Celtics  coach Doc Rivers  joined guest hosts Butch Stearns and Steve DeOssie on the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to shed some light on what happened in Wednesday night’s game between Paul Pierce  and Charlotte’s Stephen Jackson . The guys also talked about some of the great trash-talkers in the NBA, including Boston’s own Larry Bird , as well as how the coach keeps his team focused and healthy during the monotony of an 82-game season.
What happened last night with Pierce and Stephen Jackson?
I don’t know what was going on, it was strange actually. All I can think of, I guess there was some talking on the free-throw line, and you know I thought more of it was frustration on Stephen’s part ‘ he was struggling, he was having a tough night and it was really Ray more than Paul, I thought Ray did a terrific job on him, and got a little frustrated. After that, who knows, it was a strange one, it wasn’t like they were entangled under the basket, it was odd.
Was it about average for what you see in the NBA every day?
It was just average ‘ you hear talking all the time. In this day and time, talking escalates more than it used to, and it did in this case. But I don’t think it was that big of a deal, I don’t even think I got up off my seat, I just let them go, what the heck.
There were legendary trash-talkers when you played ‘ what were you like on the court talking?
If you talked trash to me, I just tried to get you back during the game with the play. If you could get to a guy with your mouth during the game, you would do it. You would do whatever it took to win when you were out on the floor. Times have changed in that way, it just seems like players are far more sensitive then they used to be. And I think because of the three referees, just think I played three or four years with just two officials, and it was accepted ‘ it was like baseball with the inside pitch and the brush-off pitch, and you just accept it. Being physical, getting hit if you drove to the basket, and it no longer is accepted, guys lose their cool over it.
Anything that you remember specifically?
Not much that you can say on the air, but I can tell you one of the best trash-talkers played in Boston and his name was Larry Bird and he was terrific. And he said things that hurt ‘ not personal family stuff, but about your game and about his game. And it bothered you sometimes, but not to the fact that you wanted to fight, what you wanted to do was get him back on the floor with your game.
Don’t you have to back it up, too?
Exactly right. The great players were the great trash-talkers because they could. Now everyone does it. The game [Bird] had 61, I was in the game unfortunately, in New Orleans, and he started calling shots. The last 3 that Bird made, bringing the ball down the floor, he leaned and said, 3-pointer, falling into the trainer’s lap, and that’s what he did. So either we were awful defensively or Larry Bird was really good.
All talking aside, you had to be pleased with the Celtics’ effort last night.
Yeah, I really was, you know the last two games I was pleased with a lot of things we were doing. Last night, defensively, I thought we were terrific, we didn’t start the game off great defensively, but at the end of the game, we were great. Our bench in the last two games has been terrific, and it was good to see Paul Pierce assert himself again, being injured, not having great rhythm two games ago, you can see last night he got back last night. Paul has to be our go-to guy for us to be a great team, and he has to be healthy to do that. And it’s good to see him healthy again.
Nate Robinson  had a good game last night, and he seems to have a nice role here now.
Obviously we need him, as more of an x-factor. Nate’s not going to be great every night, but he’s going to have a lot of good nights for us, because he’s an offensive player. He’s a terrific shooter, he can handle the ball, which takes some pressure off the second unit, and when he plays like that, it makes us really good. You know I said yesterday, I don’t know if we need Nate to be great to win games, but when he plays well, it’s very difficult for us to lose games.
Are you trying to find a combination that works for sitting starters and playing bench players?
Yeah, I like the combination that we’ve had, you know Rasheed and Baby, if one of those two are struggling, you can go with Sheldon which is great. Marquis and Tony with Nate, and if one of those two are struggling, you can go with Scal. So this is only our second game this year, if you can believe that, where we’ve had our entire team intact. So our rotation and our minutes are pretty easy, it’s just good to have everybody on the floor.
Shelden seems to now be a bit of a wild-card as far as playing time, how can we see him getting into the rotations?
It’s like the back-up quarterback in the NFL ‘ everybody wants to see the other guy. When you’re winning, they don’t care who’s playing, everybody’s good. But if you lose a couple games, why don’t you do this and why don’t you play this – who are you going to play him in front of? Rasheed Wallace  is our backup center, so you’re not going to put him there. And Baby has not played bad at all, Baby has played pretty well, so that’s why it’s tough. And you also have Scalabrine. The thing we know about Shelden is he’s ready when he’s called upon, and so is Scalabrine. And on the depth chart right now Glen Davis  and Rasheed Wallace are in front of Sheldon, but Shelden stays ready and that’s what you need.
You mention this was only the second game with your whole roster available, how important is that heading toward the playoffs, keeping everyone healthy?
It’s funny, our minutes have been good all year, so I’m not concerned by that. The bottom line is you play them and knock on wood, you just hope they stay healthy, because you have to play them. I tell you what we need the most, is in practice. Even in games, the two they’ve been there, we still haven’t had a lot of practice time with them on the floor, and we need good practices, we need good practices the rest of the year to get good rhythm. I like where were at, I like our team, I’ve said that all year, we just need to get them all healthy together.
You have a good connection with your players because you were a player. Do you think it gets harder to get to them over time?
It’s always a concern as a coach, but you have to keep your message going, you have to keep changing it. And I’ve got a group of guys that are pretty coachable. This year has been very difficult, I knew that coming into the year, when you think about two years ago you won it, last year you go two seven games series, we’ve had a lot of injuries. There’s a lot of reasons our record is what it is. But I don’t think guys tune you out is one of them. I look at our record, I’m amazed, and you guys have lived here, you understand that, we have the best record in the league on the road. We’ve struggled at home, and if I have one disappointment, it’s that. If we play decent at home, we probably have the best record in the NBA this year. If we just play normal at home, we do. I like this team, I like what we’ve done. Would I like us to have three or four more wins, yeah, there’s no doubt about that. But I like this team, I just think this team has something in them.
Is it tough to keep veterans focused during the season ‘ not bored ‘ so they don’t look to the playoffs?
Oh yea, it happens to all of them. It’s different in football because there’s only a certain amount of games, where we have the 82 games. But it’s something as a coach you have to keep pushing through. You have to keep pushing their energy through. You use different combinations during the regular season to get the win during that single game. Players are smart ‘ they understand that they want to be healthy, they want to be at their best when the playoffs start, so you have to watch their minutes, you have to do everything to keep it going.
And there’s no worry about being able to flip that switch before the playoffs?
Oh, always it is, as a coach. As a player that may be different, but as a coach you’re always concerned by that. But I don’t really think our team has done that, I just think our team haven’t played well. For a lot of reasons we haven’t, but I don’t think it’s the switch. I think some of the veterans maybe, but I think you look at Kevin Garnett  who’s been injured and working his way back to health, I think that’s been an issue. I know Paul Pierces is the same way. So I don’t think it is as much as people think it is.
Have you ever been around a team that plays better on the road than at home like this team?
No, I haven’t. A lot of coaches would take that problem, and I’m in that belief, because you know at some point you’re going to get your rhythm at home, and you believe that. If you can maintain and be a great playoff team going into the playoffs, and turn it around at home, things are looking pretty good for your basketball team. But no, I’ve never been on a team that has played so much better on the road than at home.
A lot of games coming up, taking on Philly, Washington, Milwaukee ‘ but it’s become a lot more about what your teams doing than who you’re playing.
That’s all it is. Before the year, and unfortunately it’s been proven right, I gave our guys a schedule, and the 82 games, the opponent every night was us. And right now, that’s more true than ever.