|Fact or fiction: Doc Rivers’ odd call to Boston media||06.26.13 at 8:41 pm ET|
So much for Doc Rivers not disputing Danny Ainge‘s take on the former Celtics coach’s departure to the Clippers. Two hours after telling the media in Los Angeles the only reason he’s coaching “is to win titles,” Rivers spun around in circles on a lengthy teleconference with reporters in Boston.
While Rivers should be lauded for his willingness to discuss his professional life and a decision he had every right to make — even interrupting the Clippers public relations staff when they tried to stop the call with “two more questions” — the 27-minute interview can only be described as confusing after Ainge and Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck shared similar opinions the last 24 hours about how it all went down.
So, let’s try to separate fact from fiction one quote at a time (thoughts in italics).
|Doc Rivers: Winning titles is ‘only reason I’m coaching’||at 3:39 pm ET|
As the Clippers introduced new vice president of basketball operations and coach Doc Rivers, he sat stone-faced for most of the press conference, offering no objection to former Celtics colleague Danny Ainge‘s version of events the past two weeks.
“Quite honestly,” said Rivers from L.A., “at this point in my life, that’s the only reason I’m coaching — is to try and win titles.”
After watching him coach in Boston for nine seasons, it was strange hearing Rivers using “we” and “us” when referencing the Clippers, but clearly he’s moved on from a team he no longer believed to be a contender. As C’s owner Wyc Grousbeck said Wednesday morning, “I don’t think he wanted to rebuild with us; I think he wanted to make his win-loss record better.”
Over the past 24 hours, Ainge and Grousbeck both stated their desire for Rivers to fulfill the three years remaining on his coaching contract in Boston, and Rivers never actually disputed their claims, although he deflected a bit.
“After the year, I had no plans of leaving and didn’t give it a lot of thought, honestly,” said Rivers. “After every year — and Danny knows me as well as anyone — I put everything I can into a season, and then, if you ask me immediately after the season, I’m not coming back. I’m going home. I’m just burnt out. I’m tired.
“This lasted a little longer, and so when Danny and I talked, I told him I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and we just basically sat around as a team and talked about what’s the best way at that time to improve the Celtics, and we went into talking about different scenarios. A couple other teams came up, and Danny talked about assets — me and Kevin Garnett at the time — and then the name Clippers came up, and I thought, ‘Well, that’s interesting,’ and you’d be amazed how — from that point on — I really kind of stepped back. Danny kind of did the talking and would report back to me. I didn’t talk to you or anybody, so I was kind of left out. It was really interesting.
“One thing I would like to make clear: There were never any threats. ‘If you don’t get me here, I’m not doing this.’ ‘I’m not coming back.’ There was never any of that. It was just kind of a negotiation with Danny and [Clippers president] Andy Roeser, and if it all worked out, then I would consider it. That’s basically where it went to, and the closer we got to this thing actually happening is the more I got interested in it.”
Still, both Rivers and Ainge believed they would continue working together until early this week.
|Danny Ainge tells his side of the Doc Rivers saga||at 12:39 am ET|
WALTHAM — While he wouldn’t go so far as to say Doc Rivers “quit” on the Celtics, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge expressed his disappointment in the coach’s decision to accept a job with the Clippers.
“Doc is one of the top coaches in the league, so that will be a difficult challenge,” Ainge said in Tuesday’s press conference. “My feelings are: I had planned on Doc being our coach all along. We had discussions about him being a Gregg Popovich, a Jerry Sloan, a Red Auerbach — breaking Red Auerbach’s all-time win record as a Celtic and being here for a long time — so I had never really thought about this day until May 8.”
Ainge scripted a clear timeline of what led to The Indecision this past week, when discussion with the Clippers about compensation for allowing Rivers to walk from the three years and $21 million left on his contract heated and cooled several times. Ultimately, Ainge landed an unprotected 2015 first-round pick for Rivers.
- May 3: The Celtics lost to the Knicks, and to Ainge’s surprise Rivers expressed concern about returning.
- May 8: Ainge approached a still hesitant Rivers, who asked what his options might be moving forward.
- May 9: The Celtics sent Rivers a letter alerting the coach they expected him to fulfill his contract.
- “In subsequent weeks”: A still uncertain Rivers expressed to Ainge his interest in the Clippers’ opening.
“And even then, it was so early after the season, I didn’t think it was really going to happen until [Monday],” said Ainge. “We really never were close to a deal with the Clippers in spite of the reports, so I think that this is part of the business. I don’t want to get too emotional. Doc’s going to a great situation — a place he chose to go and a place he wants to be. It’s not a place that I chose for him to go or a place that I want him to be.”
Ainge thanked his former coach for nine years of service to the Celtics and admitted, “We don’t have a championship without Doc Rivers in 2008,” but also made it clear that this was very much not his preference.
|Danny Ainge: ‘We don’t feel any urgency’ to find the next coach as part of busy offseason||06.25.13 at 11:10 pm ET|
But deep down the president of basketball operations of the Celtics knows that next month will be a challenging one for him and his staff as they try to juggle finding the right coach with the NBA draft on Thursday with free agency, the Paul Pierce question, the Kevin Garnett dilemma and the Rajon Rondo factor.
That’s a lot for general manager who hasn’t had to search for a head coach in nine seasons.
‘I do watch coaches often as I travel around and scout NBA games and college games and so forth, so I do have some people in mind,’ Ainge told reporters Tuesday. ‘But because I haven’t had any contact or really had any consulting with my staff on all of this, I’m not really prepared at this time to address any of those questions.
‘The only wrinkle [to our off-season] now is that we need to get a new coaching staff, and we don’t feel any urgency with that. We don’t need a coach before the draft, we don’t need a coach before summer league. We don’t need that to happen fast, so we’ll take our time and look, unless our No. 1 choice makes a quick choice.’
