Celtics  coach Doc Rivers  joined Dennis & Callahan for his weekly segment on Thursday morning, talking about the Celtics big win over the Spurs last night, and Rajon Rondo ‘s immediate return to prominence following his injury. Rivers also discussed current NBA hot topics, including in-flight fights and gambling, and how Kevin Garnett ‘s hopeful return next week will get the team back to top form.
“To me, the most important thing was that [Rondo] took shots down the stretch,” Rivers said. “I’ve said this before, as good as he’s playing and we’re playing right now at times, it’s a different game in the playoffs.”
To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page .
Last night’s game certainly qualified as a great game, but I don’t know as the coach if you could be entertained by it. But it was by all means a great game.
Well it did as far as the shot-making game. I mean, you saw our team shoot 60 percent in the game, you saw [Manu] Ginobili make shots down the stretch that were unbelievable. So I guess in that way, yeah, it was. You knew both teams wanted to win the game, you could feel that right at the start of the game. So there was a chance for that to happen.
How do you shoot 61 percent and they shoot 45 percent and you win by two? Is it the disparity of the offensive rebounds and the number of shots they took?
Yeah, it’s both of those. They took more shots and the offensive rebounds. Obviously, they’re going to have a couple more offensive rebounds when they shoot 45 and we shoot 60.
There’s going to be a discrepancy, but it just can’t be as big as it has been the last three games.
When the team you’re playing gives up 128 the day before to New York, do you immediately say, ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to be a bit ornery’?
I don’t worry about that as much. You knew they were going to try to be better defensively. You also know that before that New York game I think they had held three or four teams in a row under 90. So they have it in them, and you know that in the past they’ve been a great defensive team.
Is that a psychological tactic taking your starters out against the Knicks at the end of the game, saying that he wasn’t happy with the way they were playing?
It may have been a little bit of that. I really thought he looked at that game, how the game was going, he knew they played us and thought, ‘You know what, let’s try to get tomorrow’s game.’ I really thought it was more of that than anything else.
Would you do it?
I’ve done it before. I’ve never done it to that extreme. Let’s say I’ve had a guy out, who’s going to put him back in, and I look at the score, and I think, ‘I don’t think we’re going to get this game.’
Sometimes, it’s not who you’re playing, it’s how you’re playing. Looking at your guys and you see it. That was early, but having said that, I get that.
You took Rondo out with 13 seconds left in third. Was that for defensive purposes, or just to give him a little extra rest?
That was to give him a minute rest, basically. I knew I was going to play him a lot in the game, because I knew they were going to keep in George Hill and [Tony] Parker for most of the game, so I knew that was going to force our hand.
Does your minute’s philosophy change based on the kind of night like Rajon had last night?
It does at times. Rondo and I communicated through the game. Rondo usually doesn’t handle 24 minutes in a row well. He did get a little minute break, but that’s an area that he struggles in. It’s just his energy, because he uses so much. The one thing I kept telling him, ‘If you need a minute or even a timeout, just let me know.’ But he was playing so well, I did want to keep him on the floor.
Through the 22 assists and the triple-double, I think you can make a case that the most amazing thing was his block last night.
To me, not only the most amazing, but the most important thing was that he took shots down the stretch. I’ve said this before, as good as he’s playing and we’re playing right now at times, it’s a different game in the playoffs. The one area that Rondo has to improve in, and he’s really worked on, and you saw that improvement last night, is the elbow jump shot. We know, during the playoffs, that’s what everyone’s going to force him to do, and everyone’s going to help on Ray [Allen] to take those shots off of Rondo, and if Rondo can make those shots, then we’re really good.
Every time Big Baby makes a jump shot, I’m a little surprised. But he’s doing it consistently.
Glen Davis  is a good shooter. It’s no longer, ‘He’s working on his shot, getting better.’ He’s a consistent good shooter. The only time Baby gets himself in trouble, he gets outside of that 16 foot range; he starts taking shots further back. Other than that, he’s an excellent shooter, especially when he just takes the shot on balance. When he puts the ball on the floor and things like that, then he struggles. But I thought he was really focused coming back in those last six minutes.
I’ve got to say, I thought he was fresh as well, and I thought the reason he was fresh was Jermaine O’Neal. I thought his minutes were as key as any guy’s last night.
Last night you said Big Baby only gets himself in trouble is when he forgets he’s Glen Davis. Could you elaborate on that at all?
At times when he starts dribbling and forcing shots, only looking for shots, he gets himself in trouble. When he just lets the game come to him, he’s terrific. He is so important to our team. When he does that, he’s a great player for our team.
Can Big Baby dunk?
Oh, yeah, he can dunk. But it takes a lot of energy for Big Baby to do that. That’s a lot of weight he’s getting up there. But Big Baby is a heck of an athlete.
It’s remarkable how athletic he can be. You had him on Duncan for a bit last night, right?
Yeah, I did. [Tim]Duncan made a couple shots, but I thought Baby did a great job. What he does is he gets into people’s legs. And you see it every night where you see a post player grab the ball and back a player down. Well you’re not going to back Big Baby down. You’re going to shoot from where you caught the ball, because you’re not going to move him, and that’s part of his secret defensively.
Who has more upside, Rondo or Baby?
I’m going to say Rondo. Baby is so solid. The maturity is there now. He just has to stay consistent. Rondo, still the shot part of his game, that’s going to open up so many more doors for him. Just look at what he’s doing now, and teams are going under, teams are helping him. I don’t know if you watched the Minnesota game, he went through the game not guarded. Once he breaks that barrier, where teams can’t do that anymore, I don’t know how teams guard Rajon Rondo. I don’t know that you can.
