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Doc on D&C: Celtics almost there

03.18.10 at 1:12 pm ET

The playoffs are fast approaching, and with two straight wins under their belt, the Celtics are looking to get rolling.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers joined Dennis & Callahan to talk about the team’s preparation for a playoff run. He discussed getting Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett back to full strength, as well as the importance of the bench play.

But Rivers was careful to note that a big thing about getting Pierce and Garnett healthy is that it allows Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins to play their own games, saying, ‘€œWhen everybody was hurt, we needed Rondo to have the ball in his hands and keep it in his hands, to score. Now when everybody’€™s back, we need him to push the ball, and then leave the ball, and get everybody involved. And that’€™s what he’€™s doing.’€

Rivers also touched on the importance of getting players such as Michael Finely  and Nate Robinson ready for the playoffs as well, and putting Marquis Daniels in a better position to do more damage with the basketball.

‘€œHe’€™s a nightmare to guard on the post. And obviously with the second unit, we have to do a better job getting him the ball down there.’€

Read below for the transcript. To listen to the interview, click here.

Quality of opponents aside, your last two wins, against the Pistons and Knicks, with the Big Three totaling about 48 minutes in each game, is that what you’€™re looking for?

Yes, and our defense more than all that. I think whenever we score people get lost in the points, and obviously the ball movement is important, the fact that we’€™re running because we’€™re getting stops and we’€™re getting multiple stops, that’€™s far more important than anything else.

When you said, ‘This team is very, very close,’ what did you mean by that? I thought you might even be a little sarcastic with the remark.

No, I was not. You look at the Cleveland game, we didn’€™t play great and it was 68-all with four minutes left in the third quarter, on the road. There was a lot of positive signs, we had the ball back to back in those possessions, turned it over, and missed four free throws in a row. What we didn’€™t do was when Cleveland made their next run, was fight after. You can just see things ‘€” Paul improving, Kevin improving, everybody’€™s starting to get their rhythm back. And I’€™ve said it earlier, I don’€™t think people realize ‘€” and it wasn’€™t about the injuries, it was about the amount of injuries and trying to bring guys back at the same time ‘€” you lose your rhythm. Not only as a team but as an individual, and we haven’€™t gotten it back. But we’€™re starting to get it back, and if we can get it back in time, like I said in the interview, I love our chances.

For Ray Allen, that probably means the shot. For Paul Pierce, does that mean the explosiveness?

Yeah, being able to score off the dribble. We had to change our offense a little bit when he came back, because he was struggling to beat guys. We were using a lot of pick-and-rolls with Paul, using a lot of pin-downs with Paul, and those are things we usually things we don’€™t have to do. We usually can use basic, and we’€™re starting to get back to that. Kevin is starting to make that switch with the jump shot, he’€™s starting to get more comfortable in the post. And more importantly, Rondo and Perk  and all the other guys are starting to get back to their old roles ‘€” Rondo’€™s pushing the ball up the floor, getting guys the ball. When everybody was hurt, we needed Rondo to have the ball in his hands and keep it in his hands, to score. Now when everybody’€™s back, we need him to push the ball, and then leave the ball, and get everybody involved. And that’€™s what he’€™s doing.

See, I took note ‘€” because you’€™re not the most optimistic guy, you’€™re not that bad, but when you said that, I was thinking, close to what? A championship contender again?

Yeah. I really see that. Listen, this is the same team that was 25-5. And I don’€™t lose sight of that. I’€™ll let everybody else lose sight of that, but I haven’€™t And I know we can reach back to that level and we have to get back to that level. Again, conveniently, the stress that we struggled, and we were not right. We were not the same team. Now were healthy, we’€™ve added pieces, Nate’€™s going to help us, Mike Finley’€™s going to help us. And like I told our guys, we’€™re not going to defend ourselves, we’€™re just going to go out and play. And I can tell you, as a team, our guys believe that.

I remember you saying, you had to get through to guys that you’€™ve never had to get through to. What did you mean by that?

Well when we were struggling, there was doubt, guys were concerned ‘€” health-wise number one, and then just trying to get it back, our beliefs, and the fact that we can get this back. You have to keep pushing guys, even some of the veterans ‘€” you know, we’€™re going to be OK. Our guys, and I’€™ve said this throughout year ‘€” we have a great group of guys in the fact that they all care. And they really care. And we were not winning games, and they wanted to know what’€™s going on, what’€™s wrong. And you had to keep convincing them guys, we’€™re all right, we just have to get back to where we’€™ve been. And I think now, guys are starting to see it. I know guys are starting to see it.

One online columnist pined about the Celtics and said part of the problem is when the Big Three struggle, it’€™s hard for them to lead. At this point, he said, Rondo and Perk need to step up and assume more leadership. Do you agree?