Ainge needs to decide by next Monday if he is going to try and trade Pierce, buy out his $5 million option or have him stay.
Ainge is also reportedly busy consummating a sign-and-trade for Atlanta’s talented but sometimes inconsistent forward Josh Smith.
There’s the question of what to do with Garnett and Rondo. Does Garnett want to even be around in Boston without Rivers and with the franchise facing a rebuild? How will Rondo work out with the next head coach? Are they really pieces Ainge wants to build the future of the team around?
So many questions to be answered in the next several weeks.
One thing Ainge has going for him is a growing supply of picks. The trade of Doc Rivers to the Clippers gives the Celtics an unprotected first-round pick in 2015.
‘It’s an unprotected pick. You never know what can happen,’ Ainge told the media. ‘There’s been all sorts of circumstances that have happened in our league. To get an unprotected pick is very difficult to get in our league.’ ‘It’s an unprotected pick. You never know what can happen,’ Ainge told the media. ‘There’s been all sorts of circumstances that have happened in our league. To get an unprotected pick is very difficult to get in our league.’
The Celtics now have eight former first-round draft picks under contract for next season who are all under the age of 28.
And with the Clippers’ first-round pick in the 2015 draft, Boston now has 13 picks over the next five NBA drafts. Six of those picks (their own five, plus L.A.’s) will be in the first round. The C’s also possess two second-round picks in the 2014, 2015 and 2017 NBA Drafts, as well as one second-rounder in 2016. All in all, the Celtics, according to NetsDaily.com, are one of seven NBA teams to own all of their first-round picks in the next six drafts.
So, Ainge has plenty of reason to be grateful to Rivers, one NBA title, another Eastern Conference championship, an appearance in the Eastern finals in 2012 and now an unprotected first-round pick.
Rivers leaves as the third-winningest coach in Celtics history, with 416 regular-season victories. Only Red Auerbach (910-450) and Tommy Heinsohn (427-263) have more wins. Rivers also compiled a 58-46 record in the playoffs.
‘We don’t have a championship without Doc Rivers coaching,’ said Ainge. ‘He did an unbelievable job. He has a long history of success with us in the last nine years, and we wish him the best in Los Angeles.
‘I don’t think there should be resentment,’ Ainge proclaimed. ‘I know how Boston fans are and all that, but I really don’t feel like there should be resentment. This may be good for everybody. This may be a win-win. Time will tell.’
If the Celtics can unload captain Paul Pierce to a team with enough cap space to absorb his $15.3 million contract next season — acquiring an equally hefty trade exception in return — Danny Ainge already has a sign-and-trade package prepared to offer the Hawks for unrestricted free agent Josh Smith, according to a Sporting News report.
The Bucks and Cavaliers have both been rumored among potential Pierce suitors, but the Celtics legend’s desire to play for a contender if he doesn’t stay in Boston remains an apparent hurdle for Ainge, who also reportedly wants a first-round pick back for Pierce.
Unless Ainge finds a trade destination for Pierce or both agree to extend the deadline, the C’s must decide by July 1 whether to pay Pierce his $15.3 million or cut him for $5 million against the cap.
While Sporting News reporter Sean Deveney‘s source did not divulge any details of a potential sign-and-trade deal for Smith, the Celtics would reportedly be willing to offer the athletic 27-year-old $15 million.
However, Smith could receive as much as $17.5 million on the open market from teams with the salary cap space (i.e., the Bucks, who sought Smith at the trade deadline), throwing yet another wrinkle into Ainge’s rebuilding plans this summer.
Of course, Smith and Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo have been close friends since their days as roommates at Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) Academy. The mercurial Hawks forward has admitted being “a little jealous” of Rondo’s Boston experience in addition to conceding that a trade to the C’s was “a possibility” in February.
Boston fans its time for me to be the celtics coach !!!!
‘ Antoine Walker (@WalkerAntoine8) June 24, 2013
No, seriously, Antoine Walker wants to be the next coach of the Boston Celtics.
‘I want to be back in the game, I love the game and am a student of the game,’ he told The Boston Globe. ‘I want to stress seriously that I do want to become a coach … there’s a lot of guys starting to get opportunities and so the league is getting younger coaches. Obviously I’m lacking in experience but we’ve all got to start from somewhere.’
OK, then. I guess these would be the Top 10 reasons the Celtics should hire Antoine Walker.
|Jeff Green: ‘I’m happy for’ Doc Rivers||06.24.13 at 5:20 pm ET|
While admitting he returned to Boston in hopes of playing four years under coach Doc Rivers, Celtics forward Jeff Green told ESPN.com, “I can’t speak for the other guys, but I’m not angry at all. I’m happy for him.”
Green first met Doc while teammates with the coach’s eldest son Jeremiah Rivers at Georgetown University. Green reportedly feels “absolutely no animosity,” but the 26-year-old understands if his teammates harbor ill will after the Celtics released Rivers from the three years and $21 million left on his contract in exchange for a first-round NBA draft pick from the Clippers.
Rivers is reportedly still in the process of reaching terms on a similar deal with Los Angeles. Green knows the NBA business well, having been a pawn in the C’s Kendrick Perkins trade to the Thunder two years ago.
‘The main reason I came back to Boston was because of Doc, but I understand things change,” Green added. “Not everything goes as planned. We had injuries, and some other things, that altered our team. You can’t predict the future. I really enjoyed playing for Doc. We have a great relationship. I’m sure some people will feel betrayed, but we all have to do what is best for us and our families. Whenever there’s a trade or a coach leaves, there’s always emotion. But then after a while we all move on and say, ‘What’s next?'”
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