There was Doc Rivers, back on the parquet floor at TD Garden. The Clippers coach stepped back onto it Wednesday morning with his team for a shootaround, with hours to go before he faced his old team, the Celtics, for the first time since he left this summer.
Looking back, Rivers said, he did have regrets about how he left the Celtics after nine years, walking away from a contract that still had three years remaining because he didn’t want to go through the rebuilding process again.
“I did wish it could’ve ended better, I guess,” Rivers said. “It wasn’t like Danny (Ainge) and I were arguing or anything. It was dragged out. I don’t know if there was any way you couldn’t drag it out.
“It wasn’t like I was involved in that. The part I was involved in was where I couldn’t make up my mind what I wanted to do … but then after that went through, the process with the two teams, I felt like it took two months. It may have. That’s how it felt. The strange part for me during that whole thing, I just had to sit there and listen and watch, and that part I hated, because it made everyone look bad, and I didn’t like that.”
Rivers hugged and shook hands with Boston reporters who had covered him for years, and then he chatted for nearly 15 minutes on several subjects, such as what he expects Wednesday’s game to be like, what he thinks of Brad Stevens and what he remembers most about his time with the Celtics.
Here are some of the highlights:
On what he expects for the game between his team and the Celtics:
“Yeah, it’s going to be hard tonight. I already told my coaches that it’s just going to be hard. You don’t spend nine years in one place and win a title and have the emotions you have toward the city and the fans and be normal when the game starts. That’s just not going to happen, at least I don’t think so. I’ve already prepared my coaches to be good coaches tonight, because it’s just going to be too tough for me.”
On if he thinks fans will boo him:
“I’m sure they’re will be some, because they were booing when I coached. So that won’t change. Listen, I didn’t do anything wrong. I decided to leave at some point. It should be all good. I have nothing but good things to say. That’s for everybody else to expect, all that other negative stuff. I have nothing but positive stuff here.”
On if he looks at how the Celtics are playing now and thinks about if he should have stayed:
“Yeah, you always do that. At some point, I think your voice has been heard too much. I had nine years and I had a great ride. I do believe in change. And I think it was important and important for me and probably important for the organization here too. But yeah, you always think that. They’re going to be good. It’s going to take them time, but they have a lot of good players on this team that I coached. I don’t know the new guys. I know (Phil) Pressey because I’ve known him since he was 2. I know him, but other than that, just the guys that I’ve coached, they’re good players.”
On his impressions of Stevens, the Celtics rookie coach who replaced Rivers:
“I think Brad is doing a terrific job. They started off slow. They’ve been playing good basketball. I think what he’s done a great job of is letting people know that this is not a rebuild year. There may be rebuilding going on, but he has his team competing every night. I think they’re one of the teams that, they compete every night and they can beat everybody.”
On Jordan Crawford, who is playing the point guard position very well for the Celtics now after having played shooting guard last season:
“Yeah, remember last year, I kept saying, I think he has a chance someday to be a point and I’d get the laughter from (the media). It’s good. I didn’t see this this quick, honestly. He’s playing terrific. He’s kind of bought in. Some guys, it takes them time to mature, not as players, but as people, and I think Jordan is on his way. And that’s good, because he’s not a bad kid.”
On what he thinks about most from his time in Boston:
“They said it was going to be a two- or three-year run (with the Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen), but I never bought into that. Now we stretched it to, what, six years? Listen, the championship is what I’ll remember. It’s not what I think about the most, unfortunately. In a sad way, I think about 2010 far more than I think about 2008…I think about 2009 a lot. I tell people, we were the best team in the league in 2009 and then when Kevin (Garnett) went down obviously we were never the same ever. I should just look back on 2008 and be thankful, but I don’t think coaches ever work that way. I swear, I believe if Kevin was healthy, we could’ve won two, maybe three in a row. That would’ve been really sweet.”