Doc Rivers Interview
Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers spoke with InsideHoops.com and other major media outlets in a teleconference. Here are the questions and answers:
Opening Statement: I hope everybodyís doing well. A little recap so far on camp is weíve started to get things. We have not played great yet, in my opinion, in preseason. I thought we had a very good camp. Gary Payton came in and has been unbelievable so far not only as a player but off the floor helping some of our young guys. We have a young basketball team and I think Gary has been exceptional in that. Weíre changing a lot of things here. Weíre trying to run more. Weíre trying to pick up our defensive intensity. We were 29th in the league last year in rebounding. So, we obviously have a lot of work to do.
Q: Last year Detroit won the title without a so-called superstar. Do you think this year weíll see more teams say they donít need superstars?
Rivers: I think most teams are still going to look for stars. I think at the end of the day they know the stars can get you there as well. Last year was great. I think it was great for everyone to see that the old rule Ė that you not only needed one star, but two stars to win the title Ė is no longer true. But, I donít think we give Detroit enough credit. Ben Wallace is a superstar defensively. I think if you look at Chauncey Billups and the combination of Rip Hamilton, and then you have Rasheed Wallace, they have so many very good players that I think it kind of equaled things out. So, theyíre the deepest team in the NBA to me by far. Theyíve even gotten deeper this summer. I think that was the difference. You look at that old Seattle team Ė ďDowntownĒ Freddie Brown, Dennis Johnson and Gus Williams Ė they remind me a lot of that team because they were so good. So many players were so good and knew how to play, it made them very good.
Q: What have you seen so far from your rookies individually and what skills have stood out in the short time thus far?
Rivers: Tony Allen was having a great camp. Athletically, heís close to a freak, he really is. Heís an unbelievable athlete and has great toughness but all of them have to learn how to play the game of basketball in the NBA game. Tony is so athletic I think sometimes it gets him trouble. He gambles too much defensively. He thinks his speed will be all he needs to get open and heís finding out everybodyís fast and strong in our league so I thought at times he was struggling with that. He got injured the other day so heís going to be out for at least a week and thatís going to slow his progress down. Delonte West has been up and down like a typical rookie, especially at the point guard position. He was a two in college for the most part; Jameer (Nelson) was their point so I think he has struggled. Then heís had some great nights. Against Detroit in the second half he was phenomenal. Heís been inconsistent, what we thought. And Al is Al. Thatís what we said about Al Jefferson. Heís 18 years old but he has an amazing amount of ability and he has a great attitude. Al is a sponge. He wants to know if heís doing it wrong, why? He stays after practice. Heís there early. For 18 years old, Alís showing a ton of maturity as far as the work part of it. Usually the young guys donít know how to work and Al has proven that he does, and likes it. I wouldnít be shocked if, at the end of this year, Al was helping our basketball team.
Q: Talk about Tracy McGrady joining Yao Ming. Do you think this is the next Kobe-Shaq duo of the league?
Rivers: It could be. I donít know if Yao is as good as Shaq. The one thing Tracy has to do, and do it more consistently, is play with the intensity of Kobe. If he can do that, then I tell you that itís a heck of a move for Tracy. I do think this is a great opportunity for Tracy. I think this is his chance to answer critics and to do things that he doesnít do consistently. I think with Jeff (Van Gundy), theyíre getting him at the perfect time. So, itíll be interesting how they work it out. But, youíre right, as far as our league and the way itís set-up, itís the only combination that you can consider a Kobe-Shaq situation. This is the only team. He has a chance and they have a chance, but I think they both have to answer questions.
Q: Do you think those two fusing together is the big question youíre talking about?
Rivers: Yeah, and then just the intensity question all the time, defensively and offensively. I think obviously coming off the year that Tracy had last year as far as individually, but, more importantly the team, I think this is the perfect time to coach Tracy. I think you have a chance of really getting him to do it right all the time. Tracy wants to win and I think youíre going to see that this year.
Q: Can I get your opinion on what is the biggest difference in style among the teams in each conference and also do you feel the power has shifted to the Eastern Conference?
Rivers: Well, I donít think itís changed to the East, yet. I think the best teamís in the East and thatís Detroit. I think they proved that last year. I think the West still is more talented than the East, but the East is catching up. It reminds me a lot of back in the late 80s, early 90s when the East had dominated for years and the West kept compiling draft picks after draft picks after draft picks and all of a sudden it shifts. San Antonio drafts Tim Duncan. The Lakers get Shaq and all of a sudden itís the West thatís strong. Now weíve been getting all the draft picks. LeBron James goes to Cleveland. We get Shaq back in the East and now the East is starting to come back and be pretty competitive and strong. So, I think itís more even now than itís been in a long time, I think thatís good. It makes both conferences competitive. I still give the West the edge. It used to be that the West was a fast-break, open-court, no-defense conference and the East was the slug-it-out conference. I think that still is the case except for San Antonio. I think San Antonio is the only team built to play West Coast or East Coast basketball and thatís probably why, besides Detroit, theyíre the favorite.
Q: What aspects of Detroitís game and Larry Brownís philosophy do you think other teams will try to emulate?
Rivers: Move the ball. Hit the open guy. No dancing with the basketball. If anything, I probably had the best seat in the house watching it, doing the broadcasts last year. The one thing that stood out to me was they just hit the open guy and didnít look who the open guy was. I think everybody has been trying to do that. They havenít been successful with that because the superstar usually can say, ďWell, I like my option better than passing it to that guy.Ē Now, I think coaches have ammunition. Move the ball, cut and you have a chance of opening yourself up, but more importantly make a cut to open your teammate up. So, I think of all the things, that helps. And defensively, I think just solid team defense. I think both of those messages have helped us.
Q: Where is the battle for the final starting spot at and what do you like about each guy, Jiri Welsch and Ricky Davis?
Rivers: Well, itís not really a battle. Itís funny, both guys have come to me separately and said they donít mind coming off the bench and both guys said that if they start, theyíll take it either way. It really is what fits our team the best. Itís a tough one for me --Iíve got to tell you -- because Ricky makes us so much more athletically inclined to press and be a better defensive team, but Jiri is so good. Heís a good defensive player, but heís so good offensively moving without the ball, not a guy that you need to give the ball to kind of helps our offense. Right now Iím probably leaning towards Ricky, honestly, because we might need Jiri to be our backup point guard until Delonte or Marcus Banks comes around. If thatís the case, then Jiri would almost have to come off the bench. Itís really not a matter of whoís the better player, but whoís the best fit Ė maybe not even for the first unit, maybe for the second unit. Whoever is the better fit for the second unit, the other guy will start.