Doc Rivers doesn't blame Rajon Rondo for Ray Allen's departure to Miami. No, in fact, Rivers is putting the onus on himself.
In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Rivers explained that the reason Allen left was because of his reduced role in the offense and because Rondo was given the freedom to be Boston's coach on the floor. Rivers said those were decisions that he made as a head coach, and so if there is blame to be handed out for Allen signing a two-year 6 million deal with the Heat and not sticking with Boston, it should be on the coach.
"People can use all the Rondo stuff and it was there, no doubt about that but it was me more than Rondo," said Rivers, who is working as an NBC analyst during the Olympics. "I'm the guy who gave Rondo the ball. I'm the guy who decided that Rondo needed to be more of the leader of the team. That doesn't mean guys liked that and Ray did not love that because Rondo now had the ball all the time.
"Think about everything Allen said when he left, 'I want to be more of a part of the offense.' Everything was back at Rondo. And I look at that, and say, 'That's not Rondo's fault.' That's what I wanted Rondo to do, and that's what Rondo should've done. Because that's Rondo's ability. He's the best passer in the league. He has the best feel in the league. He's not a great shooter, so he needs the ball in his hands to be effective. And that bothered Ray.
"And not starting games bothered Ray. I did examine it, and the conclusion I came back to was this: By doing the right things, we may have lost Ray. If I hadn't done that, I would've been a hypocrite. In the opening speech I make every year, I tell the team: 'Every decision I make is going to be what's good for the team, and it may not be what's good for the individual.'"
Though Allen spurned Boston for a spot with the reigning NBA champions in Miami because he was unhappy with his role, Rivers wondered if he would have any more responsibility on a team already loaded with star power.
"Ray's got to do what's best for Ray," Rivers said, "but having said that, he's not going to start in Miami. And I doubt he gets the ball more. But I do think, for a guy like Ray and Paul and Kevin and Kobe Bryant, it's easier to go somewhere and do that, than have it taken from you where you're at.
"As a coach, you've got to do what's best for the team. If guys don't like it, they're going to leave. If they stay and don't like it, well, your team's going to suck anyway. Even if this happens, you still have to do it. You can't coach worrying about any individual. You've got to coach worrying about your entire team: Whether that gets you a championship or whether that gets you fired.
"I think it allows you to coach free. You're coaching with freedom because you know you're doing what you think is right. I always tell my guys: If I'm wrong, hopefully I'm smart enough, or my staff, or one of you guys because I do listen to you will tell me that I'm wrong. But not one player ever told me, 'Hey, I don't think you should start Avery.'"
Rivers said he knew in preseason that he wanted Allen to come off of the bench, but he had to wait for Avery Bradley to be ready to start. When Allen returned from an ankle injury and was relegated to a new role as sixth man, he struggled with the move.
He stopped responding immediately to Rivers' calls and texts, and Rivers then knew that the Celtics might have a hard time retaining the future Hall of Famer.
"I thought, 'Uh-oh, we're in trouble,'" Rivers said. "And I just knew that Ray feeling like he had lost his voice in the locker room was a big obstacle too."
When news broke that Allen would be signing with Miami, Rivers was upset. But not because he was headed to a rival.
"I was pissed at him," Rivers said. "I was pissed at him for his reasons for leaving. But what people don't get: I wasn't pissed at him for leaving for Miami. I could care less he went there. And that's a fact. With the fans, I know it was: How could he go to Miami? But once he decided he didn't want to stay with us, he has the right to wherever he wants.
"For a week or two, I was really disappointed, pissed, because I thought it was for all the wrong reasons," Rivers said. "It was more about himself, his team. And then, I realized: Well, it should be about himself. It was free agency. I wasn't thinking right.
"If Ray came back, it had to be because he was thinking:, 'We're going to work this stuff out, and we're going to win. And if he didn't come back, it was because he thought he couldn't work it out here. What they're asking him to do in Miami, he just couldn't do in Boston.
"But here's what wasn't going to change: The ball's not going to be in Ray's hands more, the ball's going to be in Rondo's hands. That's not going to change. Now that you've voiced you should have the ball more, or you want to start, or you want more freedom in the offense, that's not going to go away. It's going to be the same stuff. If he comes back, it's going to be because he's figured it out. If he leaves , it's going to be because he didn't get over it. Whatever he decided, his decision was right."