Motivational ploy right on the money
LOS ANGELES — The Celtics were walking off the Staples Center court after outlasting the Lakers, 87-86, in February when coach Doc Rivers turned to his administrative right hand, Jeff Twiss.
“Do you have an envelope?’’ Rivers asked.
Twiss was puzzled. The game was over. There was no need for tickets. But Rivers wanted an envelope, so Twiss got him one.
They walked into the visitors’ locker room, which was jubilant after the win in the team’s only road game of the season against the Lakers. Rivers got the players’ attention. He told everyone in the room to give him $100.
Rivers took $100 from everyone — players, coaches, managers — and put $2,600 in the envelope. He then hid the envelope in the locker room.
“The only way you’ll get it back,’’ he told them, “is if you come back here and get it.’’
When the Celtics returned to the Staples Center yesterday, a day before Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Rivers made good on his deal, uncovering the envelope and giving each player his money back.
The hidden treasure obviously didn’t curse the Lakers, but it was one of many motivational tools Rivers used throughout the season.
When Rivers said every player will get his money, he meant it. There’s $100 waiting for Eddie House, who was with the team in Los Angeles but didn’t play because he had been traded to the Knicks, along with the absent J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker, for Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry.
“Not too many 15-year veterans can say they made it to the NBA Finals,’’ he said. “I’m just thankful and blessed we had the opportunity to get here. But now we have some more work to do, and that’s to try to take away something that a good team has, and that’s a championship.
“The Lakers, they are the defending champs. That’s respected, for sure, no matter if you like guys on their team or not as far as personally. You’ve got to respect them because they’re the champs. So, we know it’s going to be a hard series, and we’re going to try to take away something that they worked hard for last season.’’
Wallace signed with the Celtics last offseason because he saw a veteran team with championship credentials.
“They’ve been here before,’’ he said. “It’s just a matter of going out and doing it.’’
“It’s one of the biggest responsibilities in basketball,’’ said Pierce. “You’re talking about a guy who can do it all on the court.
“We’re going to give them different looks, keep them off balance. That’s something we did with other great players, such as LeBron [James], Dwyane Wade. And you don’t want them to get too comfortable with just one defender taking them one-on-one.’’
And just as Bryant is looking to burnish his legacy with the Lakers, Pierce has added motivation as well.
“If you look at the great players in Celtic history, the great teams, they’ve all won a couple championships, at least,’’ he said. “So I want to be able to be mentioned up there with the great Celtics of all time, cement my name in history with the group by winning more than one championship.’’
“You definitely have to have an appreciation for the ones that came before you, respect this game,’’ said Garnett. “I think you have to have an appreciation for the players who built this rivalry, if not this league, and you can’t go in nothing short of that.
“I think it’s our responsibility as Celtics and as Lakers to leave everything out there on the floor — just because of the coaches and players and the personnel of the organizations that came before us. And that’s the responsibility of putting that jersey on, that’s what you take on.’’
That applies to the regular season as well. The Celtics’ enthusiasm for the first 82 games came into question, but Garnett had no doubt about his teammates’ passion and dedication.
“The season brings on different episodes, just different events. Somehow, someway, you do it,’’ Garnett said. “In some weird way, you gain a tough skin from it. But also, you learn from it. We’ve learned to apply what we’ve learned.’’
Garnett has led by example.
“Kevin has been great; in the postseason, he’s done the things we’ve needed,’’ said Ray Allen. “You can tell he never predetermines what he’s going to do. If he needs to score, we tell him. He knows when he needs to be a playmaker, when he needs to be defense-minded.’’