OFFSEASON

Was this an emotional decision Doc will re-think?

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Was this an emotional decision Doc will re-think?

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

MIAMI On Wednesday morning, at Celtics shoot around, Doc Rivers was asked a question about Shaquille ONeal.

Shocking, right?

No, of course not. After all, since the playoffs began, questions about ONeal had become as commonplace as a Dwyane Wade free throw attempt.

But this was different.

In this case, it wasnt the typical Will he or wont he play? Shaq-related question that Rivers was accustomed to. In fact, hed already all but ruled ONeal out for that nights game with the Heat. Instead, the question was about Shaqs long-term future. With his Achilles showing no signs of healing, and the big man certainly not getting any younger, had we seen the last of ONeal?

Was he ready to hang them up?

I think it's too early to even talk about it, Rivers said. I've learned, personally, you never try to make any decision during the heat of the battle. Emotionally, you're always going to make the wrong choice.

A mere 12 hours later, in the heat of battle, an emotional Rivers stepped to the post-game podium and was asked about his own future . . .

Well get back to that in a second.

Heading into Game 5 with the Heat, Celtics fans biggest fear wasnt that their team might lose. In fact, all things considered, that was probably the expectation.

Instead, the nightmare that hung over the city was what that loss might represent.

Not only the end of one of the most schizophrenic and emotional seasons in franchise history, but also, the end of an era.

The end of these Celtics. The team that delivered Bostons first basketball title in 22 years, that remained in contention for the last four, and that (aside for a few apathetic stretches) brought Celtic Pride back from the dead and inspired a new generation of fans.

With a loss, there would be questions. Big questions, and were not talking about Shaq or even Glen Davis. Or, more importantly, Kevin Garnett, who looked especially worn down towards the end of the season and subtly hinted at retirement a few times over its course. And also, Ray Allen, who has an option for next season. While hed love to stay in Boston, he'd also love to win, and would have to listen if the Celtics situation dissipated and the right opportunity came along.

But of all the questions, much like last summer, there would be none more important than Doc Rivers.

While these Celtics will always be remembered as the second coming of The Big Three, now more than ever, these Celtics are defined by the Big One. Rivers was originally looked upon as merely the lucky guy who just happened to be around when this super team was assembled, but in the four years since, hes become the glue that holds them together. Hes the only one these Celtics want to play for. The only guy theyre comfortable calling coach. And there's a lot of indecision surrounding his future: The fact that he almost walked away last year, has admitted a desire to take some time off from coaching, and hasnt signed an extension for next season. A loss on Wednesday in Miami would once again throw Celtics Nation into that state of limbo that couldn't be remedied until Rivers announced his intentions.

And as the Cs walked off the court, after dropping a 97-87 decision to Miami, thats where everyone stood. Upset over the loss, for sure, but just as uneasy over what would come next. Where everyone would go, what everyone would do.

That is, until Rivers took the podium, mere minutes after one of the most emotional losses of his career, and was asked about his future:

Im leaning heavily towards coming back, he said. I havent made that decision, but I can tell you I probably will. Ive kind of come to that over the last couple of weeks. Im a Celtic and I love our guys. I want to win again here, and Im competitive as hell. I can tell you that is where I am today, tomorrow I may change my mind, but thats where I am today.

And suddenly, the loss didnt hurt quite as badly. The present still burned, but the future didnt look quite as bleak. Now, maybe the Celtics still had one more run . . .

Or maybe Rivers let his emotions get the best of him.

Either way, over the next few weeks, months or however long it takes for Doc to make his final decision on where he and the Celtics will go from here, there will be a lot of people who will come out and claim that they know what he should, could or will do, but when it comes down to it, no one knows better than Rivers himself.

And in this case, unlike all those others, hopefully he'll decide that the emotional choice is also the right one.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

OFFSEASON

Boston Celtics announce 2016 preseason schedule

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Boston Celtics announce 2016 preseason schedule

New England fans will get their first glimpse at the 2016-2017 Boston Celtics when they kick off their preseason schedule on October 4 against the Philadelphia 76ers at UMass-Amherst’s Mullins Center.

That game will feature two of the top three picks in last month’s draft as Ben Simmons, the top overall pick, will face Jaylen Brown, who was drafted by the Celtics with the third overall pick.

