|Kevin Garnett’s future determines Celtics’ ability to be competitive next few seasons||05.10.13 at 10:27 am ET|
If next season’s Celtics team does not start Kevin Garnett at power forward, prepare for a long, dark stretch. Without KG patrolling the middle in green and white, feel free to reintroduce yourself to the lottery, long losing streaks and the empty promise of rebuilding.
While you miss the scowls, intensity and blocked shots after the whistle, remember that the decline of the Celtics is more complex than the team simply aging. The major problem is the Celtics actually ask Garnett to do more now than they did during the NBA finals run in 2010. Despite his age (37 on May 19) and contract (2 years, $24.3 million), Garnett still is a premier power forward and a critical piece for a team chasing a championship.
“Back in Minnesota, Kevin used to say, ‘I want to live beyond my contract,’ ” new Timberwolves president (and former coach) Flip Saunders told WEEI.com. “That meant whatever he was getting paid, whenever someone would see him in a game or in a practice, he wanted to live up to that contract and then play beyond that.”
Garnett has done exactly that in his six seasons in Boston. His playoff averages (35 minutes, 12.7 points, 13.7 rebounds, his highest playoff average since 2004) against the Knicks also demonstrated that quality basketball remains afloat in his veins. Surrounded by the right players, Garnett still can help Boston contend for a championship. After watching Garnett for 18 seasons, Kevin McHale — who drafted Garnett in Minnesota with the No. 5 pick in 1995 — still is amazed by his former student. Garnett was the first player in 20 years to go directly to the NBA from high school, and McHale recently reminisced about Garnett’s rookie training camp in Minnesota, when the 19-year-old was only a couple of months removed from his senior prom.
“I loved the kid the first day of practice,” McHale said. “He laid on the floor after his first training camp — laying on the ground with nothing left — and I said, ‘We’ve got to go again tonight.’ He went, ‘Huh?’ I said we did two-a-days, and he was like, ‘Oh my.’
“But that night he came and he laid it on the ground, played on the line, laying on the ground, playing on the line. At the end, he was laying on the ground, and I said to him, ‘Now we do two again tomorrow.’ He looked up at me and said, ‘Man, this is going to be a job.’ He hasn’t changed since then, he’s just got better.
“His ability to compete at a high level for such a long time, his love of the game, his competitive nature,” marveled McHale, “it really is fun to watch.”
Competing at a high level for an extended period of time in the National Basketball Association takes a rare talent. It is a skill that is difficult, but far from impossible. The highest standard of excellence has been set by the Spurs, a team with an aging superstar in soon-to-be-Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan. Far from the best of friends, Garnett and the 37-year-old Duncan share very similar basketball philosophies, a fact not lost on Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
“They can look in the mirror and realize they’re both the same in so many respects as far as how they run their lives in the NBA and how they’ve run their careers,” Popovich said during his last trip to Boston. “They’re both competitive as hell, they both understand the game, they both love being on the court, and neither one of them is really that excited about the hoopla that is all around it, but they’ve also endured by taking care of their bodies and what they do in the summertime to take care of their bodies.”
|Doc Rivers really feels for Gregg Popovich and the $250,000 fine||11.30.12 at 7:06 pm ET|
Doc Rivers admitted before Friday’s game with the Blazers that he didn’t like the $250,000 fine handed down by NBA Commissioner David Stern Friday night against the Spurs for sitting four of their stars and sending them home for Thursday night’s game against the Heat in Miami.
Gregg Popovich, a close friend of Rivers, did not dress Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green for the game on national TV Thurday night, sending them home on a Southwest Airlines flight. Popovich said he did what he needed to in the best interest of his team, which was playing a brutal stretch of four road games in five nights and finishing up a road trip.
Stern said in a statement announcing the fine that the Spurs did a “disservice to the league and its fans.”
Rivers said he understood but sympathized more with Popovich.
“I don’t like it,” Rivers said. “I do get the other side of it, but it’s a tough one. You’ve got to coach your team to win in the long run.”
Rivers said Stern and the league made a big deal of it when it happened right away, when the league issued a statement Thursday night.
“I apologize to all NBA fans,” Stern said in his statement Thursday. “This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.”
Rivers thought that was a bad move.
“I think it was an action and a reaction personally, and I think the reaction was probably overdone [Thursday], and then all of a sudden you have to have an action,” Rivers said.
