ESPN.com's Bill Simmons wondered Tuesday when Celtics coach Doc Rivers would start getting blamed for his team's play of late.
It's a fair question.
Rivers is in his sixth year as Celtics coach. Prior to the acquisition of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, he was — to put it nicely — struggling. While the struggles of the team weren't completely his fault, he did steer the team to a 24-58 record in 2006-07.
Before joining the Celtics, Rivers was the Orlando Magic coach from 1999-2003, and was fired after a 1-10 start to open 2003-04. While with the Magic, Rivers was considered by some to be a poor coach with less-than-perfect game-management skills.
Rivers did lead the C's to their amazing 66-16 run in 2007-2008 that saw Boston win its 17th NBA title. But was the championship due to Rivers' coaching job or in spite of it?
As Simmons put it during an ESPN.com chat, "It's easy to forget that, if P.J. Brown didn't get hot in the last quarter
of Game 7 [of the semifinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the title run], Doc Rivers would have been Jeff Van Gundy's partner these
last two seasons on ABC and ESPN."
A popular refrain this season about the Celtics' poor play is their lack of hustle. It's exactly why Nate Robinson was acquired: to bring a "spark" to the team.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Rivers, is it, that outside help had to be brought in to motivate the team? Heck, center Kendrick Perkins admitted the team was "bored." Yeah, it must be like sticking a fork in one's eye trying to win an NBA championship.
Rivers has also struggled at managing player minutes. The Big Three isn't getting any younger, yet they're racking up the minutes on court despite Rivers' insistence that he is trying to find time for the crew to rest.
Take the most recent Sacramento Kings game, for example. The bench was scorching hot — the reason the team won the game. It was clear the starting quintet was gassed as the Kings ran roughshod all over the court, but Boston had a healthy lead. It was a prime opportunity to keep Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce under 30 minutes, but were they benched? Nope.
While Rasheed Wallace was one of the keys to defeating the Kings, overall, he hasn't contributed a whole lot in a Boston uniform. He showed up to preseason camp clearly out of shape and still hasn't gotten his act together. He sits at the arc, air balling 3-pointers and racking up technical fouls. And Rivers has done little to keep Wallace in line.
Another player to be concerned about is Rajon Rondo, who has seen his shooting percentage drop off to a season-low 48.4 in February. He's been racking up the assists, which is a double-edged sword. On one hand, he's creating tremendous scoring opportunities. On the other, he's less likely to go to the basket and score. Rondo's quickness allows him to slip by almost anyone untouched, but he hasn't challenged the basket as often recently.
Rivers isn't in danger of losing his job anytime soon, but the struggles of the team point to bigger issues: the inability of Rivers to keep the team focused and his playing-time dilemma that might just cause the Big Three to run out of gas at the wrong time.