Boston Celtics: Doc Rivers
“Definitely, it’s a tough situation,” Pierce said. “Your owner is labeled as a racist. You’re a head black coach, head president. It’s a tough situation to work for somebody like that so it’s hard to be in that situation this time of the year, so much on the line.
“But I know Doc is very headstrong and he’ll work it out.”
Garnett said he has sent his support to Rivers.
“I think it’s important for obviously players to be unified,” Garnett said. “The Sterlings of the world obviously exist. Sports brings cultures together. We need to focus on that.
“If any coach can deal with it, he can,” Garnett added. “Doc is one of the most resilient coaches I’ve ever played for. Not just helped me out as a player but helped me out as a young man, helped me as a better father and a better person. I hope that he is able to spread some of that to his players and his organization.”
As things have turned out, Garnett might be glad he didn’t end up a Clipper last summer.
Garnett was mentioned in a potential side deal to Rivers’ pact to join the Clippers last year. In the end, only Rivers ended up with the Clippers while former Celtics Garnett and Pierce became Brooklyn Nets.
Garnett was asked if he would’ve wanted to become a Clipper and follow Rivers knowing what he knows now about owner Donald Sterling, who was banned for life by NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday.
“I’m a Net,” Garnett said after Nets practice. “I don’t focus on almost. In high school, I never dealt with the chick that almost wanted to go out with me.”
The comments allegedly made by Sterling were to his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, on an audio recording obtained and released by TMZ. The man making the comments urged Stiviano not to bring black friends to "my games."
When Rivers was asked if he thought the voice on the recording was Sterling's, he said, "Yeah, I believe he said those things."
"I still want to make sure it hasn't been doctored, but 'yes' is the answer," he said. "As far as believing those things, I heard what he said. Until someone tells me differently, you usually listen to what people say. I haven't given him his due process. I haven't given him an opportunity to explain himself and quite honestly right now don't want him to, or don't want him to to me. I'll wait for that further judgment."
Rivers said he isn't sure he could continue as the team's coach and executive vice president of player personnel with Sterling as the owner.
"For me, I honestly don't even want to answer that question, because I don't know," Rivers said. "This just happened ... I don't want to be part of this story. I don't have an answer one way or the other on that. We'll just wait and see."
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During an appearance on Boston sports radio WEEI (93.7 FM), Dooling joined the chorus of those who have voiced harsh criticism in response to racist comments allegedly made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Dooling also expressed support for Rivers, the former Celtics coach, who must guide his team through the playoffs with the situation looming above.
"My heart goes out to Doc. I love Doc. He’s the guy who came to see me every day when I was in the mental institution," said Dooling, referencing his weeklong stay in an asylum in 2012 after a mental breakdown that stemmed from sexual abuse suffered as a child. "I know [Rivers is] a great leader. Doc used to always say, 'If we want to go quick, you go by yourself; if you wanna go far, we gotta all go together.' I think his leadership is meant for a time like this.
"I believe that, as much as he’s been through, especially about his house getting burned down because of racism and him being in an interracial marriage, and all those things. He’s been through this, he’s built for this. Doc is built for this. And I think Doc knows who he is more so than most coaches. He knows who he is as a black man, as a coach, and as a professional. I know he’ll do his job, but from a personal level, you best believe Doc is going to fight for what he believes is right."
Given previous reports about Sterling, Dooling said he was disgusted but not surprised by what he heard in the audio recordings.
"Two reactions: One, I was disgusted. Obviously, that kind of talk, in the private life or public life, I believe is unacceptable," said Dooling. "And then, two, I wasn’t surprised, because when people reveal who they are to you, it’s your duty to believe them or not. And he showed time and time again that he has beliefs that certain people are inferior to him. When you say things like that, you just have to be accountable for your words."
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Q: What is the biggest challenge of coaching in Boston?
