Rivers surprises staff, puts assistant in charge of second half

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Rivers surprises staff, puts assistant in charge of second half

BOSTON Players aren't the only ones Doc Rivers throws into unexpected scenarios this time of year.

The Boston Celtics coach, to the surprise of many - including his staff - spent the second half of Boston's 97-96 loss to Brooklyn inside the locker room.

Rivers left longtime assistant Armond Hill in charge of the team in his absence.

"He's always said that as much as players are in training camp, so are coaches," Hill said. "And so what would happen if he gets thrown out, we gotta be prepared."

Last season, Rivers was tied with then-Charlotte head coach Paul Silas as the NBA coaching leader in technical fouls, with eight.

Although there was some speculation that Rivers spent the second half watching the presidential debate, it was clear to Hill after the game that Rivers' attention was squarely on the Celtics game.

One of the first things Rivers asked Hill about was his decision to have five guys on the floor down the stretch, but none were point guards.

"But, once I explained that Courtney (Lee) was cramping up a little bit, he understood," Hill said.

Celtics forward Paul Pierce likes the idea of Rivers throwing his assistants into the head coaching seat unexpectedly.

"It's good experience for our assistant coaches," Pierce said. "It might be a case where he gets kicked out of a game. We hope not, but the other guys have to be ready to step up just like the players. There are times when I might foul out; other guys have to be ready."

And Hill is definitely ready.

This will be his ninth season as a Celtics assistant coach. Prior to that, he was an assistant on the Atlanta Hawks staff during the 2003-2004 season. In addition, he spent eight years as a head coach at Columbia University where his 2001-2002 squad led the nation in scoring defense by limiting opponents to just 57 points per game.

A former first-round pick of the Atlanta Hawks in 1976, Hill played eight seasons in the NBA with all but two spent with the Hawks.

And from Hill's perspective, being given a chance by Rivers to coach the Celtics - even if it was for half a game - can do nothing but help him and his coaching career.

"I can only thank Doc for giving me the opportunity to coach," Hill said. "That's what we're all here for. He's taught me and I've been with him and he continues to teach me and he gave me another opportunity tonight."

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

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Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

BOSTON -- There was a bomb threat to the Boston Celtics’ team plane to Oklahoma City on Saturday afternoon, but no one was injured.

The incident will be investigated by NBA security which will work in conjunction with the FBI on this matter which was one of several hoaxes called into airports across the country on Saturday.

News of the bomb threat was first known when Celtics forward Jae Crowder posted an Instagram photo showing players departing the plane with the caption, “BOMB THREAT ON US”.

Celtics officials declined to comment on the matter and instead referred all bomb threat-related questions to the league office.

Messages to the league office were not immediately returned.

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

BOSTON – When it comes to winning basketball, keep it moving – the ball that is – has become a staple of the Celtics this season. 
 
And lately they’ve had to do it without Isaiah Thomas, the team’s leading scorer at 26 points per game as well as their top assists guy (6.2) who will miss hish third game in a row Sunday in Oklahoma City because of a right groin injury.
 
The Celtics have split their first two games without Thomas, with the most recent being a 101-94 home loss to Toronto on Friday.
 
When it comes to this team and ball movement, fans are just as divided when it pertains to whether the Celtics move the ball better without the high-scoring Thomas in the lineup. 
 
Regardless of what fans think they know about this team and how they move the ball, the numbers paint a very clear picture that this team’s ball movement is among the best in the NBA, with or without Thomas in the lineup. 

And that will be important on Sunday against an Oklahoma City team that doesn’t rely on the ball swinging from one side of the floor to the other, nearly as much as the Celtics. 
 
The Thunder, led by MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, are dead-last in the NBA when it comes to passes made per game (267.1). 
 
Meanwhile, the Celtics are at the opposite end of the passing game spectrum, averaging 331.7 passes per game, which is second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.3).
 
And in the two games without Thomas, Boston has averaged 347.0 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA in that period of time. 
 
In addition to missing his points and assists, the Celtics must also find ways to make plays in filling the void left by a player who has the ball in his hands a lot of the time. 
 
Thomas’ usage percentage (percentage of plays used by a player while he’s on the floor) of 32.9 percent ranks seventh in the NBA, ahead of notable stars such as San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (30.9 percent), Portland’s Damian Lillard (30.8 percent), New York’s Carmelo Anthony (29.5 percent), as well as Cleveland’s LeBron James (29 percent) and Golden State’s back-to-back NBA MVP Stephen Curry (28.2 percent).
 
So, considering how involved Thomas has been in the team’s offense, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the numbers in terms of passing and ball movement are better without him than they are when he’s on the floor playing. 
 
What should be surprising is that the gap statistically without him, isn’t greater. 
 
Boston has been a top five team when it comes to assists this season, currently third in the league with 24.7 assists per game. In the past two games without Thomas, the Celtics’ assists numbers have risen to 26.5 per game, but that only ranks fifth in the league in that span.
 
When it comes to potential assists and secondary assists (a.k.a. the “hockey” assist), Boston’s numbers have improved slightly without Thomas as well, but in each category Boston is ranked second in the league. 
 
And that ranking is with, and without Thomas in the lineup. 
 
While it’s not clear if Thomas knows just how close the numbers in terms of ball movement are with and without him playing, he is acutely aware that there are some who believe they are a better team in terms of keeping the ball moving without him.
 
“I can’t control that,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “At this point, I laugh about it. I know what I mean to my teammates. I know what I mean to this organization, to Brad Stevens.”