Boston Celtics: Doc Rivers
Eventually Rivers accorded Paul Pierce the same latitude. He wasn't as insufferable as Garnett when he was injured, but if KG didn't have to come when he was hurt, Pierce was due the same treatment.
That's how it was in Boston, anyway.
And it appears that's how it'll be in Brooklyn, too.
Instead of a reunion between Rivers and two of the men he'd forged such a deep bond with in Celtic green Saturday night at Staples Center, we got a reminder of just how much things have changed.
Rivers is in Los Angeles now, trying to make winners out of the Clippers. Garnett and Pierce stayed home, resting various injuries. The Nets were trying to win without four of their starters, still wondering if this grand experiment they've leapt headlong into is all going to work out.
The Clippers ended up winning the game 110-103, but that was just the official accounting. Nothing else was settled here Saturday night, and you get the feeling nobody involved in the massive transactions that sent them all to their new homes this summer has a real idea yet how it's all going to work out.
Rivers has bonded with his new stars, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but is it as deep as the relationship he had with Garnett and Pierce?
New Nets coach Jason Kidd had a bond with Garnett and Pierce as a player, but will that translate into a coach-player relationship?
The Celtics let them all go before it was too late, but how long will it take to reboot? And even if they can, will it ever be as good as what they had?
It was telling that Kidd went along with a system established for Garnett and Pierce on nights they didn't play. Did he come to the same realization Rivers had? Or was he just choosing which battles to fight?
"That was something we set up in Boston, now the Brooklyn Nets have to deal with it," Rivers said with a laugh. "That was kind of funny.
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A: Sometimes in order to move forward, you have to let go of the past. Maybe no sentiment was stressed more often by former Celtics coach Doc Rivers during his near-decade-long tenure than when -- borrowing from Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daly -- he'd implore his players to, "Get past mad."
The idea is that no good can come from lamenting what's happened; that you can't change the past, only the future. It goes for fans as well. So much like we did when Celtics fans decried Ray Allen's defection to the rival Miami Heat last summer, we'll stress again: It's best if everyone just moves on ... and as quickly as possible.
Wait, you're wondering, why are we dredging this up now? Rivers returned to his old office building on Wednesday night as part of the third annual Hoops Dream fundraiser for Action for Boston Community Development at TD Garden. For Rivers, it had to be slightly jarring to be an outsider in an arena where he spent countless hours over the past nine years.
Appearing on Boston sports radio 98.5 the SportsHub earlier in the day to promote the event, Rivers did showcase his familiar humor by quipping, "It's fun being back here in Boston. I lost some money on the golf course, so things are back to normal."
Well, not exactly normal. Rivers was a beloved figure in this town, which left some blindsided by his departure. Some fans have seemingly struggled to rationalize his departure and are still hurt by the notion that he didn't follow through on a promise to aid Boston's rebuilding process.
On Wednesday night, the reception for the new Los Angeles Clippers coach was likely cordial. Corporate sponsors anted up $10,000 for their teams to play on the fabled parquet and rub elbows with Rivers, who was scheduled to hold a question-and-answer session with legendary sportswriter Bob Ryan as part of the event.
But there are Celtics fans who are still bitter at Rivers for electing to pursue the Clippers job out west and chase another title rather than see out the five-year, $35 million contract he signed two summers ago. Before the new season starts, it's best for those fans to get past mad.
Green said Monday that he has “absolutely no animosity” toward Rivers for wriggling out of his contract and signing an identical deal with the Clippers.
"I can’t speak for the other guys," said Green, “but I’m not angry at all. I’m happy for him. I’ve known him since I’ve been in college. I played with his son (Jeremiah).
“I appreciate the opportunity he gave me to come back to Boston after my (heart) surgery. I appreciate him putting the ball in my hands this season."
When Green signed a 4-year, $36 million contract last August, he expected Rivers to be his coach for most, if not all, of that deal.
“The main reason I came back to Boston was because of Doc," Green admitted, “but I understand things change. 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?' "
Green reported he’s been diligently following his offseason workout program and is beginning to feel like his “old self.” Green underwent life-threatening heart surgery for an aortic aneurysm that left him sidelined for all of 2011-12. He played in 81 games this past season and averaged 27.8 minutes a game, but battled overwhelming fatigue and chest tightness that were byproducts of a surgery that a ctually required stopping his heart for an hour-and-a-half.
The fatigue is something that may not ever completely dissipate, Green conceded, “but I’m learning how to deal with it,’’ he said. “I’ve got a much better idea of how to handle it now.’’
