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Grant Hill on Doc Rivers: ‘He’s a great communicator’ 02.04.13 at 10:45 am ET
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On an afternoon when Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro didn’t exactly cover himself in glory, his veteran wingman Grant Hill had high praise for the coach in the locker room across the hall.

Del Negro opted not to foul Celtics Courtney Lee or Paul Pierce in the final 26.6 seconds of a 103-101 game. As a result, Lee delivered the ball to Pierce, who dribbled the clock down before sinking a game-clinching 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds remaining. And the Clippers coach wouldn’t have changed a thing.

“I wouldn’t foul him there,” said Del Negro. “I wouldn’t want to foul Paul Pierce there. It was right on the number. We’ve done it both ways. If we get a stop there, we have three or four seconds to go. We’ve got plenty of time in a two-point game. If I was going to do it, I would’ve foul Courtney Lee early right when he got the ball, but you play the percentages. We went back and forth with it. We just felt like we could get it done.”

Lee (88.6 FT%) is actually shooting better from the free throw line this season than Pierce (78.8 FT%), and while the latter has made just 38.3 percent of his isolation attempts this winter, even if Pierce missed his shot with 2.6 seconds left, the Clippers would still have had to track down a long rebound and call timeout.

“If coach addressed that,” said Hill, “then I don’t need to address it.”

The 40-year-old Hill played two seasons against Celtics coach Doc Rivers as a player and then three-plus years under the former Magic coach in Orlando from 2000-03.

“Doc’s a good friend and somebody who I’ve enjoyed getting to know — him and his family. I competed against him as a player and obviously played a little bit for him,” said Hill, who of course attended Duke, where Doc’s son Austin Rivers played his lone college season. “He’s just a good man. He’s come up here and had tremendous success, and you’re happy that he’s been able to establish himself as one of the better coaches in the league.”

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Doc Rivers on possibly adding Greg Oden: ‘He’ll come with a long list of scenarios’ 02.03.13 at 1:11 pm ET
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Coach Doc Rivers, general manager Danny Ainge and the Celtics may very well be interested in adding Greg Oden to their roster but they’re doing a job of not going overboard in expressing their enthusiasm after meeting with him on Saturday while the rest of the team had the day off.

“I got the Clippers tonight,” Rivers said before Sunday’s game with the Clippers. “I said hi to him, reminisced about high school days when I watched some AAU, but other than that, I can tell you I thought far more about the guys we are playing tonight than next year.

“We really haven’t talked about [additions]. Honestly. We obviously can, because we need a body. But we really haven’t talked about it much at all. Nothing really. What I think Danny is doing is probably doing all the work right now and I’m sure this week maybe, or who knows in two weeks, he’ll come with a long list of scenarios.”

The Celtics are in the market for a big man after losing Jared Sullinger for the season to back surgery on Friday. Rivers said he has only heard from Sullinger via text since the surgery and expects him out of New England Baptist Hospital this weekend.

Other Sunday pregame notes: Eric Bledsoe started for Chris Paul (knee), who missed his seventh game in nine contests Sunday. “In some ways, they are harder to guard and some ways they are not. Obviously, Chris Paul is fantastic. But when he plays, at least you know where the ball is at a lot, because it’s in his hands and that helps you somewhat defensively. When he doesn’t play, the ball is going all over the place, and they are in some ways difficult to guard.”

As for Doc Rivers’ Super Bowl prediction: “Oh, San Fran; it’s not even really close. It won’t be close, it’ll be a blowout,” he said, before hinging his bet bigtime. “Three points. No I do think San Fran, but who knows? I think they are the better team, but clearly I don’t know enough about football. That’s why I’m here.”

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Paul PIerce on Jeff Green: ‘That’s the Jeff we pretty much envisioned’ 02.02.13 at 1:53 am ET
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Jeff Green has picked a good time to show his best side.

Green had three monster slams and 17 points off the bench as the Celtics beat the Magic, 97-84, Friday at TD Garden. Hours before the game, the team was informed that another player was lost for the season.

With the loss of Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger, it was Green who took advantage of a newly-discovered spread offense. Green played aggressive and fearless defense on LeBron James on Sunday against the Heat. On Wednesday, he led the Celtics over the Kings. On Friday, he was the energy force of a Celtics team that made it back to .500 at 23-23.

“You know, we’re spreading the floor for him which helps too,” Doc RIvers said. “And that helps. But he’s just been aggressive. We’re getting the ball to him in the open court, which I think is really important for him because of his speed, the defense can’t set, and it gets him to the rim, which is good. Yeah, so he’s doing great and we’ve got to keep him thinking about rebounds. That’s important for us.”

