Doc Tries to Stay Optimistic

October 23, 2005

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Doc Rivers said he has seen the light with regard to the Celtics. Since it's still the preseason, no sarcastic comments will be forthcoming. OK, just one. Exactly which team did Rivers think he was watching in some darkened video room when he saw the light? Did he mistakenly put in a tape of Detroit or Indiana or Miami or San Antonio or Phoenix?

Otherwise, how can you explain his sudden optimism? Not much the Celtics have done suggests better times ahead.

For the record, Rivers made the claim after watching Boston lose to Toronto Friday night at the Air Canada Centre. But at least he acknowledged it sounded crazy as the team struggles through the preseason, wrapping up a stretch of three games in four nights with a contest last night against New Jersey at Mohegan Sun.

"We're nowhere close," said Rivers. "But at least I can see something."

With two exhibition games remaining, the Celtics are doing few things with any consistency, though one of them is turning the ball over. They were averaging 22.2 turnovers per game. Against the Raptors, any benefit from shooting 50 percent from the floor was mitigated by 22 turnovers that led to 18 points for the opposition.

Defense has been an issue, especially with opponents averaging 100.6 points per game. The young second unit looks promising one moment, then somewhat confused the next. Shots by the starters and second unit literally have been hit or miss.

When asked if he could see the light, given the Celtics' recent play, Paul Pierce kept his focus on matters closer at hand.

"We have to keep focused on every possession," said Pierce. "Right now, we're hurting ourselves with a lot of turnovers. Each and every game you see something different, see something new. Our main concern right now is over turnovers.

"We're turning the ball over at a high rate and we have to start [improving] right now in the preseason. We just can't turn it on when the season starts. We can't do that. We have to start really concentrating on each and every possession."

With just 11 days left until opening night against the Knicks at the TD Banknorth Garden, the questions keep piling up as Rivers tries different combinations. What is the best way to use Al Jefferson -- in the starting lineup or off the bench? Can Delonte West put together more than just a good half? How about playing Dan Dickau at shooting guard, where he looked effective against the Raptors when paired with Orien Greene at point guard? Is there any way to get more time for Curtis Borchardt, a new Rivers favorite? And how will limiting the time Ryan Gomes and Justin Reed play together affect the second unit?

Those are some of the issues Rivers hopes to resolve sooner rather than later, though certainly some will linger into the regular season.

All Rivers knows for sure is that either Pierce or Ricky Davis must be on the floor at all times for the Celtics to succeed. They entered last night's contest with solid numbers for the preseason. Pierce led the team with 17.6 points and 4.2 assists per game. Davis averaged 11.2 points and 3.8 assists, despite foul trouble against Toronto.

Both players embrace the prospect of playing heavy minutes.

"We are our best playmakers, especially with the youth and inexperience we've got," said Pierce. "We can bring that to the court, even with one of us playing with the second unit just to get an offensive leader out there and a defensive leader. That's something that they're going to need.

"I don't see it as pressure. I like being on the court. If it was up to me, I would never sub out. I love to play."

Added Davis, "We just need to keep a scorer from the outside on the floor and, of course, keep a veteran out there. I think it's better for the team and for the offense.

"I could come in and start, [Rivers] could bring me out early and I could come back in with the second group. That's a good plan. Just put me out on the floor wherever."

Tony Allen, who has been charged with aggravated battery for his role in an Aug. 28 fight that escalated into a shooting at a Chicago restaurant, traveled with the team last night.

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