Doc Rivers is indisputably one of the best coaches in the NBA, both from an Xs and Os standpoint and as a player mediator. He spent the past five years juggling the strong personalities of three future Hall of Famers as well as the intensely complicated Rajon Rondo, and whether or not everyone liked each other, they always played hard, always cared about winning, and always were a threat to make a playoff push.
So perhaps it’s not surprising (like, at all) that Doc would attempt to alleviate blame from one of his star players. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, Doc Rivers is attempting to take on Rondo’s blame for Ray Allen’s departure.
From Yahoo! Sports:
“People can use all the Rondo stuff – and it was there, no doubt about that – but it was me more than Rondo,” said Rivers, who is working as an NBC analyst during the Olympics. “I’m the guy who gave Rondo the ball. I’m the guy who decided that Rondo needed to be more of the leader of the team. That doesn’t mean guys liked that – and Ray did not love that – because Rondo now had the ball all the time.
“Think about everything [Allen] said when he left, ‘I want to be more of a part of the offense.’ Everything was back at Rondo. And I look at that, and say, ‘That’s not Rondo’s fault.’ That’s what I wanted Rondo to do, and that’s what Rondo should’ve done. Because that’s Rondo’s ability. He’s the best passer in the league. He has the best feel in the league. He’s not a great shooter, so he needs the ball in his hands to be effective. And that bothered Ray.
“And not starting [games] bothered Ray. I did examine it, and the conclusion I came back to was this: By doing the right things, we may have lost Ray. If I hadn’t done that, I would’ve been a hypocrite. In the opening speech I make every year, I tell the team: ‘Every decision I make is going to be what’s good for the team, and it may not be what’s good for the individual.’ …
“Ray’s got to do what’s best for Ray, but having said that, he’s not going to start in Miami. And I doubt he gets the ball more. But I do think, for a guy like Ray and Paul and Kevin and Kobe [Bryant], it’s easier to go somewhere and do that, than have it taken from you where you’re at.”
There is so much more in the actual article, including Doc’s admission once again that he was “pissed” right after Ray left, and you absolutely should head over to the link above and read the whole thing. It will be well worth your time.
Each one of the above quotes is telling in its own way. Doc is obviously trying to lift some of the blame off Rondo’s shoulders, since some Celtics fans would not take kindly to Rondo if they believed he was at fault for Ray’s departure. But notice what Doc does here: rather than saying that “it wasn’t Rondo’s fault, he didn’t do anything,” which would have been immediately laughable, he points out that while Rondo’s play may have angered Allen, Rondo wasn’t being selfish, he was just playing the way Doc told him to play. Perfect rhetoric of persuasion, Doc. It’s subtle, it’s smart, and interestingly enough, it might actually be true.
Of course, anyone with a TV could have guessed that Ray wasn’t happy about losing his starting spot to Avery Bradley, and anyone who saw how Boston performed after the All-Star break also knows how much better the C’s were with Bradley in the lineup (more on that when Bradley comes up in our roster countdown). What we may not have considered is that Ray would rather make the decision to come off the bench himself rather than having a coach take away his spot. Allen is a model citizen, so we may forget that, like every other NBA player, Ray is a talented, proud individual who would rather go out on his own terms.
There are a lot of reasons to love what Doc says in this interview, but arguably the best thing we can take away is that Doc expects the same things out of himself that he does out of his players. If he had allowed Ray to start because Ray had a higher status than Bradley, that would have been hypocritical. Not being inclined toward hypocrisy, Doc made a decision that alienated Allen; one that may have pushed him to Miami. And quite frankly, that’s good. If players control the coach, the team suffers.
This kind of candor is part of what makes Doc such a great coach; it’s easy to imagine that his players appreciate this honesty as much as the media. Ray’s departure will be painful, but if anyone can coach Boston through the transition, Doc is the man for the job.