By maintaining a public silence during these on-again/off-again, zombie-like negotiations, Rivers opened himself up to some criticism, from which he certainly is not immune. But those left disenchanted, believing that Rivers is grabbing a Hollywood life vest and jumping from this sinking Ubuntu ship, shouldn't let a messy eight-day finish take away from what Rivers accomplished here over the previous nine years.
Rivers, who departs as the third winningest coach in Celtics history (sitting behind only Tommy Heinsohn and Red Auerbach), resuscitated a glory-covered franchise and delivered its first NBA title in 22 seasons. Rivers helmed five ultra-successful campaigns with a Big Three core of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and likely his only lament is not delivering another title during that run. He still leaves an indelible footprint on a storied franchise.
Garnett might have changed the culture of the Celtics, but Rivers changed the climate. After enduring those lean early years when fans chanted, "Fire Doc," Rivers -- with help of the talent management put around him and aided by his personality -- morphed into one of the game's elite coaches. His game management has its faults, but Rivers became a master recruiter for Boston, a rare instance when the coach was a team's top selling point (it certainly wasn't the weather).
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• The nitty gritty: After eight days of on-again, off-again negotiations, the Clippers will send Boston a 2015 first-round pick as compensation for letting Rivers out of his contract, which has three years and $21 million remaining (from the initial five-year, $35 million pact he inked two summers ago). Los Angeles will then sign Rivers to the same terms of his remaining deal to insert him as its next coach.
• Rapid reaction: Thank goodness it's over. Really, what more needs to be said? After these zombie talks came back from the dead roughly four times over an eight-day span, both sides needed some closure, and now the Celtics and Clippers can (finally!) move forward. Neither side comes out of this process looking particularly swell, but at least the circus-like atmosphere of these bluff- and posture-heavy negotiations are over, barring a last-minute curveball, and can we really rule that out in this process? The Clippers have the coach in place they believe can push them over the hump in the Western Conference, while the Celtics begin the process of rebuilding with a valuable future asset.
• What's next? The Celtics are expected to shut the door on this process Monday with a news conference. From there, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will turn his attention to the other pieces remaining from Boston's championship core, namely Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Pierce's 2013-14 contract is only $5 million guaranteed through June 30, but as an expiring contract, even his full $15.3 million price tag still makes him a desirable asset for a contender, especially since he has an expiring deal that comes off the books after the season.
Garnett originally was expected to be a piece of the outgoing package with Rivers, but the league -- suspicious of the appearance that the teams were circumventing the collective bargaining agreement by making two separate trades that were contingent on each other -- smothered an incarnation that could have brought DeAndre Jordan to Boston. If Boston and L.A. can't push through another deal, the Celtics might have to examine other options for Garnett. Yet again, he has immense value to a contender because of his modest salary ($12.4 million) and the strong possibility that this will be his final NBA season (though the final year of his contract is only partially guaranteed anyhow). From there, Boston can assess the future of its young core and whether the likes of Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green are building blocks for the next generation of this team as it tries to restore itself as a true contender.
And the Celtics need a coach (unless Ainge wants to handle both tasks and really save the team some cash). Brian Shaw and Vinny Del Negro are the names that have seemingly cropped up most often in speculation about future coaches, and Boston would seemingly eye a coach who can get the most out of young players and help their development.
* He compiled 416 wins over nine seasons with the Celtics, third most in franchise history behind the legendary Red Auerbach and Tom Heinsohn. He guided Boston to the NBA Finals twice during his tenure, winning the 2008 title over the Lakers, which gave the Celtics their first championship since 1986.
* Rivers' success as the Celtics' head coach can be defined by the team's "Big Three," which came together in the offseason following the 2006-07 season. The acquisition of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett led to a personal Big Three for Rivers -- as in, the middle three seasons of his nine-season Celtics tenure. If you remove the middle three seasons of his Celtics career, he was one game over .500.
* Since 2007-08, when Garnett, Allen and Pierce came together in Boston with Rajon Rondo, Rivers’ teams have been 10th or better every season in points per play offensively. With Rondo missing 44 games this season, the Celtics still managed to rank 12th in the NBA with 0.94 points per play.
Clippers president Andy Roeser has broached financial parameters of a potential contract with Scott's representatives, sources said. After talks with the Boston Celtics regarding Doc Rivers broke down again Friday, Roeser reached out to Scott's camp.
It is not clear whether the Clippers' recent contact with Scott means he is the front-runner among the non-Rivers candidates, a source said.
Sources told ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne the Clippers still intend to revisit the Rivers talks one more time, but are using the weekend to make sure they can quickly move on to one of the other three candidates -- Scott, Lionel Hollins and Brian Shaw -- should the talks with Boston go nowhere.
Each candidate has met with Clippers management and team owner Donald Sterling.
