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Doc Rivers on D&C: Villanueva broke ‘unwritten rule’ to press after game

11.04.10 at 2:16 pm ET

Celtics coach Doc Rivers joined the Dennis & Callahan show this morning to talk about Kevin Garnett‘s alleged comments on the floor the other night against the Pistons, Paul Pierce‘s 20,000th point, as well as his thoughts on the team’s start to the new season.

“I’ve played the game, and I couldn’t imagine someone going to the press after the game because someone said something to you on the floor,” Rivers said, “I just, I don’t know, that’s an unwritten rule here; I thought that we didn’t cross, and we did that the other night.”

To hear the interview, check out the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Wasn’t that the perfect scenario for Paul Pierce to get his 20,000th point, going to the free-throw line to ice the game?

Well, I guess you can call it a perfect scenario; I would’ve liked it done a little bit earlier in the game.

Not in overtime?

No, exactly. But, I’ll take it, and for him it really was a special moment.

Is last night a perfect example of why no one should complain and moan during the end-of-practice free throws?

Yeah, I mean, they’re so important, and there’s so many games, if you go back and look at book, that are won and lost form that line, that, um, and you know, the only thing we did well last night, as far as executing, is we got the ball to the right people to shoot free throws. Other than that, um, we didn’t have one of our better end-of-the-game execution games at all.

Can you tell us how a stats sheet can lie? Because if you looked at just the stats from last night’s game, one would think you guys blew them out.

Well, it was almost the exact stat sheet of the Cleveland game at halftime. I mean, we were shooting I think 52, 53, 54 percent. The other team was shooting 39 percent and it was a tied game. And you don’t even have to look at the stat sheet, when you see that, you know exactly that that’s an effort game. That means that they’re outworking you, they’re getting rebounds, they’re getting loose balls, and those don’t show up at times in the stat sheet.

What’s the one stat that doesn’t lie? The one that when you pick it up in the post-game and say to yourself ‘This is going to tell me something’?”

Well, one stat is rebounds, and then the other one is turnovers, you know, for us. Those are the two stats.

You’re not liking that turnover stat?

Yeah, I am, because we’re really, we came out of the gate struggling, and now we’re doing a better job , but turnovers are big for us. You know, we scored I think, I don’t know what it is this year, but last year I think we were fourth in the league in points-per-possession. That means that we score every time we get the ball, I think it was one point whatever  per possession. But we were 29th in turnovers, so, you know, when you were a great efficient offensive team, and you turn the ball over, it really hurts you, because we’ve really been taking points off the board.

You talked about how you don’t like this whole tweeting thing. Can you stop it?

No. I mean, I can come in and say ‘Hey guys, let’s make a rule that there’s no Tweeting.’ That’s nothing I’m going to do. And the Tweeting thing doesn’t bother me, it’s what we’re Tweeting about and when. That bothers me. After a game, you know guys, let’s not, you know, like I said yesterday, I’ve played the game, and I couldn’t imagine someone going to the press after the game because someone said something to you on the floor. I just, I don’t know, that’s an unwritten rule here; I thought that we didn’t cross, and we did that the other night.

If you were coaching Charlie Villanueva, how should he have handled that whole situation?

Well, number one, I was standing there towards the end, and I honestly heard Kevin. It was right in front of our bench, I don’t know if you guys remember.

We watched the youtube video, and I wouldn’t put anything past Kevin in the heat of the moment, and judging by the way Villanueva reacts, it seems very believable.

Well, I’m glad you guys believe him, because I was standing there and, you know, it’s funny, if you’ve every talked to Jeff Twiss. Jeff Twiss called me yesterday, and before he said anything, and this is probably a good three hours before Kevin Garnett released the statement, and I hadn’t talked to Kevin. And I said, ‘Kevin Garnett called him a cancer.’ I said, now what he said on the other end, I can’t vouch for. But yelling from our bench, everybody on our bench could hear him yell, ‘You’re a cancer! You’re a cancer! And, you know guys, trash-talking happens so much in the game, so the way to handle it is you play them the next day, the next time and you try to beat them. That’s the way we’ve always handled it.

Do you think that just what you heard was inappropriate?

No. No, the only thing I thought, and I told Kevin this, is ‘why are you talking to him?’ And you can actually see me yelling at Kevin because he got a tech, they got the double-tech. And I yelled at him, ‘Why are you talking at him? We’re up 25 points and you’re talking to Charlie Villanueva!’ And you know Kevin, we can’t get emotional, I said ‘that’s not emotional!’

We think of a cancer as someone who causes problems in the clubhouse. Has Villanueva earned that reputation?

Listen, I have no idea. In Kevin’s mind I guess you have, um, Paul and him were saying the starter, when he’d just run out to Paul for one of the shots, and was complaining. And that’s when Kevin called him a cancer.