Rivers was asked if he’d consider a similar move to rest veterans like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
“We’ll do it when we want to do it and we should be able to do it,” Rivers said.
|Pierce: Doc is one ‘cool customer’||05.31.10 at 5:24 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Two of the most-respected coaches in the NBA also happen to have the most rings.
And Celtics captain Paul Pierce would love to give Doc Rivers the chance to join Lakers coach Phil Jackson and San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich as active coaches with multiple rings.
But whether the Celtics win another title or not in the next month, Paul Pierce believes he is playing for one of the best coaches of his generation. Pierce said Monday following practice that Rivers deserves credit for keeping the team focused on the task at hand and never showing panic through the course of a long season filled with many ups and downs.
“He’s definitely taken my career to the next level,” Pierce said. “You have to put him up there with the top-five coaches with Phil, Gregg Popovich.”
It wasn’t always that way as Pierce admitted earlier this season when he said his relationship with the Celtics and Rivers was sometimes like when a couple goes through growing pains early in their relationship.
Sometimes you come close to “breaking up” Pierce said but in the end, you work things out.
Such was the case, even this season, when the team went 27-27 to finish the season, losing at home to teams like Washington, New Jersey and Memphis. When the team was battling to find itself in January and February, Pierce said it was Rivers who kept things loose and easy.
“I think it’s everything to this ballclub,” Pierce said. “You can see at times when you play for coaches when things aren’t going right it just seems like the practices get harder and the yelling becomes louder and Doc is a cool customer.
“He didn’t panic, he didn’t get louder. He just stuck with the game plan. A lot of times, when you go through a stretch we went through like five games out of six, seven-out-of-10, you can tell from a coach’s body language that things are going downhill. You never really saw that with Doc. He came in and said, ‘Alight, we’re going to get back to work the next day.’ He always stayed positive and encouraged us and I think that was big for us throughout the year.”
Jackson has an NBA-record 10 titles as head coach while Gregg Popovich is second among active coaches with four. The Celtics are making their second trip to the NBA Finals in three years with Rivers as the coach and he is trying to join Red Auerbach, Bill Russell and K.C. Jones as Celtics coaches with two titles in three seasons.
|Doc on the Spurs: ‘What we want to be’||03.28.10 at 9:36 pm ET|
Doc Rivers remember playing for Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. But not how you might think.
Rivers was the point guard for the Spurs between 1994-96 when Popovich was the general manager.
Then Rivers retired the season before the Popovich fired Bob Hill for a 3-16 start and took over as head coach.
Four NBA titles later, the man with the second-longest head coaching tenure in the NBA is the envy of the league – including Doc Rivers.
“Well, he’s earned it,” Rivers said of Popovich’s tenure. “Pop’s been phenomenal. He’s not only been a coach but he a built a whole program. San Antonio has always been very good. They just could never get over the hump. When I played there, we made it to the Western Finals against Houston and they had been there before.
“Pop came in and not only took them back there, but took them over that and he did in the right way with character players. The organization is first class and no one would have thought 10 years ago that San Antonio would be the organization that most of the league, and not just in basketball, would model their teams after and they do.”
So it’s no surprise that after titles in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007, the Spurs have the kind of resume that others in the league want to copy – even the mightiest of all NBA dynasties with 17 banners already hanging in the rafters.
“Well, we would like to be,” Rivers said of the desire to copy the Spurs’ way. “And that’s what we want to be because they’ve been consistent with it and have done a great job with it. Everyone has their own way but there are a lot of things that I do as a coach and there are a lot of things we do as an organization that we got from them.”
|Pop on Finley: ‘I don’t blame him’||at 7:55 pm ET|
An hour or so before Michael Finley was set to play his old team, Gregg Popovich reflected on how it all went down. Finley had been dropped from the Spurs rotation and was looking at spending the rest of the season watching instead of playing. So, the veteran made the unusual decision to ask out of one of the best situations in the NBA.
The two talked it over in Popovich’s house where Finley made his request and they decided to part ways.
“I made a decision to play other people and we honored Michael’s request to seek another team,” Popovich said. “He asked and he decided to do it. And to do it the right way, to do it before the cut-off date so that he could go with a team that he could play with in the playoffs.”
Finley ultimately signed with the Celtics where he is on way to earning a spot in the playoff rotation. Doc Rivers all but confirmed that he was leaning that way Friday night when he noted Finley’s shooting ability and veteran presence with the second unit.