The Clippers have not "talked numbers" with Hollins, and they have not reached out to Shaw's camp since discussions with Boston ended Friday, according to sources. The Clippers do, however, have an understanding of what Shaw is asking for money-wise should he be offered the job.
Roeser and other members of the front office are expected to present their recommendations for the head coach to Sterling on Monday, with a resolution expected soon thereafter, and possibly the same day.
The Celtics are scheduled to hold a news conference to discuss the future of Rivers on Monday. The news conference originally was scheduled for Friday but was postponed.
While superstar free agent Chris Paul has pushed for the Clippers to hire Rivers, he is also close to Scott, whom he played for in New Orleans. Scott and Paul golfed and dined together recently.
It appears that the saga surrounding Doc Rivers and his proposed cross-country relocation from the Boston Celtics' bench to the Los Angeles Clippers' bench will drag out at least one more day.
Another element of the talks, sources said, is the negotiations between Rivers and the Clippers on a coaching contract. Rivers has three years left on his original five-year, $35 million deal with the Celtics and will be looking to stay in the same salary range if Boston ultimately receives what it deems sufficient compensation to let the 51-year-old out of that deal.
So the Clippers, in what NBA coaching sources are terming a "separate process," have moved ahead with their coaching search just in case, for one reason or another, they'll be unable to pry Rivers out of Boston. They've arranged sitdowns this week for Byron Scott (Tuesday) and Brian Shaw (Wednesday) with Clippers owner Donald Sterling, with the other finalist for the Clippers' job before the pursuit of Rivers got serious -- Lionel Hollins -- having already met with Sterling.
Yet numerous sources connected to talks continued to express optimism Monday that the Celtics and Clippers will agree to terms this week, with some interpreting the Clippers' plans to resume talks with the likes of Shaw and Scott as their latest thinly veiled message to the Celtics that they aren't afraid to walk away from the table.
"It's a dance right now," said one source close to the process. "I think it'll eventually happen. They're just staring at each other."
Said another: "It's certainly not dead. I think they have an idea of the main parties who would be involved, but now they've got to figure out smaller details and negotiate a deal with Doc."
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The Los Angeles Clippers believe they have the trade assets to reunite Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in L.A. if those prominent members of the Boston Celtics all prove open or able to leave the perennial Eastern Conference power, according to sources close to the process.
CLICK HERE to read the full news story.
CLICK HERE to read Chris Forsberg's column on how the Celtics are stuck at a crossroads, but might be able to facilitate a faster rebuild by acquiring some young talent from the Clippers in exchange for Rivers & Co.
For much of the past five weeks, Boston fans have been able to dismiss the idea of Rivers walking away as overhyped speculation. His indecision easily could be chalked up to a coach who has readily admitted to being "pretty much unlivable" during the season and annually needs an offseason detox to rekindle his desire.
May be time for a change.
That's what a source told ESPN that Rivers believes as he remains publicly noncommittal about spending a 10th season on the Boston bench.
Are the Celtics and Rivers breaking up? If Ainge holds firm to a desire to reshape a team that he strongly suggested is not championship caliber (and seemingly has little flexibility to become so this offseason), then a divorce that would have far-ranging collateral damage could loom.
Without Rivers, there is no Kevin Garnett. Without Garnett, there is no Paul Pierce. Without a veteran core, there'd be reason to explore trading Rajon Rondo, particularly if management determined that he's not a building block for the future. In essence, the Celtics could be completely stripped in order to be rebuilt.
New coach, new core, new start.
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Coach: Doc Rivers
Final grade: B-
Teacher's notes: There's a very vocal mass (typically loitering in your favorite comments section) that believes Rivers deserves much of the blame for Boston's struggles this season. From this vantage point, it's hard to pin all of Boston's difficulties on Rivers when you consider the team lost three rotation players (All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo, rookie standout Jared Sullinger, and Leandro Barbosa) to season-ending injuries within a three-week span around midseason. This on top of Darko Milicic's request to be released early in the year. Rivers dealt with an insane amount of roster adversity (and underperformance, which falls on him a bit, too) just to get the team to the regular-season finish line and into the postseason. Yes, Rivers was stubborn at times with his rotations (Chris Wilcox got plenty of opportunities before Shavlik Randolph finally got a turn to prove himself) and a whopping 13 different players started at least two games apiece for Boston during a mix-and-match season, where roles player saw playing time come and go. In a less-than-ideal campaign, Rivers at least gave his team a chance to compete.
