By A. Sherrod Blakely
SACRAMENTO, Calif. To build off of Sunday's thrilling win over the Los Angeles Lakers should be enough incentive for the Boston Celtics when they play the Sacramento Kings tonight.
But in case they needed add motivation, a victory tonight would mean that Doc Rivers and his staff will coach the Eastern Conference all-stars later this month in Los Angeles.
"I don't know if that's good news or not," quipped Rivers.
Miami (34-14) is the only team in the East with a shot at surpassing the Celtics.
The cut-off date for being chosen as the Eastern conference coach is Feb. 6.
Boston (36-11) would have to lose its remaining three games between now and then, while the Heat would have to win its remaining three games in order for the C's staff to not get the assignment.
Throughout the C's recent run of success, Rivers has repeatedly downplayed his role.
Not surprisingly, on the eve of yet another all-star coaching nod, Rivers sticks to the script.
"Well it means you have good players," he told CSNNE.com. "It really does. And you have good players, playing together."
Maybe so, but there's no mistaking the impact that Rivers has had on this team.
It is particularly noticeable this season when you consider how he has managed to keep the C's among the NBA's elite despite a rash of injuries that would have decimated most teams.
Rivers admits that would make this all-star coaching selection even better than the one he had four years ago.
But Rivers, as you might expect, isn't taking anything for granted.
"This year, if it does happen, it would be good in that way," Rivers said. "We've had a hell of a month. To end January the way we've done it is pretty special with all the injuries and distractions we had. That would make it better."
For veterans like Paul Pierce who has been with the C's throughout Rivers' tenure, being the head coach of the all-star team would only validate his status as one of the game's premiere head coaches.
"It shows how great and under-rated a coach Doc is," Pierce said. "He's done a fabulous job with the players he's had throughout his career. Whether good or bad, even when we weren't winning, he was still a great coach, just the way he developed the players. It's a testament to a great job that he has done, truthfully."
Indeed, Rivers has managed to push all the right buttons at just the right time, all season.
When you look back at the Celtics' 109-96 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the stars for the C's was Nate Robinson.
He came in missing 20 of his previous 29 shots from the field, and Rivers said he was giving serious thought to not playing Robinson at all.
But something made him decide to give Robinson another shot.
That faith was rewarded with Robinson delivering 11 much-needed points off the bench.
Even though it was Rivers' call to give Robinson a chance to play, he credits the success that night and Robinson's play, to Robinson.