WALTHAM — Doc Rivers didn’t see the game, but he said Monday night’s Big Apple Showdown between the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets was good for the NBA.
The game had been scheduled Nov. 1 as the season opener for both teams, but was postponed when Hurricane Sandy struck the New York metropolitan area. On Monday, the Nets got 22 points from Brook Lopez and 16 apiece from guard Deron Williams and forward Gerald Wallace to defeat the Knicks, 96-89, in overtime in Brooklyn.
“Any time teams in the New York area were good, it used to be said it was good,’’ said Rivers, whose Celtics host the Nets Wednesday night at TD Garden.
“I don’t know if that means that much anymore, it’s such a universal game. That was back in the day when only the teams from New York were on TV. I think that’s all changed. I don’t think you have to go to Madison Avenue to be a superstar. You can go to San Antonio and be Tim Duncan or Tony Parker. So I think that’s all changed.’’
But the Nets’ move from New Jersey to Brooklyn seems to have intensified the rivalry with the Knicks.
“It doesn’t hurt,’’ Rivers said. “The Brooklyn/New York thing is neat, their own little thing they have going.
“The New Jersey/New York thing didn’t work as well. But the Brooklyn/New York thing . . . there’s a lot of energy to that game and that’s good.’’
Picking his shot
Rajon Rondo, who missed the the Celtics’ 102-97 loss to the Nets in Brooklyn Nov. 15 with a right ankle sprain, spent the latter part of Tuesday’s practice honing his elbow jumper, which Rivers hopes will become a bigger part of his arsenal.
“He’s making that shot, he’s sticking that shot, and he’s looking for that shot and I want him to do it a lot more,’’ Rivers said. “It’s his shot now. You can see it’s [part of] his normal routine.’’
If Rondo were to perfect his elbow jumper, Rivers said, it would make Boston’s pick-and-roll “unstoppable.’’
“The 3-point shot, that’s gravy and that’s great,’’ Rivers said. “He’ll get better at that, too. But that elbow jump shot, guards who can make an elbow shot on the pick-and-roll, they make it a true pick-and-roll.’’
Focus on defense
Mindful of how his team struggled to handle the pick-and-roll of Orlando’s Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis Sunday night, Rivers put his team through a nearly two-hour practice Tuesday at the Celtics’ workout facility in Waltham.
The point of emphasis? “Pick-and-roll defense,’’ Rivers said. “[Spent] a long time on that.’’
The Celtics’ commitment to becoming better at defending the pick-and-roll is likely a work in progress.
“Teams take steps,’’ Rivers said. “To win titles, you take a lot of steps. The first step for us was buying in, and I think we’ve done that. But now we’ve got to get it right.
“Second thing is: pick-and-rolls never stop. I would love to find that team where there’s perfection and you show up and say, ‘Guys, we have nothing to practice on.’ ’’
Tuesday, however, was far from being one of those days.
When the curtains went up for the media-access portion of Tuesday’s practice, Kris Joseph was spotted on the sideline along with Avery Bradley. Joseph, the 51st pick in this year’s draft, had been assigned Nov. 14 along with Fab Melo (the 22d pick) to the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League, ostensibly to gain more practice and playing time. But the Portland-based team’s proximity to Boston enabled Joseph and Melo to attend practice before their D-League debut Friday night.
“The greatest part about being a part of this team in Maine is that it’s an hour-and-a-half drive,’’ Rivers said. “You can drive up, practice, and go back home. I don’t know what he calls home, Boston or Maine, but it’s been a pretty good thing for us, so far.’’
Said Joseph, “There’s a lot of talent in that league — a lot of people, myself included. I didn’t know how good of a league it was before actually being a part of it. It’s been great.
“Being here and playing against these guys every day definitely gave me a slight advantage, because I’m playing against some of the best in the world.’’
While Joseph was able to get some reps in practice, Melo was not.
“We have too many bigs,’’ Rivers explained. “There are just too many guys and we need guys to get reps. So Fab would have taken away a rep from Jason [Collins].’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.