I made the case last week that Rajon Rondo's injury should prompt a shift in the Celtics' organizational philosophy. I wrote that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge should use the trade deadline to build a younger roster by moving any veterans who have value to contenders around the NBA. And finally, I came to the conclusion that Doc Rivers might not be the best coach for the Celtics to usher in a new era.
Many readers took exception with the column. A handful agreed. I've compiled a collection of comments from the original story for an all-Doc mailbag.
Article -- Dumb. Author -- Dumber. First, Doc was a great coach in Orlando when he took a young team and made them much better. People were saying then, when he won Coach of the Year in 2000, that he was a great teacher. Now, he's only good for superstars? In his first three years here he had NO talent other than Paul Pierce and a rookie Al Jefferson. In the NBA, teams with talent win -- period, the end. No one has ever coached a team of scrubs to the NBA finals, at least in my time watching.
Hogzilla, I agree with your point about the NBA being a talent-driven league. A coach absolutely needs top talent to win an NBA title.
As for your point that Doc was a great coach in Orlando, I won't go so far as to use the word “great.” In 1999, he took over a team that went 33-17 in the previous strike-shortened season. His first team surpassed all expectations in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season, finishing 41-41. Like you said, Rivers won Coach of the Year after the season. In successive seasons, his teams won 43, 44 and 42 games, respectively. In his final full season with the team in 2002-03, the Magic blew a 3-1 first-round lead to Detroit in the playoffs, extending Tracy McGrady's run of never winning a playoff series. Rivers was fired 11 games into the 2003-04 season after the Magic started 1-10.
After Rivers' firing, Magic chief operating officer John Weisbrod had this to say about Rivers:
"In the last few years we obviously didn't come up with a clear and coherent plan for [Rivers and Magic general manager John Gabriel]. They got along fine as people. But we really have to be more effective building the team through the draft and developing players. ... [Gabriel] is responsible if he allows the coach to be too influential in those things. Coaches have to coach and general managers have to manage. Giving Doc the guys he wanted on the team, maybe Gabe was a little too accommodating in that."
Let's just trade Rondo and Paul Pierce. Fire Doc. And ask KG to waive his trade clause. This article is ridiculous as have been most others since the Rondo injury. The problem with this team is that it has taken the role players too long to fit into the system and learn the defense. If Boston's bench has been as consistent as the Clippers, Rondo would be in MVP conversations and Doc would be getting praised. This is ridiculous.
Cmay295, Isn't that a big “if”? If Boston's bench was as consistent as the deepest bench in the NBA, yes, things would be different. If the Celtics had a record of 35-16 like the Clippers, certainly Rondo would be in the MVP discussion, and Doc would be getting praised.
Umm ... Al Jefferson has been an All-Star-caliber player since he left Boston BECAUSE OF DOC!!! (Big Baby Davis) is Orlando's best player BECAUSE OF DOC!!! And apparently this guy forgets that Danny started trading guys away because he wanted to build assets to get better talent. WOW. This is something you'd expect the Celtics-haters at ESPN to write.
Scotsman, you might be right. I'm sure Rivers contributed to the development of Jefferson and Davis. Let's take a look at the numbers. During Jefferson's three seasons with the Celtics, he improved his numbers across the board each of his first three seasons. By his third and final season with the Celtics in 2006-07, he started 60 of the 69 games in which he played and he averaged 16.0 points and 11.0 rebounds in 33.6 minutes. He shot a career-best 51.4 percent from the field. Jefferson's two seasons immediately following the trade were the best seasons of his career. He averaged at least 21.0 points and 11.0 rebounds, and he shot right around 50 percent from the field in both seasons. Do I credit Rivers for preparing Jefferson for his expanded role in Minnesota? Absolutely. I won't take that away from him. I'll also note that Jefferson had the best years of his career after he left the Celtics, which is what you would expect when you make a 22-year-old big man the centerpiece of a trade for Kevin Garnett.