Number one, I heard about that, that’€™s ludicrous. And I don’€™t know who wrote it, who said it, but it’€™s ridiculous. It really is. I don’€™t think this team, you know, Kevin Garnett, Paul, and Ray are the leaders, but so are Rondo and Perk ‘€” I think the starting five leads our team, and they always have this year. So I don’€™t know how all of a sudden you assume a different leadership role, that sounds so great when you say it, but not realistic. I think this teams leadership has been intact all year. I think all five of those guys leads when they need to, but the bottom line is our starting five, not just one, two and three, not just Rondo and Perk, it’€™s all five of them, have to set the table for this entire team. The guy who made the best comment about our team this year is Danny Ainge, when he said, ‘€œour starting five is the group that’€™s been together, and that’€™s the group that’€™s going to lead this team.’€ They don’€™t need one guy going ra-ra and you guys, they need all five to show the rest of the guys how to do it. And the last couple of games, they’€™ve done that. When we do that, we’€™re really good.

Looking at the last few games, what percentage does it reduce your chances of winning when the bench struggles?

Well, during the regular season, it reduces it more, because you want to lean on it more. In the playoffs, probably a little bit less, because you can always go back with your starters, and that’€™s one of the things we’€™re trying to build right now, is not only our bench. You think about it, Baby’€™s missed half the year, Mike Finley’€™s new, Nate is new, Marquis has missed half the year, and Rasheed, this is his first year with the team. That’€™s a lot of change, on your bench. So we’€™re trying to get them right, rhythm, timing, conditioning, everything. And at the same time, we’€™re trying to build our starters, I’€™m trying to get them short minutes, longer practices, so conditioning-wise, when the playoffs start, you can play them 30, 35 minutes a game if you have to.

It’€™s March, and Mike Gorman mentioned he’€™s looking at the standings for the first time, how much do the standings matter to you? And does that third spot mean anything?

Our goal is to be ready. I know Atlanta is ahead of us, I don’€™t even know how many games, one or two ‘€¦

They’€™re not Doc, you’€™re tied. They lost last night.

There’€™s your proof right there. I really don’€™t, I mean I’€™m so focused on our team, obviously, I would love to be the No. 1 seed, but that’€™s not going to happen. No. 2 isn’€™t looking good, and after that, you know, listen, we have to be healthy and right. And if we are, any place, any time is what we tell each other. We’€™ll play anybody , any place, any time.

In the playoffs, which of Marquis Daniels, Nate, or Michael Finley stand to be the next P.J. Brown or Posey?

I would think Marquis, because he’€™s been here. Finley and Nate are wild cards in some ways, Mike, I tell you, he’€™s shooting the heck out of the ball. He didn’€™t have a good night last night, but overall his shot will help us in the playoffs. Nate’€™s the guy that has a chance to be the one-game sensation. He’€™s going to win a playoff game for us. Somewhere down the line, our starters are going to be struggling and we’€™re going to need points somewhere and he’€™s going to get hot, and he’€™s going to carry us. That’€™s what we’€™re trying to get him in that road, and I think he’€™ll be there by playoffs.

Danny said in the playoffs Marquis needs to be more aggressive, has he shown he can do that for you?

Yeah, he has, even when he first started, in the preseason you could see it. The injury absolutely slowed him, and since coming back, he has the fit in mentality instead of the take over mentality on the floor. And we’€™re trying to get him back to that, and it’€™s coming too. The last couple of games he’€™s been far more aggressive, he can rebound and break, there are very few players you want doing that, all of them think they can, but he can. And we need him to do that more, the last few games he’€™s done that, and he just needs to keep attacking. He’€™s a nightmare to guard on the post. And obviously with the second unit, we have to do a better job getting him the ball down there.

Say in the playoffs you match up with a young, athletic team like the Hawks. How do you deal with that? Physicality?

Well, number one, physicality. Experience would help. You know the other thing, I think everybody discounts this, during the playoffs, you’€™re the most rested. You get days off, you’€™re ready, you’€™re not playing four and five games, or back to back games that you play during the regular season. And you have a single team focus. I think it’€™s easier to match up against those athletic teams during the playoffs than during the regular season. And we’€™ll be ready.

What will Mike Finley give you down the road, especially in a championship run?

I think experience, number one. The ability to make big shots, he’€™s done it throughout his career, he’€™s very comfortable taking shots, and he’€™s a guy who at the end of the game, if you have him on the floor, and they double Paul or Ray or Kevin, and they swing you to Michael, you feel very confident that not only will he take it, but he’€™ll make the shot.

Tonight’€™s a big night at the garden, trying to see how the Bruins respond to a fallen teammate, do you ever get frustrated, compare and contrast the NBA with cheap shots?

It’€™s a lot tougher now, in my day it was pretty easy, you just slug the guy, and they just break you up and you keep playing. Now you can’€™t do that stuff anymore, and it’€™s a tough one for the Bruins. I think all the fans want them to go out and get retribution, but the bottom line is, the best way is by beating them, and beating them as physically as you can, but doing it legal. You’€™ll have other cracks at him, maybe not this year, but players never forget. You think maybe people forget, and next year’€™s new ‘€” no, they never forget.

And what about the response to David Lee‘€™s cheap shot, just to respond by winning the game, was that the way to go about it?

Yeah, that was the right response. I don’€™t even know what was going on there. It started the play before, he was in front of our bench, and the play before David Lee said ‘€œOK, Ray Allen, I’€™ll beat you.’€ And you can hear David yelling at Ray, and the next play is where that happened. That’€™s where you get Ray off the floor and you move on.

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