Since leaving San Antonio, Finley has been nothing but complimentary about the Spurs and his time there. Popovich returned the favor Sunday night.
“Everybody asks about it and I was surprised when he asked that,” Popovich said. “I didn’t think that would be something that Michael Finley would ask to do. One has to be realistic and put oneself in [his] shoes. If you are toward the end of your career and somebody’s not going to play you and you still want to play more basketball, what’s wrong with asking to play elsewhere and trying to play as long as you possibly can?
“That’s what he did and I don’t blame him for that a lick,” Pop continued. “He’s one of the greatest guys I’ve ever coached, but he wanted to keep playing. He didn’t want to it there on the bench for the rest of the season. Nothing wrong with that. He wanted to play.”
|GMs Predict Lakers to Beat Celtics in NBA Finals||10.22.08 at 11:37 am ET|
On Wednesday NBA.com revealed the results of the 2008-09 GM Survey. There were some expected predictions based on last season’s performances – a second straight Celtics/Lakers Finals, the Miami Heat will be the most improved team, and Chris Paul is the fastest player with the ball. But there were also a few notable results worth taking another look at:
Which team will win NBA Finals 2009?
1. L.A. Lakers — 46.2%
2. Boston — 19.2%
3. New Orleans — 11.5%
4. Houston — 7.7%
San Antonio — 7.7%
Others receiving votes: Detroit, Orlando
The departure of James Posey caused many to doubt the Celtics chances to repeat, but this landslide victory was still surprising. Most of the hoopla surrounding the Lakers this season is the return of Andrew Bynum. Yes, he will make them better by giving them an inside presence and allowing Pau Gasol to move back to the power forward position (where he won’t get beat up by Kendrick Perkins). But can Bynum hold up for three postseason rounds? The Lakers starting five (including the hobbled Kobe Bryant) has not proven they can win it all as a unit whereas the Celtics are returning their entire starting lineup. While experience isn’t accounted for on the box score, it can affect the final outcome.
Who will win the 2008-09 Rookie of the Year?
1. Michael Beasley — 48.1%
2. Greg Oden — 29.6%
Which rookie will be the best player in five years?
1. Greg Oden — 30.8%
2. Michael Beasley — 23.1%
A year ago the race for Rookie of the Year was neck-and-neck between Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. One knee injury later, Oden has been edged out by Michael Beasley for the honors. But you’ve got to feel good if you’re Portland Trail Blazer GM Kevin Pritchard. His long-term vision for young talent will make his team a contender for several years down the road.
Who is the best head coach in the NBA?
1. Gregg Popovich — 53.8%
2. Phil Jackson — 23.1%
3. Jerry Sloan — 7.7%
Others receiving votes: Rick Adelman, Rick Carlisle, Nate McMillan,
Stan Van Gundy
Which head coach is the best manager/motivator of people?
1. Phil Jackson — 44.0%
2. Gregg Popovich — 28.0%
3. Doc Rivers — 12.0%
4. Nate McMillan — 8.0%
Others receiving votes: Rick Adelman, Jerry Sloan
Did you check that list twice? After winning an NBA Championship, Doc Rivers was left off the list of best head coaches. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich still reigns supreme in the eyes of GMs, also taking first place over Rivers for coach with the best defensive schemes. You would assume that Rivers would get at least one nod after transforming the Celtics from worst to first, but fortunately for Rivers the title of 2008 NBA Champions holds more clout than any preseason predictions.
Who is the best on-the-ball defender in the NBA?
1. Kobe Bryant — 26.9%
2. Ron Artest — 19.2%
Bruce Bowen — 19.2%
Rajon Rondo — 19.2%
As far as defense goes, Kevin Garnett was predicted to be the league’s best defensive player, best interior defender, and best leader. Rajon Rondo’s inclusion on the best on-the-ball defender list speaks volumes to the influences of Garnett and Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau, who was also predicted best in the NBA. To put things into perspective, Rondo was 10 years old when Bruce Bowen made his professional debut. Talk about a quick learner.
So how much stock should you put into these results? It’s up to you.
Which team will win NBA Finals 2008?
1. San Antonio Spurs 37.0%
2. Phoenix Suns 25.9%
3. Dallas Mavericks 14.8%
4. Detroit Pistons 7.4%
Others receiving votes: Boston, Houston, Miami, Orlando