Rivers: "Everyone expects you to win, but I never looked at that as a negative. Some people struggle with the intensity of the fans and the media, but I always viewed that as a plus. Who wants apathy? I'd rather have the passion and the expectations than people not caring. I enjoyed it, and embraced it -- and if you're going to be successful in Boston, I think you have to embrace it."
Stevens: "Boston has been great. The fans have so much passion about its teams. Obviously, we're in a situation where they know we're young and building, but there's been positive energy since we got here. We moved and the Red Sox won the World Series, the Patriots got the No. 2 seed and the Bruins never, ever, lose. It's a great time to be a Boston sports fan."
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NEW YORK -- Kevin Garnett went over to Doc Rivers and hugged his former coach before tipoff.
It was an emotional reunion for Garnett, Rivers and Paul Pierce, the trio that guided the Boston Celtics to the franchise’s latest championship their first season together in 2007-08.
“It was a bit weird. I said something to ‘Truth’ [Pierce], like, ‘Man, this feels weird,’” Garnett said after his and Pierce’s Brooklyn Nets defeated Rivers’ Los Angeles Clippers, 102-93, Thursday at Barclays Center.
“We kind of had like a little conversation about it, but I’ll always have a special place for Doc. I thought he helped me [not only] grow as a player, but as a young man," Garnett said. "Telling us a lot about basketball and the philosophies of it and about being a young man -- a young black man -- understanding our responsibilities because we are men and we were starting our families at the same time.
“And just overall [he’s] a great role model. No one’s perfect -- all humans have their flaws -- but he’s damn near close to it. I’m just grateful that he just came into my life and I’m able to share that experience with him.”
Added Pierce: “It was just fun to go over there, say hi to him, and seeing how he’s doing. I asked him how was Boston [Wednesday night], he was like, ‘You’re next.’ He was very emotional. But it was fun. I actually went over to him and told him I know all his plays, and I’m going to give them away, so it was fun.”
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He admits it might be hard to fight back those emotions when he is acknowledged by the fans during Wednesday's game.
"I’m an emotional guy," said Rivers. "You know me. I’ve been emotional my whole life. I’m not going to change now. I just hope I can coach the team tonight and get through it. Hell, I did a function here this summer and me and Jeff Twiss were sitting there and we both got water in the eyes. You don’t invest nine years in an organization or a town -- I fell in love with more than just the team here. This is a fantastic place to be. I’m not here anymore, and when I do come back, I remember everything. I remember walking the streets. So, yeah, [I expect to be emotional]."
The Clippers visit Brooklyn to play two of Rivers' former players in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on Thursday, but he said Wednesday's game is the harder of the two visits.
"It’s harder to come back here," said Rivers. "Playing against them, I see them. It’s just two guys that I love in a Brooklyn uniform. Coming back here, that’s special, for me. I get to walk under a banner that I helped get and see the fans and see a lot of my friends. This day and a half has been a lot of fun, but it’s also been very emotional."
Celtics first-year coach Brad Stevens reaffirmed that it's really just another game for him, but understands the emotions involved for Rivers, his former players, and the fans.
"The one thing I don’t think you can do is alter the world," said Stevens. "There are going to be emotions, so how emotional they get will be up to each of them, individually. I’m not going to be able to control that, necessarily. You certainly talk about what we have to do to be successful. What we have to do to play our best. That’s part of it. Every night there’s something in this league because of the relationship that guys have with former teammates [or] guys that played together in college, guys that played together as they grew up. There’s always a relationship across the benches. I think guys are used to that by now. The last two nights have been a big deal around here because of the people that were involved in each of these last two games."
A few more pregame notes:
- HUMPHRIES (KNEE) OUT: Kris Humphries is out for Wednesday's game due to a bruised right knee.
- OLYNYK (ANKLE) OUT AGAIN: Celtics rookie Kelly Olynyk will miss his 10th straight game Wednesday due to a right ankle sprain. Said Stevens: "I thought at one point that he would be probable or at least close, but now I’m being told [he could return on] Friday [vs. the Knicks]. Hopefully that’s the case."
