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Rivers on D&C: Full transcript

03.25.10 at 12:48 pm ET

With their 113-99 victory Wednesday night over the Nuggets, the Celtics improved to 46-25 and are tied with the Hawks for third place in the Eastern Conference, 3½ games behind the second-place Magic.

The morning after Boston’s fifth victory in six games, Doc Rivers joined Dennis & Callahan to discuss the recent turnaround in Boston’€™s play ‘€” and how a lot of people forgot just how good the guys in green really were.

‘€œIt’€™s funny, what were we, 23-5 [to start the season], and we were completely healthy,’€ the coach said. ‘€œPaul [Pierce] goes down, Kevin [Garnett] goes down, [Glen Davis] is just coming back, Marquis [Daniels] just goes down, and through that whole streak, it’€™s amazing how conveniently everybody forgot about that.’€

The Celtics are trying to give the league a refresher course before they head into the postseason, though Rivers maintained that playoff seeding isn’€™t the most important thing on their minds.

‘€œI will say I think health and rest is more important than even the third spot for us,” he said. “I think for us to have a chance to win, we have to be both of those things.’€

The Celtics look to continue their recent run of successful basketball when they take the court Friday against the Sacramento Kings.

Below is a transcript. Click here for the full interview.

Nice win last night Doc. My sense is that three weeks ago, that’€™s probably a game you would have lost.

Three-and-a-half weeks ago, we probably were not the same team we are today, because we’€™re healthier, Paul’€™s playing better, Kevin’€™s playing better, so that may be true. But it’€™s now, so that’€™s all I focus on.

So when the lead was 21, then it was reduced to seven, how did you respond to that?

Number one, that happens in games, and you don’€™t think about it. And number two, we went small. I didn’€™t want to, but we had to, they were making shots, so we had to match up to then. So I thought that was the turning point for us, at least extending the lead back.

Last week, when you said ‘€œwe’€™re close,’€ what did you mean specifically? And right now, are you there, or are you still just close?

Well, we’€™re getting closer, obviously I don’€™t think anybody would say they’€™re there right now as a team with the playoffs being three weeks away. One thing I saw was Paul was starting to get back in shape, I thought Kevin was rounding out in shape, and guys, it’€™s funny, what were we, 23-5, and we were completely healthy. Paul goes down, Kevin goes down, [Glen Davis] is just coming back, Marquis [Daniels] just goes down, and through that whole streak, it’€™s amazing how conveniently everybody forgot about that. And then when we got healthy, Paul wasn’€™t right yet, Kevin wasn’€™t right yet, it just took time, we lost our rhythm, we lost our timing, because so many different guys had to play so many different roles when all those guys were out, so there’€™s no excuse to lose games, but we lost games because of that. And I saw us finally getting back healthy somewhat, I saw our timing coming back, our rhythm coming back, our team play coming back, but that took a toll on us, and it would’€™ve taken a toll on anybody, and that’€™s what I saw.

So you have to be healthy, or at least this healthy, in order to have a chance in the playoffs?

Oh yeah. But you know, take the Lakers ‘€“ with Kobe [Bryant] and Pau Gasol not healthy, how good are they? If Kobe and Gasol are not healthy for a long extended period of time, how good would they be? They’€™d struggle guys, it’€™s no different than if Tim Duncan and [Manu] Ginobili went down, the Spurs struggle, it’€™s no different anywhere. And it’€™s the same thing for us.

But it doesn’€™t really look like KG is his old self, is that fair to say

Well, I don’€™t think anybody has that. Kevin was completely healthy then, he’€™s been injured twice, but when he’€™s as good as he is now, I’€™d take him right now. When he first came back, he didn’€™t have that, he couldn’€™t run the floor as well, he wasn’€™t making the outside shot, he’€™s starting to make the outside shot. Does he have the spring that he had two years ago, I don’€™t know if he does or not, but he’€™s shooting a whole lot better than he was a month ago, and I’€™ll take that.

With 11 games to go, is this a pretty good time to get that rust off, is this what you need to get ready?

Yeah, I still want to get them rest as well, it’€™s one of the things I said two or three weeks ago, we have to get our rhythm back, we have to get our timing back, we have to get healthy, we have to get in better condition and at the same time we have to get them the proper rest. Our minutes are still down, which is good, and I’€™d like to keep it that way. If I can through these 11 games, that would be perfect.

In your mind, what’€™s the difference between the most exciting player in the NBA and the most talented?

Oh, I don’€™t know, LeBron might be both right now.

Well, LeBron aside, I find him more exciting to watch than Kobe. Him aside, who is the best and who is the most entertaining to watch? Because I think you might have one on your team.

Well, you like [Rajon] Rondo. He’€™d be up there, you have Dwyane Wade and Kobe still, who does so much for the game and is so exciting to watch. I would put Rondo in that category, as far as being exciting to watch, there’€™s no doubt about that.

How many other point guards in the NBA would you prefer to run your team, aside from Rondo?

Well, I’€™m biased, so I would just take Rondo, because he is my point guard, so I wouldn’€™t even look at another point guard. There are some great point guards in the league, we’€™ve seen a couple of them the last two games, in Deron Williams and Chauncey Billups, but we have Rondo and he’€™s my guy.

What’€™s his most exciting attribute that makes you go, “Wow.” Is it the speed, the defense, the steals, what impresses you the most?

I would say his vision and speed, the combination. You rarely see a guy that plays at the speed that he plays at and has the vision that he has ‘€“ he has unbelievable vision for a guard, so I would say those two things.