Do players, in your opinion, think a little less of Charlie than they did 48 hours ago?

They probably think of him a little less. They may even think of Kevin a little less. You know, because the people who aren’t there, you know, listen. People are going to take sides. And Kevin has a reputation. He does talk a lot, there’s no doubt about that. So, but I did think people don’t want that stuff going on. I think the players absolutely don’t want what’s said on the floor now start to spill out on Twitter, otherwise we’ll be reading stuff every day.

If we knew every game, all game what was said out on the court, would we hear racial slurs and things things that would normally be way over the line?

Yeah, there are. But not every night. But you hear stuff; very few racial slurs, but there have been, I’ve heard stuff. But we all, you don’t do anything, you just keep playing.

There are a lot of people who don’t believe you when you say you heard what Kevin said. People think you’re just backing your player. But you’d like to reiterate to everyone that you actually did hear what he said on the court.

Well, in front of the bench.

But they could have been talking more after, and you said it started out on the other side of the court away from where you were.

Well, they had been talking all game, which is nothing unusual. But in front of the bench, Kevin was sitting on the bench, he was out of the game. When they got the tech, Kevin was out of the game. And he looked over at the bench, and you can hear Kevin yelling, ‘You’re a cancer! You’re a cancer! Everywhere you go, your team loses. You’re a cancer!’ And, so, you know, other than that, and you know, if he hadn’t walked out on the floor and said you’re a cancer patient now, which I didn’t hear that or if he had said it earlier. I still would have thought, he still meant the same thing. So that’s the way I took it, that’s the way our guys took it, I can hear them in the locker room talking about it.

Is Kevin the best in the business at trash-talking in the NBA? Is there anybody more vocal than KG?

Oh, there’s probably more guys. Kevin talks all game, and a lot of times he’s not talking to the opponent, he’s just talking. You, know, he self-talks all night. You know, when he inbounded the ball, you know, with 10 seconds left, and I had told him in the timeout, you know, call a timeout so we can advance the ball to our spot, you can watch him walking to the timeout and talking. That’s just Kevin.

Who was the Hall of Fame trash-talker in your day?

Well, the best players. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird were two of them. Reggie Miller didn’t talk to me a lot because we had a fight and so he didn’t talk to me anymore, which was nice. Charles Oakley was another one. So, you know, but you try to enjoy it, now these guys take it so personal, I mean it amazes me.

Do you ever think Garnett goes over the line?

Yeah, I think he goes over the line at times when he’s talking to guys he shouldn’t talk to. I don’t know what’s being said, but, you know, and I tell him that all the time. There’s a group you’re above, if you know what I’m saying. Why exchange with them? All you’re doing is giving them ammunition. You can’t benefit from talking to some guys.

Like you’re lowering yourself to their level?

Yeah. If you’re up 20 points, 25 points, you don’t need to talk anymore. You know, that’s when you should try to refrain from talking.

What about when Garnett was in Minnesota and he was an opponent? Did you feel the same way about him as you do now?

You know, I’ve actually talked about that. And I made a comment that I didn’t know it was real. You know, I used to see all the antics and the intensity, and, you know, I’ve told Kevin that I’ve always thought there’s no way he’s really like that all the time, on the floor. There’s no way. And I was wrong; he is like that all the time on the floor. You like, it, but when you’re the opponent, you don’t think it’s real. And that irritates you. You know, this guy’s just out there talking this fake energy, and, you know, I realized the first year we had him, you know what, this dude if for real. I mean this is, he’s into it. It’s real. And it’s refreshing, but I was surprised by it.

Is he liked and/or respected by other players in the NBA?

Yeah, he is. His off the court he’s a good guy, and, you know, on the court he literally hates the opponent, and I don’t find anything wrong with that. You know, Perk told the story about I think [Joakim] Noah, who we’re going to see Friday.  His rookie year, he walked, you know, first time he’s ever played. Kevin Garnett was a guy he looked up to, and during a free throw, he said ‘Hey Kevin, I’m a big fan, and, you know, this summer I would love to work out with you.’ And Perk said that the next 10 words you could never repeat that Kevin told him. You know, ‘you’re not on my team, don’t you ever talk to me again.’ And that’s Kevin, you know, and then he told him in the summer he’d work out with him. That’s just Kevin.

So do guys get grief in the NBA about being short or having long hair or stupid tattoos?

I hadn’t noticed the tattoo trash.

Well how about Birdman? Does someone point out what an idiot he looks like? But is it OK to make fun of Villanueva because he has no hair?

Yeah, I mean, I guess. People make fun of people about anything in our league. You know, the funny thing is the Villanueva thing went on a rant about is that he had a form of cancer. I would say that’s the first time I’ve ever heard it; would have never known it.

