Now that the Celtics and Sixers are underway, two old friends go up against each other.
No, not Paul Pierce and Tony Battie.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers and Sixers coach Doug Collins go way back to Collins' playing days with Rivers' uncle, Jim Brewer. Collins and Brewer were high school rivals, and drafted No. 1 and No. 2 in the 1973 NBA Draft. But the two coaches have another more recent connection, thanks to Austin Rivers' choosing of Duke University for his one and only NCAA season.
"My son recruited Austin," Collins said prior to Game 1 of the series. Chris Collins, Duke assistant coach was I think playing the big brother role for Austin at Duke. So our families are close. When Doc and his family decided that Austin was going to go there, I think he felt he was going to go to a place where he was going to get nurtured and continue to grow not only on but off the court.
"Doc reached out to Chris after the season was over and thanked him for what he did for Austin this year."
Rivers tried to make as many Duke games as he could, as the NBA season started late and some convenient off-days allowed for a quick flight to the game.
"He got to more games than I did this year," Collins said. "I didn't have that private plane from the Celtics."
It'll be all business for this series, but there's no doubting the friendship will remain either way.
"I have great respect for Doc," Collins said.
The Celtics didn’t know when they traded a late first-round pick and Marcus Thornton for Isaiah Thomas that they were getting their next star player, but that 2015 trade deadline move has proven to be a pleasant surprise.
Appearing on Felger and Mazz Friday, Celtics CEO and co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said that he sees Thomas, who will be a free agent after next season, in the team’s longterm plans.
“Every one of these seasons is different. It’s like a movie and you have a cast of characters and the cast changes a little bit every season,” Grousbeck said. “We’d love to have Isaiah here for a long, long time. He’s a phenomenal player and he loves being here.”
The Celtics stand a strong chance of picking first overall in June’s draft since they own Brooklyn’s first-round pick. Asked whether Thomas’ status would prevent the team from taking a point guard (which the draft’s two prospects play), Grousbeck said the team doesn’t need to decide that now, but suggested it wouldn’t.
“Especially if it’s a very high pick in the draft, you’ve got to draft the best player,” Grousbeck said. “You probably wouldn’t draft for fit as much as just you see if there’s a transformational player that you can have for 10 or 15 years there. If you see a guy like that, you’ve got to make everything else work, I would think.”
Celtics CEO and co-owner Wyc Grousbeck joined Felger and Mazz Friday, defending Danny Ainge’s inactively at Thursday’s trade deadline.
Grousbeck’s thinking was that the team is two major pieces away from being a championship-caliber club, and that giving up assets without filling those spots completely might have been harmful.
“I think it takes some strength and courage not to do anything when everybody’s howling to do something,” Grousbeck said.
The Celtics were rumored to have had talks with the Bulls about Jimmy Butler and the Pacers about Paul George. Neither player ended up being traded.
“We’re very comfortable with what happened,” Grousbeck said. “We offered a lot for a couple of guys, and we offered all that we were going to offer and it just wasn’t going to happen. Those guys weren’t going to be traded and they weren’t. It’s not problem.
“We figure we’re probably two guys away from being a really, really good team; probably two significant guys away, and if we put all the chips in yesterday on one guy, we’re getting rid of draft pick -- or picks -- and we’re getting rid of free agency this summer, so it’s sort of like one step forward, two steps back. It just didn’t make sense.”