Following the Celtics' Game 7 loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, the players were emotional as they discussed the end of their season and what could have been the end of the Big Three era.
At the podium, it was their head coach who delivered one of the most passionate addresses of them all.
Here are the highlights from Doc Rivers' press conference while he discussed the 2011-12 Celtics season and the group that fell one win shy of an NBA Finals berth.
On Game 7: I was really proud of our guys, especially early on. You could just see they had the fight in them. They were going to play the right way. But overall, I don't know if I've ever had a group like this. I had a group in Orlando that I am fond of, that I talk about, the heart and hustle group. They're very similar to that group. They did everything I asked them to do. They came up short. But, again, on our guys, I love them. They were phenomenal.
On maximizing the team: I'm so competitive. I really wanted to win this game. Really, nothing to do with me. When you think about this group, no Jeff Green to start the season and no Chris Wilcox, no Avery Bradley, JO (Jermaine ONeal). If we could have got this group to the Finals, it would have been fantastic for us. That's all I thought about today -- somehow, let's see if we can get this group in the Finals. They deserve it with their will. I hear people at times talk about the NBA as an individual league. I think that theory is gone. This is a team. We had a terrific team effort by everybody.
On development of Rajon Rondo: One of the things I told our guys, I don't ever look at individual stuff. I think you know me by now. I told my guys that before the game. One of the things I love about being a Celtic is that we have 17 banners, that's it, on the wall. We don't have the 30 division championships or the 21 conference championships, and we don't really celebrate the individual stuff. Everybody buys into team around here. Rondo, Paul (Pierce), Kevin (Garnett), I think they sacrifice their individual games so much to try to help the team win. And so for me, that's where I'm the most proud of Rondo. I thought he was phenomenal in that regard. I thought he was our leader on the floor. I thought he did so many things where he had to give of himself for the team, for the better of the team. He had to cut a lot without the ball. He just did so many things and for a coach, I think that's where I'm the most proud of him.
On legacy of the Big Three: I wish we could have had healthy runs. This team won a title, got to another one, a Game 7, where they had a shot to win. Got to the Eastern Conference Finals and one game away on the road, banged up. So I dont know, because of really Kevin's injury, I don't know if we could have gotten any more out of the group. I would have loved to have seen this team in this whole stretch where Kevin was injury-free, but you don't get do-overs. Everybody has injuries, not just us. Chicago, Thibs (Tom Thibodeau) is sitting at home right now thinking, no (Derrick) Rose. It's part of the luck of it. But great group, great team group. I know everybody will look at the Big Three individually -- Kevin, Ray, and Paul. I'm never going to look at them individually. I'm going to look at them as a group collective. They all gave up plus-seven shots each. They gave up minutes. I asked them to play defense and move the ball, and they all did it, and they're willing to do it for the better of the team. So I think that's what we should focus on, how much they gave up to try to win. That's what I'll remember most about them.
On potential end of the Big Three era: Obviously we're all smart, at least you guys are. I think we're going to wait and see what happens with free agency and all that stuff. I honest to gosh hadn't thought much about it, other than the draft, because I was in it. Other than that, I've given zero thought to the whole thing. Danny (Ainge) has talked to me a couple of times recently. I probably didn't hear much. We'll find that out later. I just want to stick with this group, if it's a couple more days, a couple more weeks, or whatever. I just want to stick with them.