And when the lead shrank from 16 points to three, it was Green who again provided the spark with a one-handed jam.

“Yeah, and the defense obviously is what got us out on the break, and I thought that changed the game,” Rivers said. “We went small in that stretch. I got on Paul again; Paul we just want him to stay being a scorer. I think he’s trying to create too much right now. His scoring will create for us.”

Courtney Lee also flew to the basket for a dunk in the fourth quarter, and like Green, started from the baseline. Which dunk was better?

“Definitely mine, definitely mine,” Lee joked. “But Jeff, he soars through the air man. He does the Statue of Liberty so…you can see how high he’s elevated, and he get his elbow off the ground when he do that. So I’m going to give him credit. I’ve seen Top 5 plays of the season, I think he was on there like 3 or 4 times so he got it.”

“It’s great,” added Paul Pierce. “He’s been very aggressive, he’s getting easy baskets out on the break. He’s been attacking the rim in the half court and that’s the Jeff we pretty much envisioned you know coming into the season. I think we are doing a good job of finding him in his spots. And he’s taking his time and really getting the job done.”

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Kevin Garnett is still using ‘bulls*** comments’ from Doc Rivers as motivation at 12:48 am ET
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Kevin Garnett has a long memory – at least long enough to remember what Doc Rivers said about his team after the 95-83 loss on Nov. 28 to the Brooklyn Nets.

“If I’m Brooklyn and the league, you’ve got to think we’re pretty soft the way we’re playing,” Rivers said after that game. “We’re a soft team right now; we have no toughness.”

Ouch.

The Celtics seemed to have righted their ship and eventually improved to 20-17. They followed that with a six-game losing streak. They have lost Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger for the season in the space of five days. But they have won three straight and have proven toughness even without two star players.

Something Garnett, with 14 points and 10 rebounds, pointed out after the 97-84 win over the Magic Friday night at TD Garden.

“I told you all when Rondo went down, obviously we were going have to pick up the load, and now with Jared, even more,” he said. “He’s a great rebounder for us, great facilitator. Guys now getting opportunities are going to have to come in, like I said with Rondo, it’s going to have to fall on the backs of everybody.”

Then Garnett, asked what the team has learned about itself, brought back Rivers’ comments from late November.

“We have a lot of fight in us,” Garnett said. “I know Doc made his bulls**t comments about us being soft, we’re a team that will fight and we are a team that is very competitive and is very prideful. We’re learning that when you pieces, you learn to fight through with each other and follow that. More than anything, we’re just being competitive out here and sharing the basketball and playing.”

For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

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Doc Rivers on loss of Jared Sullinger: ‘We’ll have to play differently again’ 02.01.13 at 7:18 pm ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers says his team will have to play more small ball now that big man Jared Sullinger is lost for the season to lumbar disc surgery in his back, surgery that took place Friday at New England Baptist Hospital.

While the news was somewhat surprising to outsiders on Friday, the Celtics knew all along that this was the risk of drafting Sullinger, who missed nearly half of his final (sophomore) year last winter with Ohio State, a team he led to the Final Four. Sullinger’s bad back dropped him on draft day last June and the Celtics took the gamble, taking him 21st overall.

“We knew this could happen,” Rivers said. “We knew it a month before the draft that this could happen and at some point it probably would happen. We were hoping it would be a summer thing, rather than the middle of the season, but it happened now. He was playing great and the good news is we know he can play. We know he’ll be a very good player and, in the long run, this will make him healthier.”

As for Rivers’ reaction to the news, “My emotions are to the team, I have to give them that. I told them after shootaround. Our goals haven’t changed, nothing’s changed. We will have to play differently, again.”

Rivers said he would use more of a “small-ball” approach, like the Magic and Knicks already do in the East. Rivers also inserted Brandon Bass back in the starting lineup and hinted that he would use Jeff Green more at the power forward spot, with the following caveat.

“It’s probably not fair but I’m going to lean more on Jeff to do more rebounding,” Rivers said. “When he’s rebounded for us, he’s played well.”

“I think we’re still working on what we may have to do. But I think we definitely have to be a small-ball team. We’ll start big, as usual with Brandon and Kevin [Kevin Garnett] — I don’t know if that’s big, but that’s how we’ll start. After that we just have to put our five best players on the floor, so we’re going to have to be creative.”

As for leaning on rookie center Fab Melo, don’t expect Rivers to be using the Syracuse product, meshing with what Danny Ainge told reporters before Friday’s game.