Boston’s 7-game schedule features no back-to-back games, but they do face the Charlotte Hornets in their second and third preseason games on Oct. 6 (in Greensboro, N.C.) and Oct. 8 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Here’s a look at Boston’s full preseason schedule:

DATE               OPPONENT                  LOCATION                                                        TIME
Oct. 4               Philadelphia 76ers         UMass-Amherst Mullins Center (Amherst, MA)     7:00 p.m. ET
Oct. 6               Charlotte Hornets          Greensboro Coliseum (Greensboro, NC)             7:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 8               Charlotte Hornets          Mohegan Sun Arena (Uncasville, CT)                  3:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 13             Brooklyn Nets               Barclays Center (Brooklyn, NY)                          7:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 15             New York Knicks           Madison Square Garden (New York, NY)             7:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 17             Brooklyn Nets               TD Garden (Boston, MA)                                   7:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 19             New York Knicks           TD Garden (Boston, MA)                                   7:30 p.m. ET

OFFSEASON

Rivers dismisses Griffin-to-Boston rumors, wants Pierce to retire with Celtics

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Rivers dismisses Griffin-to-Boston rumors, wants Pierce to retire with Celtics

Doc Rivers appeared on The Vertical Podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski and dismissed the Blake Griffin trade rumors, claiming that “bloggers” who “have nothing to do with the sport” were the cause of the Blake-to-Boston gossip.

“We are hoping that Blake ends his career playing for the Clippers,” Rivers told Woj. “No team is calling because teams know we don’t have any interest. It just tells you the different times. Things have changed. Everyone believes that they’re media now. There are so many good, credible guys, but then there’s some of the guys who are bloggers and have nothing to do with the sport.”

Rivers went on to explain that his youngest son, Spencer, even took the time out to trace the source of this "groundless" rumor.

“Danny [Ainge] and I have talked twice this summer. One was about the British Open, and the other was about another golf tournament. That’s about it,” Rivers explained. “But my son traced [where this rumor started] it to I think a Boston radio talk show and the guy didn’t say that we had been talking, but that Blake would be one of the guys the Celtics should go after. That started the next step, and then the next thing you know, it blew it up.”

Glenn Rivers sounds more like a politician than a doctor. Everyone knows politicians lie.

So Doc says he’s spoken to Danny only twice this summer -- both times about golf and “that’s about it.” But it's good to know they did apparently find the time to lay the groundwork for Paul Pierce to retire with the Celtics, if he does choose to call it a career.

“If Paul does decide to retire, we’re gonna make sure that Boston picks him up for one day and he retires a Celtic because that’s what he should retire as,” Rivers said. “We have all that in place. We just don’t know what he’s gonna do.”

Allowing Pierce to retire as a Celtic would be the right thing to do, for sure. He spent 15 seasons with the Celtics, won a title, and someday No. 34 will be hanging in the rafters. Ainge has also made it clear before that he'd love for Pierce to take on some type of front office role with the team after he retires from his playing career.

But Blake is the guy Celtics fans want now, so it’s understandable Doc would dispel the rumors regarding his four-time All-Star.

It doesn’t mean those conversations didn’t take place because trade talks happen every single day in the NBA. But considering Doc spent the opening minutes of the podcast discussing Blake, it certainly makes it seem like a deal is dead. At least for now.

OFFSEASON

A closer look at the five signings by the Boston Celtics

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A closer look at the five signings by the Boston Celtics

BOSTON – It’s official.

The Boston Celtics announced the signings of what should be the last moves made of significance between now and training camp.

All five players bring different strengths to the table, as well as areas of concern.

But more than anything else, they provide depth for a team that has made depth a calling card of sorts.

Here we’ll break down each of the newest Celtics, what they bring to the table this season, as well as do a little crystal-ball watching as to what their role should be for this upcoming season.

Gerald Green

Career stats: A nine-year veteran, Green has appeared in 497 games while averaging 10.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists while shooting 36.1 percent on 3s.

Last season (in Miami): Green averaged 8.9 points in 22.4 minutes per game while shooting 39.2 percent from the field and 32.3 percent on 3s.

The former Celtics draft pick returns to where his NBA dream began, albeit in a much different role. When he arrived as the 18th pick in the 2005 draft, Green was an athletic, above-the-rim freak of nature. Not too soon after that, he won the league’s Slam Dunk competition. From there, Green’s game showed little growth, which led to a two-plus seasons (2009-2012) in which he played overseas and in the D-League. The time away didn’t do much for him financially, but it did result in his game becoming more complete. His time in the NBA over the past five seasons has shown him to be more than just a human highlight waiting to happen. The 6-7 forward has become a more consistent 3-point shooter as he now boosts a career average of 36.1 percent. And he returns in a more humble state than when he arrived. His role is yet to be defined, but the need to add him became a necessity with James Young still not displaying the kind of growth that makes Boston feel comfortable with putting him on the floor to play meaningful minutes. Green won’t play huge minutes, but he’s the kind of X-factor that could help Boston win four or five games this season. And that could be the difference between a tough first-round playoff matchup that begins on the road, or a postseason that starts off at the TD Garden.