- DEFENDING LOB CITY: Stevens noted that Los Angeles' frontcourt of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin play "like there are trampolines on the floor. They can get way above the rim. And if you left Jordan or Griffin get a running start, you’re dead. You have to meet those guys high in transition, you have to meet those guys high on rolls."
- JACKSON WILL PLAY: Rivers noted that newly acquired Stephen Jackson will be thrown right into the fire given the Clippers injuries. "We signed him [Tuesday] and he’s literally going to play tonight," said Rivers. "And we’ll see how that goes."
"I'm used to coming in through the other [Celtics'] doors and used to going to the other side. This is strange already," Rivers said at the Los Angeles Clippers' morning shootaround.
Rivers spent nine years coaching the Boston Celtics before departing in June to take over as coach and senior vice president of basketball operations with the Clippers. He made it clear that he will be battling emotions when he faces off with his former team Wednesday night.
"It's going to be a hard night," he said. "I already told my coaches that it's going to be hard. You don't spend nine years in one place and win a title, and have the emotions you have toward the cities and the fans, and be normal when the game starts. It's just not going to happen, at least I don't think so. I've already prepared my coaches to be good coaches tonight because it's going to be too tough for me."
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NEW YORK -- Jared Sullinger is calling shenanigans. The Boston Celtics' second-year forward/center finds it way too convenient that one night after jousting with old friends Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Brooklyn, the Green must host former coach Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers.
But there are probably 28 other teams the Celtics would rather see on the tail end of this back-to-back on Wednesday. Even after most downplayed the emotional aspect of Tuesday's tilt in Brooklyn, the hype machine will be in overdrive again for Wednesday's game. Oh, and it doesn't help that the 14-8 Clippers were relaxing in the Hub on Tuesday night.
That said, Sullinger didn't hide how much Rivers meant to his own development.
"I can’t be a rookie -- that’s one thing he kept telling me [last season]," Sullinger said of Rivers' coaching during his first NBA season. "That if you want to play, you can’t be a rookie. He always pushed me. I was the hardest he coached throughout the team [last season], and every little thing I did, I couldn’t get away with. He was always on me. Almost like playing for my father [Satch] all over again."
Across the locker room, Jeff Green likewise gushed about Rivers' impact on him.
"What he’s done for me, individually, he made me look in the mirror and try to figure out what type of player I want to be," Green said. "He gave me a chance to really showcase what I can do. And he gave me an opportunity that I needed to present myself out there to people, to come with the aggression each night. I’ve known Doc since I’ve been a sophomore in college. ... He’s done a lot for me, he’s done a lot for this organization as well.
"It’s going to be fun to see him again, but when the ball is thrown up in the air, he’s on the other team, he’s the enemy. And we’re going to try to beat his team."
Garnett and Paul Pierce are toiling in New Jersey for a hugely disappointing Nets team that has been underwhelming under coach Jason Kidd.
The Celtics will face them on the road Tuesday, then will return to the Garden Wednesday, where Rivers and his Los Angeles Clippers will be waiting.
It's nostalgia week for Boston Celtics fans, yet the reunion with Pierce and KG is likely to be underwhelming. Pierce might be sidelined with a broken hand, while Garnett is submitting startling career lows in just about every category, including 6.4 points a game and 36 percent shooting.
"It's not what was supposed to happen."
"My heart breaks for them,'' Rivers said. "It's not what was supposed to happen. It's just so strange. It's amazing how much I watch them.
"I just wanted them to do well. That's all. When I watch them now it's like I'm rooting for (daughter) Callie or (sons) Jeremiah and Austin.''
The Nets are not the only team the coach of the Los Angeles Clippers monitors with regularity. Although he will play them only twice a year, when Rivers sees footage of the Celtics he can't help but stop, rewind, and watch.
In many ways, what he sees is close to unrecognizable: new coaches, new players, new sets, new expectations.
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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.
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