Rivers, Ainge finally come face to face

Rivers, Ainge finally come face to face
June 19, 2013, 1:00 pm
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I’ve heard from more than a few people who truly believe that this is all some kind of publicity stunt. They think that this last month of cat and mouse between Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge and this last week of very public negotiations are all part of an elaborate Wag the Dog scheme over on Causeway Street, a ploy to keep the Celtics relevant and in the spotlight at a time when they should be toiling away in obscurity.
These conspiracy theorists think that Stephen A. Smith is in on it. That Adrian Wojnarowski is in on it. That Donald Sterling is too clueless and predictable to even realize that he’s in on it. They think that after today’s face to face meeting between Rivers and Ainge — their first since this “scheme” really got out of hand — the pair will emerge arm in arm like Barack and Michelle, ready to scream their love from the rooftops and pledge a commitment to leading this organization into the unsettled future. Yes we can!
No, no they can’t.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good conspiracy. And believe me, it would be far more beneficial to the state of basketball in Boston if today’s meeting consisted of Doc and Danny laughing at rumors and renewing their vows, as opposed to the passive aggressive back and forth that keeps playing out in my head:
Danny: So . . .
Doc: Well . . .
Danny: BUT . . .
Doc: Well . . .
Danny: OK, then what about . . .
Doc: Well . . .
I’d much prefer that they were secretly in this together, instead of suddenly way too far apart. But hey, I’d also prefer Ray Allen didn’t hit a last second three pointer to save the Miami Heat and (for now) preserve LeBron James’ legacy. Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do. But in this case, there are a few things that Doc and Danny can do, and it starts with this meeting.
It really is a shame that it took them so long to get here. That for the last month, they were reportedly working in unison while ignoring this massive elephant in the room, letting it fester and explode in the way that it did over this last week. After all the time they’ve spent together, how mutually invested they are in each other, and the pact they agreed upon only two years ago last month, you’d hope for a little more honesty, confidence and transparency in their relationship. That’s what you need to succeed in a venture like the one this team is about to embark on. And as we look back on this last month, it’s clear that the relationship isn’t where it needs to be. I mean, how odd is it that Ainge, until recently, was basically afraid to ask Doc whether he wanted to comeback? That’s one step away from the Seinfeld episode with George’s answering machine, where he’s ignoring his girlfriend because he knows the next conversation will result in a break up.
In retrospect, how telling and concerning are the words of Stephen A. Smith, who predicted this Clippers story a month ago, who clearly has some insight into Doc’s camp, and who recently told WEEI:
“The Boston Celtics absolutely love and respect Doc Rivers. But there have been some questions in NBA circles as to whether or not Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers desire to continue to coexist. They have profound respect with one another, there’s no animosity involved or anything like that, it’s just when you’re working with somebody every day you do tend to get tired of looking at their faces or hearing their voices or things of that nature.”
Smith also went on TV, numerous times, with statements like: “I mean no disrespect to Danny Ainge, he’s a champion as an executive . . . but nobody is coming to Boston to play for him. They come to play for Doc Rivers, that’s just a fact. So if Danny Ainge wants to maintain his status as a legit executive this game, it would behoove him to keep Doc Rivers happy and keep Doc Rivers in Boston.”
Of course, the problem is that that’s not how Ainge works. He’s not in the business of appeasing his players or his coach or the media or even fans. If that was the case, Kendrick Perkins would still be in Boston, and Ainge would’ve already come out in support of allowing Paul Pierce play out the last year of his contract and retire as a Celtic. The truth is that Ainge has a vision — one that most likely doesn’t include Pierce and is very likely at the route of Rivers’ discontent — and it would be extremely out of character for him to let anything stand in the way carrying out that process. Right or wrong, Ainge is as confident as they come. You get the sense that he’d rather fail 10 times on his own merit than he would fail once because he wasn’t true to his convictions. And today, it appears those convictions may leave him in search of a new head coach.
That doesn’t make it Ainge’s fault, by the way. His relationship with Doc wasn’t supposed to be contingent on which players were wearing the uniform; it was just about the uniform. The Celtics. And doing what’s best to build another winner. But now it’s clear that the uniform doesn’t mean as much to Doc as it did before. Or that deep down, it was never about the uniform at all. Whatever it is, at least Ainge and Rivers are done ignoring the issue and finally ready resolve it.
The next step is today’s meeting. After that, reportedly, Doc Rivers’ first public statement on everything that’s unfolded.
Will this “first” statement also be his last as head coach of the Boston Celtics? I’d say that’s something everyone should be prepared for.
Then again, we should also be prepared for nothing. For Rivers simply buying time with sweet nothings while Ainge and the Clippers continue to quietly work on a deal.
Or then AGAIN, if you believe the conspiracies, I’m sure he’ll just say something like “Gotcha!”