What's next?: Rivers returned to Boston earlier this week and, while he hasn't made any sort of formal announcement on his future, his co-workers insist that he'll be back on the bench for a 10th season in green. Rivers pledged to lead the team through any makeover process that lied ahead when he inked a five-year, $35 million contract in May of 2011. Now, more than ever, Rivers' presence is important to determining how quickly Boston can restore itself to true contender status while navigating a murky offseason.
General Manager: Danny Ainge
Final grade: B
Teacher's notes: Ainge offered Allen enough money and security to make it worth his while to stay, but hurt feelings and a diminished role left him fleeing for South Beach. Lee, added to offset some of what the team lost in Allen, might have been the most creative deal of the offseason (Boston flipping four end-of-the-bench players and a couple second-round draft picks for a mid-level-caliber player). Both Lee and Terry struggled in their first seasons, but Ainge couldn't have envisioned their woes when constructing the roster. Much was made about Boston's lack of a backup point guard after Rondo and Barbosa went down, forcing the Celtics to lean on China import Terrence Williams as their primary backup ball-handler at times. Ultimately, it was't enough to overcome all the adversity. You can second-guess Ainge on whether the team should have found another pure ball-handler and if it should have rolled the dice on a veteran big man like Kenyon Martin.
What's next?: Ainge's staff will look different after assistant general manager Ryan McDonough took over the GM gig in Phoenix earlier this month, but the philosophies remain the same and Boston will explore all avenues moving forward. Big decisions about the future of the team lie ahead and Ainge will have to consider trade options for the face of the franchise in soon-to-be 36-year-old captain Paul Pierce, while the return of Kevin Garnett remains up in the air. This is an important offseason for Ainge and how he handles the potential makeover process, trying to keep Boston competitive in the interim while ensuring it returns to championship contender status soon.
Honor roll: Click HERE to read past report cards.
Don't agree with teacher? Just want to sound off on the 2012-13 season for Ainge and Rivers? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.
And, yet, Rivers has yet to publicly declare his intentions going forward, even though everyone in the organization expects him to be back. When he said he'd take a step back and catch his breath more than 20 days ago, that made sense. Now, it's a bit curious, particularly since he is under contract to the Celtics and has few viable options.
If Rivers were a free agent, he would be one of the most sought after coaches in the league.
In fact, team and league sources confirmed to ESPNBoston.com that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was contacted by the Brooklyn Nets, who wanted to speak to Rivers about their vacant coaching position. Ainge, according to those sources, denied the Nets permission to talk with his coach, who has three years and $21 million remaining on his contract.
Reached late Thursday, Ainge refused to comment on the Nets' interest in Rivers and reiterated that he expects him back on the Celtics bench next season.
"Doc has told me he's coming back," Ainge said bluntly. "I talk to him almost every day about our team and what we are going to do moving forward."
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"We don’t feel like we have a championship team [at the moment]; It’s pretty obvious, we lost in the first round," said Grousbeck. "We have to see who is with us, we have to see what offers there are for people, we’ve got to decide what to do. It might be a multi-year plan. We’ve never intentionally lost games and we don’t intend to trash things now. We've got players -- [Rajon] Rondo, [Avery] Bradley, [Jeff] Green, [Jared] Sullinger, Brandon Bass, the younger guys are not going to let us win the lottery anyway. That’s a good roster. We hope that Paul [Pierce] and [Kevin Garnett] are back with them and we hope we can reload along the way.
"I don’t know what will happen, I’ll know more about the plan in early July. At the moment, we just have to see what the options are."
Grousbeck gave a bit of a behind-the-scenes glimpse, noting that management and the front-office staff huddled this week to gauge the direction of the team. He stressed that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will examine the trade and free-agent markets and that the team likely won't make any firm decisions until late June when it knows all the potential options.
"By the end of June, we’ll have different options to go in with this team," said Grousbeck. "Keeping it all together just as it was is one option, but we lost in the first round, so there is an obvious possibility that we ought to start making some changes. And we’re going to have to make those decisions. They won’t be made in May."
Doc Rivers loves this time of year, when many of the NBA variables get thrown out the window and a coach can lock in on one opponent. This is where Rivers can roll up his sleeves and mask some of his team's deficiencies through strategy and game-planning that's simply not possible over the course of the regular season.
The Celtics face an uphill battle against the second-seeded Knicks, and their inconsistent play this season offers little reason to think they can shift to the next gear. But Rivers is going to try to extract all he can from his team.
"When it comes to basketball nothing's perfect, and I think that everything can be worked on. Obviously, we're a team that's been a work in progress," said Kevin Garnett. "We've had a lot of change in our team... [but] I think Doc is always striving to be his best, trying to prepare us as best as he can for the games. That's sort of the process."
Rivers smiled wide after Wednesday's regular-season finale in Toronto. On the NBA calendar, this is his Christmas.
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