BOSTON — The Celtics stood no chance Sunday against the Los Angeles Clippers, who led wire to wire en route to a 119-106 win at TD Garden. Needless to say, it was not a particularly exciting game.
So, in this installment of Celtics Notes, we’re instead going to focus solely on Clippers coach Doc Rivers’ pregame news conference, which was far more entertaining than the actual game itself.
— After coaching the Celtics for nine years, Rivers said his first game back in Boston last season easily was one of the most emotional experiences of his career. The Celtics’ win over the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals obviously earned the top spot on that list, but Rivers said he actually looks back on that night with regret.
“No. 1 or 2,” Rivers said. “I guess the championship was 1. I don’t know if I was that emotional that night, though, when I think about it. If I could do one thing over that night, I would have gone in the locker room. I never went into the locker room after the championship, which is the strangest thing. I don’t know why I didn’t. I walked into my office, and I just sat there.
“And it’s funny, when I see film now of it, I see my kids just, you know, underage drinking. I see them jumping around with the champagne, especially the youngest one. I think he was, like, 11. Bad parenting (laughs). But I never went in. I never was a part of it. I don’t even know why; I couldn’t figure that one out.”
— A loud cheer erupted from the Clippers’ locker room during the presser, interrupting Rivers mid-answer. The Michigan State-Louisville game was on in the room, and the Travis Trice had just missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds of regulation.
“I’m glad my guys are focused,” Rivers joked. “I’m a little nervous about that.”
Michigan State went on to win 76-70 in overtime to advance to the Final Four.
— Rivers compared Celtics rookie Marcus Smart to “a better version” of himself, and he also had a number of nice things to say about Smart’s backcourt mate, Avery Bradley.
“He’s just better,” Rivers said. “I think guys like Avery — a lot of guys — are so young when they come into the league, and they just mature and get better. He was a great defender the day he walked in the building. I think he’s a great team defender and individual defender now, and I think his offensive game has grown. Offensively, he’s a tough guy to deal with every night.
“With us, he was learning that. I thought the thing I still see him doing that I’m proud (of) is when I see him cutting without the ball. He never had to that, and with us, we basically forced him to do that, and it was amazing how quickly he went from no cuts to getting layups every night. You knew that once it turned on or it clicked — and it clicked with him very quick — that he’d be good at that for life.”
Bradley and forward Jared Sullinger are the only holdovers from Rivers’ tenure in Boston.
— One player who left Boston after Rivers was point guard Rajon Rondo, whom the team traded to Dallas in December.
“I think (the trade) was, at the end of the day, it was more a Rajon decision, in my opinion,” Rivers said. “… I think it was probably more his decision than Danny’s and then the Celtics staff. They had to get a feel of whether he wanted to play it out or not. And when you’re rebuilding, you can’t take that gamble of letting an asset out of the door and letting him become a free agent, especially in a rebuilding time. If you’re a championship team, you can take that gamble, because you think, ‘He’ll come back.’ If you’re a rebuilding team, you literally cannot take the gamble of waiting to see and getting caught in the spin. I think in their case, it was almost that they had to do it.”
— Rivers certainly appeared happy to be back in his old stomping grounds, specifically noting the free meals that typically accompany his trips back to Boston. He also deals with a heavy load of ticket requests.
“I do, but I haven’t changed: I don’t answer my phone on game day,” he said. “So, I never know until after the game, and then I say, ‘Guys, I’m sorry. I missed the request.’ … It’s always been a tough ticket here.”
— Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green is selling “Cool Story, Glenn” T-shirts, a nod to Rivers’ sarcastic dismissal of the Green-Dahntay Jones beef from a few weeks back. Rivers smiled when asked if he should get a cut of Green’s shirt sales.
“I should, for sure,” he joked. “Like I said earlier, I love that I’m on his mind. … I thought it was neat. I think he should be an entrepreneur in this league.”
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images