- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers dismissed Dwyane Wade's suggestion that Rajon Rondo's flagrant foul at the end of Tuesday's season-opener was a "punk play."
Rondo was whistled for a flagrant-1 after he grasped Wade by the neck area on a late drive to the basket. The two players exchanged words before being separated by teammates. After the game, Wade termed it a "punk play" and suggested he had to restrain himself from retaliating.
Appearing on Boston sports radio WEEI (93.7 FM) on Thursday, Rivers was quick to point out that it wasn't the first time Rondo and Wade had gotten physical with each other and dismissed the idea that it was anything more than a hard foul.
"I didn't think it was that hard. I argued against the flagrant," said Rivers. "Listen, Wade has committed a lot of hard fouls on Rondo and we forget about the elbow injury that Rondo had [during the 2011 playoffs]. That was created by Dwyane Wade. I don't think [Rondo's flagrant] was a punk move, unless [Wade's foul that hurt Rondo's elbow] is, too."
While Rivers acknowledged a desire for his players to keep their emotions in check and not hurt the team, he also stressed that he likes Rondo to play with an edge.
"I like his fire -- I want to keep that fire," said Rivers.
A handful of other highlights from the weekly appearance:
* DOC ON KG's CODE: Asked if Kevin Garnett was genuinely mad at Ray Allen's defection to the rival Heat, leading to the in-game snub on the Celtics' bench, Rivers said: "No, Kevin's pretty genuine. I don't know if the word is 'mad' or 'disappointed.' I don't know what word is. Kevin has his own code, God bless him. I love his mentality. I think it's refreshing sometimes."
* GAME WAS FIRST CHAT WITH RAY: Rivers suggested that Allen changed his telephone number at some point this offseason and the embrace the two shared during the game was the first time they had actually interacted since Allen's departure. Said Rivers: "I wish I had a chance to talk to him [during the offseason]." Asked if he had lost a big-name free agent like that in the past, Rivers said the Magic thought they had a shot at Tim Duncan during his time in Orlando, but it never happened. Rivers also noted that David West had "basically told me he was coming" last season before electing instead to sign with the Pacers.
* HEAT ARE BETTER THIS YEAR: Rivers said that the Heat have improved this season, but not just because of the additions like Allen and Rashard Lewis. "They won a title," said Rivers. "They have that championship swagger. They also know exactly who they are." Rivers said his team is still establish their own identity given all the new faces added to the roster this season, but is hoping the players on his roster who have their own championship swagger -- players like Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry -- can help Boston reach its full potential.
* DEFENSE IS BEHIND: Rivers admitted his team is behind in getting where it needs to be with team defense. "It's just going to take time," said Rivers. "I'm a little disappointed in [the defense] because we're behind and you can feel that. I see the team every day. They are working, we're going to get it right. It's just going to take time." Can his team eventually be better than last season? "I think we are potentially better, but we are not right now," said Rivers. "Our continuity has to settle in. On paper it looks great, but the key is everyone buying in and understanding their roles."
4dMatt Walks, ESPN.com
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