MIAMI — It was surprising if only for the timing, but Celtics coach Doc Rivers said after his team had been eliminated by Miami that he was , “leaning heavily toward coming back,” next season.
Rivers contract is up and there has been speculation that he would take a year off to watch his son Austin play at Duke. But Rivers said that he had more or less decided to return during the last two weeks.
“I haven’t made that decision, but I can tell you I probably will [come back],” Rivers said. “I’m a Celtic and I love our guys. I want to win again here and I’m competitive as hell. I can tell you that is where I am at today. Tomorrow I may change my mind, but that’s where I’m at today.”
Unlike last season when several of their key players were unsigned, Rivers is the biggest domino for the Celtics this offseason and reaction in the locker room was overwhelmingly positive.
“I want to put this on the record, Doc already committed to me and said he was coming back so he can’t go back against his word,” Rajon Rondo said. Asked what his career would be like without Rivers, Rondo said, “I don’t even want to imagine. I really want him to come back.”
With Rivers seemingly on board, other pieces began to fall into place as well. Ray Allen, who has a player option for next season, also declared his intentions to return. “This has been my team,” he said. “I have been full steam ahead with this team. I don’t have any plans to go anywhere else.”
With Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett already under contract, the Celtics core looks like they will come back for one more run. Center Jermaine O’Neal also has a year left and he said that he felt his body would allow him to come back for one more season. “If you ask me do I think I have another year in me, yeah, I do,” he said.
The Celtics will have some decisions to make. Glen Davis is an unrestricted free agent and he may have played, and talked, his way out of Boston after an uneven playoff performance.
“You can’t just base it on just the playoffs,” Davis said. “My whole body of work I feel like I can play in this league. I can start in this league. My second year when Kevin went down my third year playing in the playoffs and this year was my best year. I just didn’t play well in the playoffs this year. Things happen like that. I don’t think this playoffs is going to hurt me as much.”
Asked if he wanted to stay, Davis said, “I have given thought about that. I love Boston and I plan on wishing I can stay. But you never know like [Kendrick Perkins] situation. He was here for eight years he wanted to stay but it just might not work my way. It’s just how it is.”
He continued, “I want to be a player in this league. I feel like I have a lot more to offer. I want to show the world my talent.”
Jeff Green is a restricted free agent, meaning the team can match any offer he receives. “There’s a lot to my game that people haven’t seen,” he said. “There’s a lot I can bring to this team.”
Delonte West and Nenad Krstic are also free agents, as are Von Wafer, Sasha Pavlovic, Carlos Arroyo and Troy Murphy. The Celtics would undoubtedly like to bring West back. Despite his struggles, Krstic does have value as big men with his experience are hard to find. The future is less certain for the other four.
Avery Bradley is also under contract and this will be a big summer for him as he tries to carve out a niche for next season. The Celtics love his talent, but he received only scarce playing time.