so those teams will be aggressive. The thing that’s happening right now is everybody’s trying to give away their [expiring contracts] to those same teams and those same teams are trying to get a bargain. Eventually the trade stuff will end up, I don’t think with us, but around the league everybody’s trying to take advantage of everybody.

You know the term “sneaky fast.” Is that what makes Dwyane Wade so effective offensively?

I don’t know if that’s sneaky. It was pretty obvious last night. What sets him apart is his ball-handling ability. He’s a great ball handler. he changes direction as quickly as anybody I’ve ever seen. That’s what gives him his edge. Obviously he’s got great quickness but he also has great change of direction. Barry Sanders would be like Dwyane Wade if you put it in football terms. Jim Brown would be LeBron James.

Did you recruit him to Marquette?

No, I did not. I remember his freshman year, I was sitting with [former coach] Tom Crean. At the time the coaching staff thought that he would not make it and that he was too soft. Obviously that’s all changed.

What we’re you talking to Rondo about late in the [Miami] game?

We were talking about the play we were about to run. Rondo if has one problem, and he does it some times, if there’s four options on a play he’ll predetermine. I’ll always remind him let your instincts take over. Do not predetermine where the ball is going. And then I told him the next four things that we could run. His call, in transition, I’ll say here are the four things that I’m looking for. You call them. You don’t need to look at me.

Will you encourage Paul and/or Kevin to skip the All-Star game?

No, I won’t. Kevin if he plays, he won’t play a lot so I’m not worried about him. Actually I like them playing a little bit. Paul, it will depend on where we’re at with his health. I’ll give you an example. If Paul for whatever reason doesn’t play Sunday and Wednesday and is ready to play in the game against Sacramento [after the break] I would encourage him to go out and play in the All-Star game just to get a run. I think it would be good for him. Other than that, if it’s pain or of he needs a rest, then I would encourage Paul [to sit out.]

Pierce has to be one of the tougher guys in sports. We’ve seen him go down and think he’s out for a month and he’s back two days later.

Oh he is. He may be the toughest guy that I’ve coached or played with, as far as injury-wise. It’s amazing how he’s able to channel it out. Even at halftime of the Washington game. I know him well enough now. I said, ‘How are you?’ And he says, ‘Well, I’m just going to get through the game.’ To me that was a warning sign. That’s something he never says. That told me that he was in pain. That’s why I watched him and took him out and didn’t play him again. He’s a tough guy.

Who was the softest guy?

No names! There were a few there’s no doubt about it. You look at Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant, those two guys right now I’m amazed that both of them not only their ability to play with pain, but they’re ability to perform well with pain. It’s amazing.

Do you miss Leon Powe?

I’d love to have him I could tell you. We miss him now because of injury. That’s why you have Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis. Those guys and the combination of [Brian Scalabrine] and Shelden Williams, I think they’ll be fine. I just miss Leon Powe, period. That’s one great guy to have on your basketball team.

Who do you like Sunday?

I’m going with the Saints just because everybody is picking the Colts. So I’m going with the Saints. I have no knowledge on why I’m making that pick, but that’s who I’m going with.

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