Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Rivers stays calm amid free-agency buzz
By Chris Forsberg ESPNBoston.com
ORLANDO, Fla. -- While pondering his future at the start of the offseason, Celtics coach Doc Rivers stressed that he wanted to make a decision quickly to allow the team time to plan moving forward and prevent his situation from becoming more of a spectacle than it already was.
Watching from afar the LeBron James circus, which will culminate Thursday with James announcing which team he plans to play for next season in a live, one-hour broadcast (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET), Rivers isn't in quite the lather others are about the matter.
Doc Rivers, who is keeping an ear on the free-agency buzz while watching the Celtics' summer league team, says the attention is good for the league.
"If it was a bad player, then we'd all be pissed by it," Rivers said as he watched the Celtics top the Bobcats in summer league action Wednesday at the RDV Sportsplex. "But it's the best player in the league. He's earned the right it's not easy making that decision. This is the biggest decision in his life to this point. It'd take me more than a week. We just have to wait until he decides."
Rivers noted James never went through the process of choosing a college, a big decision in anyone's life, and suggested that only magnifies this decision. Rivers jokingly threw a new hat in the ring at the last minute, saying, "I think he should go to Boston."
A short while after Magic coach Stan Van Gundy entertained the media on hand for the summer league by sounding off about the entire free-agent bonanza, calling it -- among other things -- "ridiculous," Rivers simply shrugged his shoulders and suggested the hoopla probably should have been expected.
In fact, Rivers sees the general buzz around the offseason as a good thing for the league. On a random July day in the offseason, the NBA tops the sports headlines as James prepares for his decision, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade announced their intentions to sign in Miami, and Kevin Durant (quietly) inked a long-term contract extension with the Thunder.
"I like where the league is going," Rivers said while discussing the powers of the Eastern and Western conferences. "I think our league is in a good position."
Rivers did seem resigned to the fact that all the big-name free agents were set to sign in the East, making the road back to the Finals that much more difficult for a Boston squad still assembling and retooling its roster after winning the conference crown this past season.
But he's certainly not fazed by the happenings in places like Miami, where the addition of Bosh (and the return of Wade) is sure to increase expectations for the Heat.
Asked whether the moves shifted the balance of power within the East, Rivers wasn't ready to write off his own squad.
"We'll find that out later," said Rivers, whose troops topped the Wade-led Heat in five games in the opening round of the 2010 postseason. "We've got to play. Clearly, they've improved their basketball team. I'm not going to go ahead and say there's a shift, as far as I'm concerned."
Rivers did admit the addition of Bosh will make it harder to key on Wade and make Miami's supporting cast get the win, a strategy the Celtics used successfully in the playoffs.
"It makes them better; it's clear," Rivers said. "Bosh is a hell of a player. Defensively, it makes it difficult to guard Wade. Before you could load up; now they've got another guy out there wandering around. And [Michael] Beasley is a hell of an offensive player. They're a better basketball team."
Bosh referenced Boston's Big Three while discussing the uniting of talent in Miami, suggesting the Celtics laid the blueprint for instant success by bringing together three superstars hungry to win.
With the free-agent signing moratorium set to end Thursday, dominoes will start falling immediately (if they haven't already). On Wednesday night, the agent for Ray Allen told ESPN.com that Allen had agreed to a two-year deal to return to the Celtics.
Still, much uncertainty remains. Boston continues to kick the tires on every serviceable big man available (Jermaine O'Neal and Kwame Brown are the latest names in the mix) and gauges its ability to re-sign its other free agents, such as Tony Allen and Nate Robinson.
But one thing is certain: Rivers isn't unnerved by the happenings around him, keeping his trademark sense of humor while discussing the comings and goings around the league.
"I was a big fan of the Clippers during free agency; I was hoping they got them all," Rivers said of the traditional Western Conference doormat. "That would have been terrific. The East is going to be a monster."
But Rivers will politely remind you that monster will still go through Boston.
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.