How tough do you have to be on Big Baby? How does he resist you’re coaching?
I don’t know that tough’s the word. You should have used demanding. Baby, to me, can improve. You just don’t want him to settle. You look at him, and he has that in him, and I tell him that all the time, ‘I’m never going to allow you settle.’ I’m just not, you have so much to give to the game and to our team, and there’s no reason for you not to be better than what you are today, or tomorrow. So, I’m never going to treat you the way you are today, I’m going to treat you the way you should be some day. He receives that very well.
You and Popovich have completely different styles of coaching. Why does his style work for him, and yours work for you?
We’re just different people. Pop’s a great guy, actually. We’re demanding in the same way for one thing: ‘Just be a team player.’ I may get it out differently than him. At the end of the day, the way you deal with the media or different people is just how you decide to do it. And it’s probably just who you are in that way. But I think at the end of the day, a lot of what Pop does is what I do, and that is everyone is accountable to each other as a teammate and as a team, and I think that is really important.
Does Pop get fined for not wearing tie or doing interviews with the media between quarters?
If you don’t do an interview between quarters, you’ll get fined.
Like a lot?
I think he does them most of the time, they’re just very quick. The tie thing, though, you don’t have to wear a tie. That’s the Stan Van Gundy  rule that they talked about. That never really went through, so there’s a lot of guys now who don’t wear ties.
I thought Van Gundy wasn’t allowed to wear the turtleneck sweater anymore.
No, but you can wear a collared, I don’t know if you’ve seen him now, but he wears a collared sweater.
Is Rondo the one irreplaceable Celtics player? If you had to play a seventh game next year and one guy out of your five went down, is Rondo the last guy you’d want to be gone?
I don’t know. Kevin’s pretty important too. I don’t know which one it would be. You can make a case between the Big Four, any one of them, honestly. I don’t even know what our record is without Rondo, but it’s pretty good. Having said that, it wouldn’t have been playoff-winning basketball, I can tell you that. Kevin means a lot to us too, as far as all of the different things he does. Paul [Pierce ] is a big-shot guy, and I think they need each other. One guy out hurts our basketball team, of those four.
Maybe I’m being critical of Jermaine O’Neal, but he seems like he’s a half-step slower than everyone else. Tell us what you see in Jermaine O’Neal.
He’s doing exactly what we’ve needed him to do since he’s been back. Before he went out, he was struggling, and part of that was health. But since he’s been back, defensively, he’s been absolutely wonderful. He had a stretch last night to me where he protected the basket, he got rebounds. That’s what we want him to do. The offensive part I think is what frustrates people, and I could care less about his offense. It’s going to get better as he plays more. He’s going to roll better and find his different spots. But honestly, he’s on our team for one reason. You saw what he did defensively. That’s all we care about.
When Shaq does to New York to do Letterman after practice, do you care about that? Does he get permission?
I could care less, I told him that. I don’t care what any of our guys do, in this way they’re adults. Unless what they’re doing is making them less effective on the floor. Other than that, go have at it, have a good time. Just be ready for practice and games, mentally and physically, then I’m pretty good with it.
Did you stay up and watch?
I did not. But I was watching our game
Have you ever had a talk with guys about gambling/fighting on flights?
Well, yeah, fighting. I think I would have that conversation. Our guys are loud. They’re nuts on the plane. I think I told you guys this a couple of years ago, we decided to try to make our plane their locker room, because the locker room is no longer a private place. I think they need a place where they can just be together, and cut up and have fun. I decided to make the plane that. They play cards, they play music, but they don’t fight. Hopefully they don’t ever fight. If it happens, we would deal with it, we would deal with it too. But they’re grown men. They’re adults, and I think they should be allowed to do what they want in their way.
If there was one guy, just between the three of us, who would be the one guy to go just over the line? I’m going to guess, initials P.P.
Paul’s great, actually. I don’t keep my eye on any of them, honestly. They do a great job of keeping an eye on themselves. They’re arguing and getting loud, and usually their arguments are over sports debates, you’d be surprised. They get into more debates who’s the top five, and they do some of it to get on other guys. They had the ‘who’s the top five centers debate’ a couple of weeks ago, and obviously Shaq was there, so that’s why they were doing it. Here’s one for you, they had a Mount Rushmore debate of Boston. You had to put four, three guys on Mount Rushmore, who would be the four of Boston sports?
Did they reach a consensus?
No, heck no. They never do. That’s why they’re arguments. They’re good arguments.
Did they know who Bobby Orr  was?
Yeah, actually Bobby Orr was one of them. That’s Paul. Paul, surprisingly, is just a sports historian. You’d be surprised what he knows just about sports. Not just basketball, just sports in general. They didn’t reach a consensus, but it was [Bill] Russell, Bobby Orr and Ted Williams  were three. Bird was in some of them. They had other guys. It was a pretty good debate.
Who loudest? Who do you have to not turn around to know who’s talking? Is it Kevin?
Yeah, you can hear Kevin from anyplace in the place. No doubt about that.
Why is the tattoo culture so prevalent in sports?
I don’t get it. Guys, you probably know more about it than me. I don’t get it; don’t understand it, but they like it. I do think if someone gets a neat one, then I’m going to get a better one. I’m sure that has a little bit to do with it. That’s an era I don’t get.
You have one?
Does Ray Allen  have one?
I don’t think so. He may, I’m so oblivious to that stuff, I wouldn’t even know.
Do any of your kids have one?
No. I told my kids when they get to college, that’s on them. But I give them reasons why they shouldn’t.