Rivers on thin roster, defensive minds

WESTON, Mass. -- Doc Rivers has no idea when, or if, the 2011-12 NBA season is going to start. But when, or if, it does, the Celtics' coach already has one potential migraine.

His roster.

It's not who's on it. He's down with that. It's who is not on it.


Danny Ainge addresses the media at Monday's golf event.Right now, with no season in sight, at least any time soon, the Celtics' roster boasts seven names: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, Jermaine O'Neal, Avery Bradley and Jeff Green. You could add an eighth by including No. 1 draft pick JaJuan Johnson, but he is not officially signed.

"We've got seven signed players," Rivers said Monday while attending the team's annual golf tournament benefitting the Shamrock Foundation at the Weston Golf Club. He said that was a concern.

So, depending on what happens to roster sizes when the league ends the lockout, the Celtics are looking at anywhere from six to eight players to add in what could well be a short, and frenzied, stretch of free agency. A couple of guys who would appear to be on their short list: Glen Davis and Delonte West, both of whom are free agents and played important roles for Boston last season (when healthy).

Whoever does fill out the roster will be joining a veteran team with a very short window to contend for a championship (assuming it is this season at some point) and, for the third year in a row, a new person in charge of the club's defensive schemes.

For three years, Tom Thibodeau was Rivers' defensive coordinator, if you will, a role that was inherited last season by Lawrence Frank after Thibodeau left to coach the Chicago Bulls. Frank has also left, taking the head coaching position with the Detroit Pistons, leaving Mike Longabardi, who joined the Celtics in 2007, as the team's new defensive mind.

Armond Hill and Kevin Eastman also are still on Rivers' staff, giving him three assistants, a small number in today's NBA. But, then again, there's no season yet. General manager Danny Ainge said the coaching staff is complete for now, but conceded he could make a change at some point.

Rivers said he resisted anointing a "defensive coordinator" for quite some time, but eventually came to the conclusion that it was a good idea after brainstorming with and observing a number of football coaches.

"They do it with the amount of players they have, so we should be able to do it with the amount of players we have," he said. "You just have to do it. You have to let go. It took me years to do it. But I do think it's the right thing to do. Whoever that guy is, it gives him the opportunity to focus in on one thing, like that's his baby. It's a good thing."

The reason Rivers took so long to embrace the concept, he said, was because "I kept looking for the right (person). Thibs (Thibodeau), for me, was that guy. He loved doing it. That's what he wanted to do and it really allows you to coach the team."

That duty now falls to Longabardi. He'll have Garnett (maybe) to still be the anchor, but beyond that, it's anybody's guess as to when he'll implement his first scheme as the defensive guru of the Celtics. And who will be there to try and implement it for him.

In other, non-lockout, tidbits from Monday's fundraiser:

• Ainge said he is spending a lot of time watching film, scouting the league, and trying to get a heads-up on the 2012 NBA draft (which could include one Austin Rivers, son of You Know Who). He said team personnel man Ryan McDonough was in Lithuania to scout the recent European qualifier for the 2012 Olympics, won by Spain. Ainge also said the team kept close tabs on the Americas zone qualifier in Argentina, which was won by the host country.

• Rivers on his son, Austin, a freshman at Duke: "He's a typical freshman. He's learning, and that's what he should do. So it's been a lot of fun. He's extremely confident, which we want. College basketball tends to take that away from you, early on, and he has not had that problem so far, and that's good." Austin is a lot like his dad in the personality department, which will no doubt endear him to the Duke beat writers.

• Ainge has first-hand experience of a lockout, as he was the head coach in Phoenix when the league shut the door on its players in 1998. Rivers, on the other hand, was a year away from accepting his first head coaching job with Orlando. "It was hard," Ainge said of the previous work stoppage. "Everybody wants to play and everybody wants to work. It's not fun for anybody."

• When Rivers saw Ainge warming up on the putting green with a belly-length putter, the coach cracked, "Oh no! Not you, too."

Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.