TYLER ZELLER

Career stats: Zeller has appeared in 289 games, averaging 7.6 points, 4.7 rebounds while shooting 50.1 percent from the field.

Last season (in Boston): Saw his role diminish significantly from the previous season, averaging 6.1 points and a career-low 3.0 rebounds per game in 11.8 minutes – also a career-low mark.

Throughout the year, Zeller’s patience was rewarded with an unexpected rush of minutes and more often than not, he came through. Having a player who does more than just buy into the concept of always staying ready but proves it time and time again, has tremendous value on this team. The 26-year-old center has shown flashes of being a reliable rotation player for Boston. Even with the changes, Zeller remains arguably their best finisher at the basket among the team’s centers. He will come into camp and just as it has been in the past, will compete for playing time. But most likely he’ll find himself in a similar situation where his minutes will be infrequent. But having said that, Zeller knows his chance to play will come and the Celtics know there will be games where Zeller’s activity, rebounding and scoring at the basket will be needed. And when that time comes, they know he’ll be ready.

Jaylen Brown

Career stats (at Cal): In his lone season at Cal, Brown averaged 14.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting 43.1 percent from the field and 27.4 percent on 3s.

Taken by Boston with the third overall pick in last month’s NBA draft, expectations for a player selected so high are usually well, really high. Brown won’t have the pressure that most high lottery (top-14) picks have when they come into the NBA. As it was laid out to CSNNE.com by Brown’s mental skills coach Graham Betchart, Brown’s focus is on controlling what he can control and not getting overly caught up in results. You never want to put too much stock in what happens during summer league, but Brown showed certain strengths during summer league that typically translate well against better competition which he will face during the regular season. He averaged 10.2 free throw attempts per game, which is impressive, summer league or no summer league. He won’t live at the line nearly as much this season, but the aggressive nature of his play was a positive. And like signing Green, Brown also provides a high level of athleticism that has been in short supply on this team in recent years. As for his role this season, look for Brown to be used at both small forward and power forward for Boston as Jae Crowder’s backup.

Demetrius Jackson

Career stats (at Notre Dame): 11.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists while shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 38.1 percent on 3s.

Last season (at Notre Dame): 15.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and 33.1 percent on 3s.

After talking with scouts shortly after last month’s draft, many were stunned that Jackson fell as far as he did (No. 45 overall, 15th pick in second round) on draft night. There’s no consensus as to why that happened, either. Winding up in Boston while may not necessarily be the best fit for Jackson in terms of getting on the court immediately, but it should do wonders for his growth and longevity in the NBA. He will see first-hand the work ethic of Avery Bradley, a first-team all-NBA defender as well as Bradley’s backcourt mate, All-Star Isaiah Thomas. The growth in Terry Rozier’s game provides Jackson with tangible proof of what can happen by watching and absorbing the teachings of more seasoned players at your position. But don’t think for a minute that he’s just going to stand idly by, folks. Jackson is a good player who will not back down from any of his more accomplished backcourt mates. He will eventually develop into a decent scorer in this league who has the kind of lateral quickness and instincts (he averaged better than one steal per game in three seasons at Notre Dame) that should serve him well in the NBA. But barring a Celtics trade, Boston’s backcourt depth will likely result in him spending most of his rookie season with the team’s Development league affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.

Ben Bentil

Career stats (at Providence College): 13.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game.

Last season (at Providence College): 21.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.

Another player who was projected to go higher than he did (51st overall, No. 21 pick in the second round) on draft night, Bentil is an intriguing prospect. The 6-foot-8 forward led the Big East in scoring last season, doing so with Kris Dunn – arguably the nation’s top point guard and the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft – getting him the ball a lot. Bentil has the kind of build and inside-outside game that more and more teams are looking to add to their roster. He showed flashes of that during summer league, but not enough to where you feel he can come in and contribute immediately. Barring trades or injuries to the frontcourt, Bentil will spend a large chunk of this season with the Red Claws.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be followed on Twitter: @SherrodbCSN