Coaching without hurting feelings

In the wake of reports that Dwight Howard asked Magic coach Stan Van Gundy to tone down his negativism earlier this week, Celtics coach Doc Rivers was peppered with questions before Friday's game about how he balances instructing players without hurting their feelings.

"I don't think we berate -- it's because we're talking about getting out to that guy and we mean right now," said Rivers. "We don't have time to say, 'Hey, can you come over here for a second, I'd like to talk to you about getting out to J.J. Reddick, who's wide open.' "

Reddick happened to be walking by at that moment -- drawing laughter from the media as Rivers said hello in the middle of his example -- but Rivers suggested that it's a hard line to straddle and any instruction was open to player interpretation.

But Rivers also noted Orlando was in the NBA Finals last season.

"[Van Gundy's] coaching style is just fine," said Rivers. "Why change? They were in the Finals last year. I wouldn't change that at all."

Rivers confirmed that he's had players come to him to try to sort out differences and their perception that he was coming down hard on them without justification. Rivers stressed that the key for him was having the same agenda for all his players and -- even if personal feelings didn't mesh -- he wanted the team on the same page.

At that moment, Rasheed Wallace walked by and screamed at Rivers for creating a "fire hazard" by clogging up the hallway. Rivers didn't miss a beat.

"It's the opposite on this team," he joked. "I go to Rasheed and say, 'Can you be a little calmer? Can you be nicer today?' That hasn't worked yet, either."