Was this an emotional decision Doc will re-think?


Was this an emotional decision Doc will re-think?

By Rich Levine

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

Celtics nearly blow fourth quarter lead, hold on to beat Nets, 122-117


Celtics nearly blow fourth quarter lead, hold on to beat Nets, 122-117

BOSTON –  The Boston Celtics are not used to being the hunted, or holding a comfortable lead over teams they should beat easily.

That inexperience nearly cost them their season opener against Brooklyn which rallied back from a 23-point deficit to within a field goal of tying the game in the final seconds of play.

But the Celtics managed to hold on for a 122-117 win.

For most of the game, it went according to the script many would have expected to see played out on the TD Garden floor.

Brooklyn put up a good fight, Boston got it together in the second half and the game is over.

Not so fast, says the Nets.

Head coach Brad Stevens tried to rest his starters in the fourth, but the Celtics’ second unit simply didn’t get it done as they nearly squandered a commanding fourth quarter lead.

It was somewhat fitting that they were on the floor to finish off the pesky Nets considering they were the main reasons why Brooklyn was in such a deep fourth quarter hole.

With the win, the Celtics are now 44-27 all-time in season openers and 32-13 at home.

Making the win even sweeter was the fact that because it was so decisive, it allowed head coach Brad Stevens to rest most of his core players who will return to the floor Thursday night to play the Chicago Bulls.

Celtics all-star guard Isaiah Thomas was in double-double range most of the second half before finishing with 25 points, nine assists and six rebounds.

Boston also got a strong night from Jae Crowder who had 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting to go with four rebounds and two assists.

And while the numbers weren’t all that impressive, Al Horford delivered the kind of performance that speaks to his ability to impact the game positively for Boston in a multitude of ways.

He finished with 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting to go with five rebounds and six assists in just 25 minutes of action.

Depth was a strength of the Boston Celtics last season, and it seems to be an even bigger weapon for them now.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens went 10-deep in the first half with each Celtic who stepped on the floor in the first two quarters scoring at least two points.

The Nets came in as heavy underdogs, a team that many anticipate will be among the worst in the NBA this season.

“We can’t worry about that stuff,” Brooklyn’s Trevor Booker told CSNNE.com prior to Wednesday’s game. “The big thing for us is to go out and compete, give ourselves a chance to be successful.”

Brooklyn did just that for most of the Wednesday’s game, but Boston’s talent and depth proved to be too much.

Crowder got things poppin’ at the start of the game by making his first four shots from the field.

But the Nets didn’t buckle, but instead got a multitude of players chipping in with a bucket here or defensive stop there to keep the game from getting out of hand.

Brooklyn’s Jeremy Lin, a former star at nearby Harvard, was among the Nets players keeping the game relatively close. He finished with 18 points.

But the second half was once again dominated early on by Crowder who scored in a variety of ways which included stealing an in-bounds pass and banking in a mid-range jumper in the third quarter.

That play was part of a 26-16 run by Boston to close out the third quarter which ended with the Celtics ahead 97-81.

Brooklyn continued to play scrappy basketball in the fourth, but the Celtics had built up too big a cushion for the Nets to present any kind of real threat to Boston’s control.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics in control, but Nets within striking distance


Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics in control, but Nets within striking distance

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics were in control most of the first half, but the Brooklyn Nets managed to stay within striking distance most of the first half which ended with the Celtics ahead, 64-58.

It was a high-scoring first half, the kind that one of the league’s top defenses shouldn’t experience.

But it is the first game of the season and the Celtics clearly have some kinks defensively to work out.

The Celtics led by as many as 13 points in the first half with contributions coming from several players in the starting unit as well as off the bench.

Boston has spent a good chunk of the preseason preaching the importance of good ball movement.

It was indeed on full display as Boston had 19 assists in the first half on 23 made baskets.

As for the Nets, Bogan Bogdanovic kept Brooklyn within striking distance most of the first half as he tallied 10 points through the first two quarters of play. Brooklyn also got a nice lift from Justin Hamilton who had 14 first-half points off the Brooklyn bench.

Here are our halftime Stars, Studs and Duds



Isaiah Thomas

Thomas was a more assertive player in the second quarter and it paid off for the him and the Celtics. He finished the half with a team-high 11 points in addition to doling out a game-high seven assists.

Jae Crowder

Boston displayed some crisp ball movement in the first half, and Crowder seemed to benefit from this more than any other Celtic. Through two quarters of play, Crowder has a team-high 10 points which included him making his first four shots from the floor.



Sean Kilpatrick

The Nets only have five players on their roster from last season’s disastrous 21-win club, and Kilpatrick showed why he’s one of the few holdovers. At the half, he had nine points off the bench to go with three rebounds.



Brook Lopez

He’s supposed to be the Nets’ best player, but you would not have known this by his play in the first half, The 7-foot Lopez was a non-factor through the first two quarters of lay, missing four of his five field goal attempts to go into the half with just three points.