26 Aug

Doc Rivers can sympathize with Mike D’Antoni’s position

first_imgThe hits were coming from all angles, and with his team unable to mount a disproving retort, all Rivers could do was sit there and take it.“Obviously it’s not fun to go through,” Rivers recalled before his Clippers played the Lakers Thursday night at Staples Center.Sound familiar?Across the corridor, D’Antoni stood outside the Lakers locker room and fielded questions about a wounded, talent-deficient team currently barreling toward one of the worst finishes in franchise history.For fans and pundits thirsty for a perpetrator, D’Antoni is the embodiment of the Lakers struggles.Maybe he’s the long-term answer for the Lakers, maybe not.But to judge him based on the flawed roster he works with these days is about as fair and foolish as Simmons demanding Rivers’ head because he couldn’t turn Allan Ray into Ray Allen.These guys are coaches, not magicians.The Lakers’ problem is a lack of talent, not a lack of coaching.And in just a few more months, the talent issue can finally be addressed.The Lakers will have a max contract to lure a top free agent and a high draft pick to add a potential impact rookie.Or maybe they trade the draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for reportedly unhappy point guard Kyrie Irving, then resist the free agent market this summer in favor of chasing Kevin Love in 2015.The point is, the luxury of payroll flexibility and a lottery pick await the Lakers.Not that it helps D’Antoni at the moment. He’s just trying to win a game.Rivers understands.“I respect anyone who goes through that because I’ve been through it.” Rivers said. “And it’s very, very difficult.”With the benefit of retrospect, we know Boston resisted outside pressure and stuck with Rivers. And history shows the following year the rebuilt Celtics rose all the way to the NBA Finals, where they beat the Lakers to win their 17th title in franchise history.In one calendar year the perception of Rivers was forever altered. He is now known as one of the great coaches in the NBA, and the Clippers ascent in the Western Conference is proof of his impact. But it wasn’t a change in philosophy that altered Rivers’ history.It was patience.And the plays he called the following year for Kevin Garnett were essentially the same he called for Brian Scalabrine.He didn’t change.The players did.“I believed in what we were doing. As far as our schemes, defensively and offensively,” Rivers said. “I knew we needed more players. But I liked what we were doing.”That conviction pulled Rivers through many a sleepless night.“You just have to believe in that,” Rivers said. “That’s the time not to question yourself.”Ironically, the draft lottery Ainge and Celtics fans pinned their hopes wasn’t a benefit.Another lesson their Lakers counterparts might want to heed.The Celtics finished with the fifth pick that summer, not the first or second. That left them out of the running for either Oden or Durant.“That was a bad moment, for sure,” Rivers said.Initially, anyway.Ultimately it moved them off Plan A and onto Plan B.Rather than build around a rookie they reached into the trade market to add proven veterans.They traded the fifth pick to the Seattle Supersonics for Allen, then traded six players to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Garnett.With a pair of future Hall of Famers now teamed with Paul Pierce, the Celtics rolled to the NBA Championship.And the perception of Rivers was forever changed.“Obviously it all fell together,” he said.Down the hall at Staples Center, D’Antoni was just trying to win a game.And maybe buy himself another season.He’s in an impossible position coaching terrible team beset by injury.You don’t have to explain that to Rivers, though.He’s been there. Upstairs in the front office, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge was feeling the heat too. But a top-heavy draft the following summer featuring college greats Greg Oden and Kevin Durant was his out card.With each loss improving the Celtics lottery chances, the Boston faithful consoled themselves with visions of Oden or Durant pulling them out of the darkness.And that bought Ainge time.It was different for Rivers, an outsider who elicited little confidence.In fact, well-known Celtics fan turned national columnist Bill Simmons penned one of the all-time spiteful articles in sports history when he sarcastically chastised Rivers and called for his firing. Prior to being anointed the respect befitting an NBA championship, Doc Rivers was — in a manner of speaking — Mike D’Antoni.It was the 2006-07 season and Rivers was the face of the perennially storied but presently horrible Boston Celtics.With the losses piling up and a proud fan base restless for a culprit, Rivers was an easy target.He had bombed previously with the Orlando Magic, and with the Celtics regressing rather than progressing there was sincere concern in Boston he was the right man for the job.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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