“I know how people here love the young guys — love to see the young guys,” Rivers said tongue-in-cheek. “I’m sure at some point, Fab will find his way on the floor. Obviously, I think you try to give him as much as he can handle. You do try to put him in situations like when he’s on the floor, Kevin’s on the floor with him to help him.”

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Doc Rivers reminds Paul Pierce that he is ‘still our scorer’ 01.31.13 at 1:59 am ET
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Doc Rivers knew everyone would have to pick up their game without Rajon Rondo. He also knew that Paul Pierce had experience doing it. But as the game began, the Celtics coach felt he was too concerned with distributing and not doing what he does best – scoring.

The Celtics’ leading scorer at 18.7 points per game was scoreless before a layup and a free throw with 2:53 left in the second quarter. Time for intervention.

“Listen, that’s how we have to play overall,” Rivers said. “Just simple, good basketball; pass the ball, move the ball. I got on Paul at the beginning of the game because I thought he was trying to be the facilitator – he must’ve read some of your all dumb-ass articles – and then once he started moving the ball, he was great. Because he’s still our scorer. I said, ‘Paul, you’re still our scorer, by the way.’ But overall I thought everybody just played their role, and played great.”

Pierce got the message, finishing with a team-best 16 points and 10 rebounds. The Celtics also made concerted effort of rushing the ball up the court against the athletic Kings.

“Again, not having Rondo, we don’t want teams to get set, where you’ve got to grind out a play and late clock, and moving,” Rivers said. “It’s just easier for us if we can get into our stuff quicker. We just advanced it at the pass, we got early posts for Kevin (Garnett), had some quick lay-ups, easy baskets, that’s what we have to do.”

Pierce wasn’t the only one facilitating the Celtics’ offense. Kevin Garnett (13 points, nine rebounds) established himself early with nine points in the first quarter.

“Yeah, he was terrific,” Rivers said. “He really did. And that’s what he – you know, all of them, everybody has to do their job. Some have to do better. And Kevin I thought tonight was terrific. Really, I thought everyone did what they needed to do. I thought our bench came in and had an unbelievable run. And I thought offensively what we did is if a play worked, we didn’t try to get smart and run another play. We kept running the same play. And when that stopped, we went to another play. It’s simple, and it sounds simple, but that’s what we did.”

The first game the Celtics played knowing Rondo was no longer an option couldn’t have gone much better for the Celtics in a 99-81 win that Boston led by as many as 28 in the third quarter.

“Well it’s important because we believe we can and we want to and we need to,” Rivers said. “So, yeah, I mean it’s vital for us. We have to win every game; that’s how we think. We have to go in every single game and look at them as single games now, and try to win them. But it’s always nice to get off to a start like this.”

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Doc Rivers: ‘Have to give [Rajon Rondo] room to do what he wants’ during injury 01.30.13 at 7:42 pm ET
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Doc Rivers believes his team is equipped to handle life without Rajon Rondo.

The first test for the Celtics is handling a Kings team that beat them like a drum in the fourth quarter of a 118-96 loss in Sacramento.

“Not really, I’d rather have him,” Rivers said when asked if coaching without his top point guard represents a unique opportunity. “But the coach in me and the players understand they don’t have him. It’s another challenge and hopefully, we’re up for it.”

Will Rondo be around the team before and after his upcoming ACL surgery?

“I don’t know,” Rivers said. “I don’t ever ask. I don’t really care. I want him to do what he needs to do. It’s very hard to come to every game. I had that same injury. There are days you want to be around the guys and there are days you don’t. I think you have to give him room to do what he wants.”

Apparently, what Rondo wants right now is the very best advice before going ahead with right knee reconstruction. According to injury expert Will Carroll, Rondo is consulting the “Big 3″ of knee doctors, including Neal ElAttrache, James Andrews and Walt Lowe. ElAttrache, you’ll recall, did the ACL reconstruct for Tom Brady in 2008.

Rivers also said one of the advantages of having Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley in the backcourt together is that they’re a more physical combo than Rondo and Bradley.

As for the Kings, Wednesday represented a chance at redemption against DeMarcus Cousins, the 22-year-old who went off for a triple-double on Dec. 30.

“He’s not athletic but he’s very [smart] and instinctive,” Rivers said in a moment of pre-game frankness.

As for the Kings, who entered Wednesday 17-29, Rivers had this assessment.

“They’re a talented, young team and there are nights when they get all activated and all together as a group and they’re really good.”

For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

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