My take on it is that he thought this comment insulted people with cancer and people with Alopecia. My point was that everyone knew about it because Villanueva raised his hand and said ‘Hey everybody, Kevin Garnett talked mean to me.’

Well I don’t think anybody on our team knew about the disease that he had. I can guarantee I didn’t, and so that’s why I think it’s a little farfetched. You know, listen, I don’t think Kevin’s doing research before games so he can trash talk to people.

Moving on to basketball, tell us why Rondo will or will not maintain this assist pace through the year.

Well, I don’t know if you, you know, I’m hoping he will. You know, and like I’ve told you guys the other night when we lost to Cleveland, four to five games he’s been unbelievable, and those are the games where the ball moved, you know, the day or night in Detroit he had 17 assists, and the ball was out of his hands half the time, returned back to his hands, where he made the pass for the assist. I mean, that’s the way we have to play, and he really found that groove of doing that. You know, when I called a timeout yesterday six minutes into the third quarter, he walked right over to me and said out ball movement is awful coach, we’ve got to get it moving. You know, that’s Rondo now, and that’s a great place. I hope he can stay there.

Do you guys put together a videotape of calls that you disagree with and send them to the league for review?

You do in the playoffs, you don’t much in the regular season.

Then let me ask in a different way. Which were you more upset with: Rondo’s traveling call in the first half, or Rondo’s offensive foul in the second half?

Well the traveling call was upsetting. I just saw that he through-ed them. It was a heck of a move. Yeah, he stutter-stepped and didn’t bounce the ball, you know, you can’t travel when you’re dribbling. And I just thought, I really thought, I think it was Kevin, knew right away that he got fooled, and that happens when someone goes into these basketball moves. You know. Dwyane Wade years ago, now everyone’s trying to do that two-step, you know, that one-two in different directions. The whole league is doing it now,because Wade could get it out first and it wasn’t traveling. But the first two or three times he did it, they called traveling until they caught on.

We were talking about this yesterday that Rondo might not be the best point guard in the league, but he’s the best for your team. Would you trade Rondo for anyone in the league?

I know him, so I’m keeping him.

But you didn’t always get along with him. You didn’t always see eye-to-eye.

Well we never not got along. I mean he was just, he’s a stubborn kid, and he needed to be difficult at times. But, you know, and I said this two years ago, he’s going to get better. He’s young, and he has, and, you know, he still has some room. I think they all have room to improve in some areas, and some guys improved.

What did you say after the Jermaine O’Neal to get ‘T’d’up?

I didn’t say enough, I can tell you that. That’s what upset me, you know, the game, I’m watching the guy on the other sideline at half court screaming and swearing and I get a stern ‘relax.’

That’s what you said?

No, he told me to relax, and I said, ‘Wow, you shouldn’t talk to me that way.’

Do you know who holds the all-time single game assists?

Scott Skiles.

With a couple minutes left to go in the game and all your bigs gone, you didn’t go with Semih Erden. Is that because of lack of experience or lack of trust in the guy?

Yeah, I mean, he’s just not ready yet, you know, offensively or defensively. I thought he had a pretty good first half, honestly, and, you know, I just thought Von Wafer, he didn’t play much, but I thought, you know, bench really let him down in that first half. They allowed Milwaukee to get back into that game and start to feel confident, so the bench was on a short leash yesterday.

I tweeted this last night, so tell me if this is right to say. Are there two more exciting and fun players to watch in the NBA than Big Baby and Rondo?

Oh, there’s probably eight more, or even two more, because you’re a Celtic guy; you live in Boston, and so they are exciting. But you’re right, they both play with such a flair, they both play with a lot of emotion, and they are a lot of fun. We have Garnett, who would be in that group too. You know, Paul is probably the most efficient player scoring guy in the league in some ways, but, you know, Kevin, Baby and Rondo, because they play with their emotions and you see it. You know, I think that’s what people like.

Howe much of last night’s struggle to win the game had to do with being on the road and then coming home? And if the answer is a little, then is this something you’re going to have to deal with with and older veteran team?

Well, I’ll answer that part. Yes. Not the back-to-back, but the veteran team, the back-to-back, you know, it does have a little to do with it, that’s why in the first half I went with all five guys off the bench. I don’t love to do that, you know, I never did in the playoffs, but in the regular season there’s times where you feel like you’ve got to get your starters some rest. And so I did it in the first half, and, you know, when Delonte [West] comes back and Shaq is healthy, I think it’ll be easier to do.

Did you see Shaq’s Halloween costume, and were you aware that he hurt himself when he broke a heel?

No, I did see his costume, and I saw the singing, and it was scary. That’s all I’ll say, it was a scary couple minutes of looking at him.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce
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