August 1, 2007
Doc Now in the Hot Seat
It's been the feeling here that judging Doc Rivers the last two years has been a fool's errand. The Celtics simply weren't good enough to make a fair ruling on anyone.
But after the acquisitions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, well, Celtics Nation is hereby invited to get out its robe and gavel. Doc Rivers will now be rightfully on trial. He is a man very confident in his abilities. Some would call him cocky. When he looks you in the eye more than once and says, ``Every time I've had a decent team, we've won,'' he appears more than willing to put himself on the line.
Others already have him there.
And whereas Rivers had the shield of a young and injured roster last season to keep him from the arrows that matter - those of his ownership - he is very much in the spotlight now.
It's fair to say we know what we're going to get from Paul Pierce, Garnett and Allen in terms of effort and skill level - and all three stated yesterday that they're willing to bend whichever way necessary to make the chemistry work. Now it is incumbent upon Rivers and his staff to devise plans that put them in positions to succeed. It shouldn't be tremendously difficult because their talents are complementary, but installing the right offensive sets and proper defensive schemes will be key.
Court is in session as soon as the Celts take the court, but the truth is Rivers has to already be working on what he'll do.
``You do, but it's the happiest game plan you have to change,'' he said. ``Some things we will absolutely have to change, offensively and defensively, but all the change that we have to make are really good. Some of the things we've run in the past are actually better now.''
Things like the high-low set, with Pierce inside taking passes from the top of the lane. Kendrick Perkins proved himself a good passer last season, but with Garnett outside, you have to think there'll be more respect for his shot from the defense and, thus, more room for Pierce to operate in the paint.
There should be more room for Rivers to operate, too, although that can be a double-edged sword. He can win more now, but he to. He has this year and, after signing a one-year extension, another left on his deal - and the buyout for the latter is more than you've heard. But time is clearly of the essence with a nucleus of 30-somethings. If the Celtics lack cohesion a fair distance into the season, the club will likely not hesitate to change the staff. There is too much money invested in the three All-Stars to worry about coaching dough.
But Rivers believes in himself.
``I feel like I have a shot,'' he said. ``We feel like we have a shot, and that's all you want. You want an opportunity. You want a chance to show up at the arena and feel that no matter what they put out on the floor that you have a chance to beat that - and without tricking the game up or anything else.''
Rivers was always the team guy outwardly, but he is aware that they keep win-loss records for coaches, too. And he knew his wasn't getting any prettier with 49 losses in 2005-06 and 58 fun-filled defeats last year.
``I don't know if it was worth going through what I went through the last two (years),'' he said with a laugh. ``But it absolutely is now when you think about what's happened. But I think the bottom line is every player and every coach wants an opportunity to win - at least the ones that I want to coach and play with.''
Rivers has some real ones to coach now, which should relieve some of the pressure. Until the first two-game losing streak.