Are you OK with Rondo’€™s flare for the dramatic, like a behind-the-back bounce pass to Tony Allen ‘€“ which by the way, was perfect last night.

When it works. Yeah, I am. When it doesn’€™t work, I’€™m not that happy about it. There are times when he does like the flare for the dramatic instead of keeping it simple, and the timing of those plays sometimes is dangerous. That happens in the fourth quarter, we turn the ball over and the other team scores and make a run, it’€™s not that exciting anymore. But you have to let a guy have his personality, and that’€™s Rondo’€™s personality. All I always get on him is, value the ball. If it works, I’€™m fine with it, but you have to always value the ball. The playoffs are an every possession game, and that’€™s the only concern I have.

Have you ever seen him smile?

He does all the time. I like his intensity. It’€™s amazing intensity. Sometimes I think it hurts him at times, because he gets so down on himself when things aren’€™t going right. I thought that happened in the Utah game ‘€” he got a foul that he wasn’€™t happy with, Deron Williams was playing unbelievable, and I thought that effected his play during the game, and that’€™s the one thing still has to improve on, but he’€™s so much better than he was last year, so he is improving on it.

Third place matters, you have to agree, so these last few games, you’€™re not exactly just playing out the string, are you?

No, we’€™re not, if you watch their minutes, they still always only play 30 minutes for the most part, 34 minutes in some games. But you know, it is what it is, we’€™ve kind of put ourselves in this position, so we have no choice. But I will say I think health and rest is more important than even the third spot for us. I think for us to have a chance to win, we have to be both of those things to win.

Which of the bottom four, Milwaukee, Charlotte, Miami and Toronto, has a chance of upsetting someone in the first round?

I don’€™t know, if you go five weeks ago, everyone would have said Toronto, because they were hot, they’€™re in the fifth spot, now I would say it would be Milwaukee. I think Miami scares everybody because you go into a series and you could make the case that the best player in the series is on the other team, and that’€™s one thing as a coach you never want. So, I don’€™t know Charlotte, the athleticism, it’€™s funny we played them so well and struggled against Atlanta, when you think about the two teams, they’€™re so similar, it doesn’€™t make any sense in a lot of ways. They’€™re all dangerous in their own right, I think Milwaukee right now is playing better than all of them.

What do you as the head coach value most: points in the paint, fast-break points, rebounds or second-chance points?

Points in the paint. We had an offensive rebound advantage because they went small, and they stayed small, and we stayed big for most of it, so we had a clear advantage on the glass last night. Going into the game, though, we really focused on points in the paint, I thought we settled for jump shots last time we played them in Denver, we didn’€™t attack them, we didn’€™t try to go after their bigs, who are foul prone because they do try to block shots, and I thought we did a great job of that last night.

Since you pointed out how devastating injuries can be, what do you think about Michigan State and West Virginia right now? Are they in trouble without their key guys?

Yeah, in some ways, guys, but again, you can win a couple games, when you think about it, when Kevin first went down, we won our first three or four games. I don’€™t think injuries kill you for one or two games. I think it does kill you over a 10- or 20-game period. But in college, I think the star players, when they go down, it is devastating. I think in Michigan State’€™s case, it’€™s probably more devastating than West Virginia’€™s. West Virginia still has their star, where Michigan State ‘€” I mean, [Kalin] Lucas is their star, so losing him hurts them. If anybody can pull it off, it would be [coach Tom] Izzo, but I do think they have the tougher injury.

Six games at home in the next 12 days, what does that mean to you as a team in a practical matter?

We took the day off, today’€™s a treatment day, and then we play. But after that, we actually get some practice days in. It’€™s funny, we’€™re playing well, but we really need practice right now, I see so many things where we’€™re slipping, because we haven’€™t had practice. It gives us a chance to get right and get healthy and get some rest all at the same time, so this is a great stretch for us.

Practice just for the new guys, or for everyone?

For everybody. I think there’€™s slippage all around, but that happens when you go through a stretch of games when you don’€™t have practice, you see things as a coach that you need to work on.

You called Tony Allen the player of the game last night. He had an outstanding game. Why can’€™t he do that on a more consistent basis?

I don’€™t know, a lot of that has been more injuries for him. When he gets out of his way, he’€™s very good. I think at times he forces the issue, offensively, because he wants to do so much, and he turns the ball over, and you know how I feel about turnovers, especially from the bench. But when he plays solid like he played last night ‘€” the one thing he has done I will say consistently this year, the biggest thing is become a great defender. I’€™ve been saying that for four years, I think he should be the best defender of the team, and he really never bought into that. I think this year, I give him credit, he really bought into that. He wants to come in now, and stop the other guy, the best player, and that can be very valuable for us going down the stretch here.

Are you going to continue to let Rasheed [Wallace] continue to take the 3-point shot, and does he know he’€™s dead last in the league with his shooting percentage?

I don’€™t know if he knows that. He knows his percentage, I can tell you that, and if he’€™s open, yes, I will continue to allow him to take it. What we’€™re trying to get him to do, and he’€™s doing a better job of it, honestly, over the last five or six games, is take the right 3. I thought early on, he took a quick, contested 3, I think now he’€™s taking a second-swing 3, which is fine with me, as long as his feet are set. I think the difference for Rasheed, and I think he’€™s learning this, for him to be a good 3-point shooter, and he is, he has to be set, he can’€™t be on the move. Maybe five years ago he could have made that shot, don’€™t think he can make that shot anymore.

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