Rivers with harsh words for 'soft' team

November, 29, 2012
11/29/12
9:45
AM ET
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesDoc Rivers didn't think the Celtics didn't played tough, even during a second-quarter scrum.
BOSTON -- Celtics head coach Doc Rivers wasn't bashful in his discussion of his team being "soft" following Boston's 95-83 loss to the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night at TD Garden, highlighted by a late second-quarter scrum that resulted in point guard Rajon Rondo being ejected.

Rivers wasn't impressed by the altercation, which began with Nets forward Kris Humphries delivering a hard foul on Celtics forward Kevin Garnett. Rondo took exception and shoved Humphries, and the skirmish spilled over into the stands behind the basket.

"I thought, if I’m Brooklyn and the league, you’ve got to think we’re pretty soft the way we’re playing," said Rivers. "We’re a soft team right now; we have no toughness. And that stuff’s not toughness. All that stuff, that’s not toughness.”

Rivers didn't wait until after the game to make up his mind about the "soft" label. He told his team at halftime that opponents were perceiving them as such.

"I said, 'They think you’re soft,'" said Rivers. "It doesn’t matter. We gotta go play. It’s a word."

Mired by an 8-7 start to the season, Rivers maintained that his team needs a more forceful mindset moving forward.

"[The Nets] earned this game, they really did. With 17 offensive rebounds, they got everything they wanted," said Rivers. "We have to do a better job with our guys. I gotta do a better job of preparing them, hopefully we don’t have to change schemes, but right now we’re not doing the ones we’re supposed to do. We just gotta come and play with more force. I’m not asking guys to be fighters or anything like that, I don’t need that. No cheap stuff. We just need to play the game with a lot more force, and until we do that, other teams -- they do, they think we’re a soft team, and the only way we can stop that, is by playing with more force as a group. It’s not one guy, it's the entire team has to come play together.

Rivers admitted that the "buying in" process has taken longer with this team compared to past groups, but, even after Wednesday's debacle, he's not ready to push the panic button just yet.

"Maybe this team will change, and we have to get in there and get our hands dirty and get them to do that," Rivers said. "Not every team is going to be easy, some teams are going to be easy to coach and to get them to buy in. Some teams are hard. This team is a bunch of good guys, but it’s hard to get them to buy in and do it every night. I always tell our players, it starts with me. I gotta get them to do it and do other things to make them do it. By benching guys, sitting guys, or whatever. It’s too early to push a panic button or anything like that, but I just don’t like the way we play. And so we have to play better basketball."

While not informed of Rivers' "soft" comments, Garnett was asked after the game if he felt the Nets played with more effort than Boston. He begrudgingly admitted that they did.

"Well, I thought they brought parts where the physicality probably pointed in that direction," said Garnett. "When you rate effort, as a whole, yeah, I would say. That's hard to say. You know what I mean? Because I play hard every night. But I'm speaking on a team aspect, so, yeah, that's very difficult to answer. But, yes."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
16.9 1.7 0.7 34.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsR. Rondo 9.8
StealsR. Rondo 1.3
BlocksK. Humphries 0.9