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Thoughts on Doc Rivers, the Celtics, the Clippers, and the dead deal that lives

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  June 20, 2013 06:53 AM

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I ask you this about Doc Rivers and the eye he has apparently cast westward:

Can you blame him for wanting to coach in games like that one Tuesday night?

The Heat's victory over the Spurs in Game 6 of the NBA Finals was basketball at its most exhilarating.

Doc knows that feeling, he wants it again, and if the Celtics rebuild the right way, let's admit it: that feeling's not coming back around here anytime soon.

Sure beats winning one out of a every four while trying to convince Jordan Crawford that not every turnaround 28-footer is a good shot, doesn't it?

I know, he committed to five years, and he has three years left on that commitment, and he's supposed to be a man of his word, and he should be better than that weaselly "I reserve the right to change my mind" justification that served as Bill Parcells's verbal escape clause.

This is a rare time that Doc -- engaging, bright, articulate, and seemingly a normal, grounded man -- doesn't look good. And while I can't hold it against him, I do hate that it has come to this.

Doc Rivers is not the greatest coach the Celtics have had, but he's on the short list to be Red Auerbach's first runner-up, and the organization is better for having him here.

While we all have settled on the same fundamental reason about why he may want to go -- rebuilding doesn't appeal to him at this stage in his career -- it's not going to make total sense until Doc tells us himself, candidly and without qualifiers.

That's coming, though I suspect it happens after this "dead deal'' is revived, just as the franchise-shifting Kevin Garnett trade with Minnesota was consummated six years ago after being read its last rites publicly.

But until then, a few thoughts on the situation ...

Thumbnail image for bledsoeericfinn619.jpgThe trade itself stinks

Maybe it is time to move on from Garnett, who will be 37 next season and is wearing down, and even Paul Pierce.

But this deal as currently constituted is not the best way to do it.

DeAndre Jordan is fun player, with his gift for posterization and his trademark mean mugs afterward.

Wait, let me amend that: He's a fun player if enjoying the game rather than winning is the priority.

Yes, Jordan is a legitimate young center. But he's one who shot 38.6 percent from the line this year, so you can't play him in the fourth quarter. His offensive game is pretty much limited to those awesome dunks. And he habitually regresses over the course of a season.

After watching KG and the ultimate professionalism of the Celtics the past six years, it's going to be a shock to the system if the team we end up watching features Jordan and, say, Josh Smith, if he's somehow the end game in all of this.

Hell, it will feel like penance. No knuckleheads, please.

jordandeandre618.JPGDanny Ainge has the leverage

Doc is under contract for three more seasons.

He's great on TV, but in his soul he's a coach, and three years is a long wait for a new team of his own.

If he really wants to go, and the Clippers really want him, make them pay the price. Already, there have been too many concessions by the Celtics -- Eric Bledsoe isn't coming here and Jason Terry and/or Courtney Lee aren't going there.

Ainge needs to get at least one more first-rounder out of the Clippers, who if everything goes according to plan will be picking at the back of the draft anyway.

If you tell me Jordan is a building-block, I'll believe it right after I buy that Blake Griffin drives a Kia. Nothing he is getting back will be a significant part of the Celtics' future.

But he may get pieces he can package to acquire parts of that future.

He can come home again

Well, not exactly home. For all of Doc's professed love for Boston, home is Orlando, and he did get back there as often as he could, particularly when his kids were still in school.

But he can come back to Boston, and the notion that all bridges have been burned is premature. We don't even know what the composition of the roster will look like yet.

A good percentage of the roster could be players who haven't played for him before.

A larger percentage would be too concerned about their own place in the league and on the team to sweat their coach's commitment the previous offseason.

It won't be an issue coaching Garnett; he had one foot in the sand of Malibu Beach as well. Pierce knows it's a business.

Rondo? OK, maybe it's an issue with him -- he's pretty adept at stacking up slights, real and perceived.

It wouldn't shock me if the thought of the mercurial Rondo as the team's veteran leader is the real reason Doc wants to move on.

But if he does return, Doc's public-relations polish will get him back in the good graces of just about anyone he needs to win over.

If they do need a coach ...

Give me the worst available Van Gundy over the best available Del Negro.

I do think we'll find out that Doc's agent made it known that he was, let's say, open to a new challenge before any of us had a real clue. I don't think the Nets' interest was coincidental.

What is surprising is that the Lakers didn't try to hire him two games into the Spurs series.

Enough with the he's-not-that-great-anyway stuff

Rivers has been the coach here for nine seasons. The Celtics won a championship, and in the seasons they didn't win, there were more than a few basketball joys along the way.

He's a tremendous coach under any circumstances who was the perfect coach for that particular team. He was significant in the restoration of pride in the franchise.

Scorn such as this ...

... is petty revisionism. The willing departure of a player or coach you admire is disappointing, but it shouldn't diminish what was accomplished while they were here. The you-dont-want-us-so-we-don't-want-you-and-you-were-overrated-anyway stuff is beneath us.

To put it another way: Ray Allen's tying three Tuesday night didn't remind me that he left. It reminded me of how good it was while he was here.

Remember to salute KG one more time for all the old times

The Doc drama has stolen the headlines to the point that Garnett's potential departure is essentially an afterthought. Don't let it be that way.

We're going to miss him as much as he's going to miss Gino.

He's been here just six years, but his intensity, dedication, selfless play, and exceptional ability made him a franchise great whose No. 5 belongs in the rafters some day.

He's been a Celtic for a relatively short time. But he's a Celtic forever.

The ultimate Clipper-derp would be ...

Making the deal, getting The Reprehensible Donald Sterling to pay up for Doc, giving up the second first-rounder and maybe even Bledsoe, or taking on the contract of Jason Terry or Courtney Lee ... and then watching Chris Paul say, "You know, Houston seems lovely in the springtime, and my brother Cliff sells insurance in the suburbs, and it just feels right. Think I'm going there with Dwight Howard. Hey, but thanks for the good times. Also, Blake Griffin is soft."

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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