Chances are, plenty of Patriots fans share Rivers’ dismay.
The Celtics coach was jokingly referring to the still-fresh news that slot receiver Wes Welker had signed with the Denver Broncos, the reality of which was still sinking in as the Celtics prepared to host the Raptors. Welker’s defection to an AFC rival came as something of a shock, even more so when reports indicated that Welker signed for the relative bargain price of only $12 million over two years.
The episode brought up some unpleasant memories for Rivers. Less than a year ago, the Celtics felt they were close to bringing back a key player of their own in Ray Allen. The most accomplished 3-point shooter in the history of the NBA made a surprise move, though, taking less money to sign with the Miami Heat on a two-year deal.
Rivers, who speaks often with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, would not disclose the details of any conversation they may have had about team-building. He did admit that he was struck by some of the similarities between the two players’ defections, however.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations,” Rivers said. “I’m not going to go into what we’ve talked about, but it’s hard to do [keep a team together]. We lost Ray the same way they lost Wes. We wanted him and you did everything you could, and somehow they go somewhere else.
“Just like we wanted Ray to stay, I know they wanted Wes to stay and it just sometimes doesn’t work out. There’s too many other people involved. What’s great once everyone’s signed is, it’s just the coaches and the players and no one can get in your group. But once you get into free agency, a lot of other people get involved with decision-making that is outside winning and losing. That’s why I guess it’s called free agency. It makes it tough.”
The Celtics bounced back from Allen’s loss by adding Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa, all of whom were key players to a deep Boston roster before Barbosa suffered a season-ending knee injury. Allen is shooting better than 40 percent on his 3-point attempts for the third straight season and is hitting more than 45 percent of his corner three attempts for the Heat this season.