As for Glen Davis, the former Celtic was having the best year of his career this season before breaking his foot last week. In 34 games -- 33 of which he started -- he was averaging 15.1 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting 44.8 percent from the field. The Magic also were playing about .500 basketball with Davis in the lineup, and they've been a train wreck without him. In his best season in Boston (2010-11), Davis averaged 11.7 points and 5.4 rebounds and shot 44.8 percent from the field. Earlier this season, Davis was critical of the way Rivers coached him in Boston, saying he prefers Jacque Vaughn's coaching style. We can take that for what it's worth. We know Davis always felt like he could be a primary scoring option, and he finally got the chance this season prior to his injury. We also know Davis hasn't always offered the most measured opinions, and the Magic needed him to be more of a scoring option this season than the Celtics ever needed him to be.
The point with both players is they've had the best seasons of their careers after leaving the Celtics. In Jefferson's case, the return (Garnett) warranted casting away a player who was still developing. In Davis' case, the return (Brandon Bass) is a player who is not as explosive on the court or volatile off of it.
This article is spot on -- re-signing Rivers to a five-year deal was a huge miscalculation by Ainge. His strength was always dealing with the superstars, but now they have tuned him out. It started with Allen last year. He was totally alienated by the end of the season. Everyone blames it on Rondo, but it was Rivers who created a disgruntled Allen. Now veterans like Rondo, Green, Bass and Terry are ignoring him. Only Pierce and Garnett are still Rivers guys. They should be getting phased out, but he keeps playing them too much. Finally the play-calling at the end of games is brutal. Everyone knows it's going to be iso for Pierce. Have you noticed Pierce is shell of what he was three years ago, Doc?
You make some good points, Jack. Ainge's five-year commitment to Rivers came at the end of the 2010-11 season when just about everyone thought Rivers was ready to walk away for at least a season or two. Ainge sold him on a return by making him one of the highest-paid coaches in the NBA and promising he'd keep the team intact for another run at a title. Well, a couple of years later, the Big Three is no longer intact, and Garnett and Pierce are popping up in trade rumors. If Rivers didn't want to go through a rebuilding process in 2011, is it fair to wonder if he's fully invested in the process two years later? That was a question for discussion a week ago. Now that the Celtics have won six in a row, breaking up the team at the deadline seems less likely.
Faulting Doc for the lack of development from Telfair, Glen Davis and Gerald Green is laughable and ignorant. I ask the author -- what happened to Green and Telfair once they left Boston? Did they suddenly blossom? Gerald Green has played for five teams and spent a couple of years OUT of the NBA. Telfair has played for seven teams and never shot higher than 41 percent. That's Doc's fault???
-- Red's Army, Chuck
That's a fair point, Chuck, and one that a lot of people made. To be clear, I'm not saying Telfair and Green had huge careers elsewhere. They were both busts by all accounts. Telfair was a lottery pick in 2004, and Green slipped out of the lottery to No. 18 overall in 2005. We know Ainge and Rivers go through a collaborative process in building a roster, whether it be through trades, free agent acquisitions or draft selections. Isn't it fair to question whether the Ainge-Rivers combination is best-suited to lead the team into the next era?
This article is stupid. It's understandable that he may be frustrated by their play, but to hold Doc responsible is downright laughable. This is why they call our fans obnoxious ... because of stories like this one. What exactly have Telfair, Davis and Green done since they've departed? Shoot, only one of the three would even make the Boston squad. What's even more troubling is the opinion is of one who follows the game and team. Fire yourself, bro. Oh, and what really kills me is him holding it against Doc for not developing Telfair, Davis and Green but withholding the credit when players like Powe, Allen, Perkins and Bradley materialize into "real" players. This guy's a buffoon, sorry just calling a spade a spade. If he doesn't like Doc's coaching style, just say it. And back it up sufficiently, please. Signed, lifelong sports fan who uses common sense.
-- Peter Griffin
Peter, I agree that Leon Powe, Tony Allen, Kendrick Perkins and Avery Bradley materialized into solid players who could play in any NBA rotation. I think Rivers does a nice job developing complementary players around Garnett and Pierce. He and Ainge find guys in the draft who do one thing particularly well -- defend. And they plug them into the system. I'm simply speculating as to whether Rivers can develop the next superstar after Pierce and Garnett are gone.
This article is not stupid, but actually hits pretty close to the mark. Rondo is not the problem, Doc has been the one to bog down the Celtics. For example, in the game against the Kings, Jeff Green was on fire and only had eight minutes logged, confidence sky high and feeling great about himself and his game, along comes Doc to pull him from the game in favor of putting Paul Pierce back in. Doc relies to much on PP, KG for a stagnant offense, a predictable one at that, too much micro-managing. Gotta let these guys run, run, run, and share the ball, it works!! Time for Danny Ainge to step in and discuss with Doc the direction of the team before all the players tune him out.
