Listen, we are as tired of writing about this as you are of hearing it. But once again, a “sourced” report on Doc Rivers has hit the internet, and as a Celtics site, we kind of have to write about it. Right? Right. So we are sorry in advance.
The difference between this report and all the other reports is that here, people close to Doc are saying he isn’t sure about coming back. This isn’t speculation based on response (or lack of response) to an interview question. This is confirmation of what we feared. What’s more, it comes from the very well-sourced Ken Berger of CBS. Berger, you may remember, was the reporter who originally broke the news that the NBA lockout had come to an end. His sources are generally very reliable, and they are telling us that Doc is leery of returning to a rebuilding squad.
Here’s Berger in a very informative column:
According to an NBA front-office source, Rivers has given indications he “might be ready for a new situation.”
Rivers has been attending the Celtics’ pre-draft workouts and huddling with Ainge to chart the offseason strategy — one that could become an exit strategy for Rivers if the remnants of Boston’s Big Three era can’t be parlayed into moves that sustain the team as a championship contender.
“[Doc] has been pretty open that he doesn’t want to coach in a rebuilding environment,” said a person briefed on Rivers’ conversations with Ainge. “And if they make some moves, they’re not going to have a rebuilding environment. That’s Danny’s challenge.”
There’s a ton of relevant stuff in this report, but let’s start here: These reports actually make me respect Doc’s struggle to make a decision. He is legitimately conflicted about coming back, and it’s hard to blame him. Remember, Rivers didn’t arrive into a cushy situation with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. He suffered through the pre-KG years like the rest of us. The Big 3 era seemed like the culmination of his efforts since 2004 to bring the Celtics back to prominence. If, now that the KG/Pierce era is coming to an end, he feels it’s his time to step down, I’m certainly not going to tell him he hasn’t done his job. And if he is finding it a little hard to let go, well, I can understand that as well.
Something that is perhaps telling is his continued relationship with Danny Ainge making offseason plans. If Rivers was planning to come back, this would simply be a part of the job. If he isn’t, he is doing extra work to leave the Celtics in a good place. That is extra-curricular, not something that would be a part of a departing coach’s job description. After working with the franchise for nearly ten years, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he wants to leave it in the most solid position possible.
Finally, if these reports are true, I would be kind of shocked if Doc WAS around next year. Ainge, despite his proclivity toward franchise-changing trades, just doesn’t have the kind of assets that could turn the Celtics into contenders this offseason. The only valuable trade asset Ainge has at his disposal is Rajon Rondo, who doubles as the only possible player currently on the roster that the C’s could build around, and teams would be understandably hesitant to trade for him after his ACL injury. The Celtics simply don’t have the pieces to drag themselves back into contention, nor do they have the cap space (by a large margin) to do it via free agency. If Doc isn’t interested in rebuilding, it seems likely that he’s done.
And, for my money, that’s fair. He’s done his work in Boston, and he helped the Celtics get their 17th championship (and nearly got the 18th to boot). If he leaves, it should be to a standing ovation, not a chorus of boos. Let him go to the Grizzlies or the Clippers (where he would do well) or back to the ESPN booth (where he would be brilliant). He has done his work here, and we should be appreciative.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.