If this post-Rondo run has taught us anything, it's that Rivers may have been a little slow to adjust to his personnel this season. I do think he goes into every season with the idea that he'll rely more on his bench players. Then I think he falls into the habit of leaning too much on his veterans (Garnett, Pierce, Rondo) in tight situations. This recent run has shown us that when complementary players have a more active role on offense, they will play better on both ends of the floor.
Gerald Green and Telfair were bad players. No coach could have saved them.
I agree. Bad example on my part.
Rondo has a partial tear, Rose had full tear. At least research before you post garbage.
Anonymous, I'm not a doctor, so I can't give you a full medical diagnosis. If you read this site, it appears as if the only saving grace of a partial tear is that an athlete might be able to avoid surgery if there's enough stability in the knee. If a doctor deems that surgery is required, the knee has a full reconstruction, which requires the same recovery time as a full tear. Rondo will need surgery.
Really??? Get rid of Doc Rivers?? Really ??? Who the hell is this guy, and how many games has he coached in the NBA? … Doc Rivers is one of the best coaches in the league, you're asking him to make this team championship-caliber, and that's ridiculous.
He's acknowledged to be the best coach in the NBA -- you're trying to be clever, a "contrarian." Go write about something else.
I don't agree that Rivers is one of the best coaches in the league this season. Several readers made this claim. Doesn't it vary season to season? For instance, I don't think Terry Francona was as good in 2011 as he was in 2004. I don't think Andy Reid was as good in 2012 as he was in 2004. Coaches have bad seasons.
I think Gregg Popovich is the exception; he's the best coach in the NBA every year. To my point, the Spurs (39-11) have the best record in the NBA. I think Rivers has been up and down throughout his career. If you take all of the seasons he coached in Orlando and Boston prior to the Big Three era, Rivers logged a career record of 273-310. Even during the Big Three era, for as much postseason success as the team has had, there have been stretches of inconsistency. This year's team started 20-23. Last year's team started 13-17. The 2010-11 team started 27-27. I feel as if the greatest coaches in the league generate a more consistent effort throughout the course of a season.
If you're ranking coaches this season, don't you have to put Knicks coach Mike Woodson ahead of Rivers after leading the Knicks to a 31-16 record? What about Tom Thibodeau, who has the Bulls at 29-19 without Derrick Rose? What about Frank Vogel, who has the Pacers at 31-19 without Danny Granger? P.J. Carlesimo has the Nets at 16-5 since he took over for Avery Johnson. There are many good coaches in the NBA, and there are even a few good coaches (Stan Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy, Larry Brown) who don't have NBA jobs at the moment.
I disagree with the bigger point of this article. Without picking it apart piece by piece, here is the the biggest reason why Doc is the best fit here: High-profile NBA players would rather go to other cities if the money is close, but players want to play for Doc, so he helps make Boston a viable destination.
That's a good point, Brian. Jason Terry told me earlier this season that he chose Boston last summer because Doc Rivers personally called him to recruit him. So there's some merit to that. I just think when the Celtics decide to make the transition, they'll want to rebuild through the draft rather than free agency.
These articles are always full of educated guesses, etc. I think we all agree (or most of us) that the Celtics are not going anywhere this year. Maybe they get a low seed in the playoffs, but they will surely get knocked out. Blowing it up is a waste, as you won't get much for any of the aging stars. I am not saying we are better off without him, but I for one am curious to see what happens now that Rondo is out. Will some of these other players show some signs of life with more minutes and more responsibility? I feel like we still don't know what this team (in its current form) is made of ...
I'm with you. To be honest, I never expected the Celtics to play this well without Rondo. Granted, they're not playing the stiffest competition in the league, but they're certainly making a case for keeping it together for another playoff run. Do they have a championship team? No. But they're fun to watch, and they'll be a tough out in the postseason. So unless Ainge is blown away with an offer for Garnett or Pierce that would help the team in 2014 and beyond, I don't see anything happening at the deadline. The transition to a younger roster will be delayed until July, and we can table the discussion as to whether Rivers is the best coach moving forward until then.