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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

NBA REPORT

With veteran squad, Celts keep Rivers


NEW YORK — So my opinion (contrary to citing a source; incredible how many English-speaking and, I assume, reading people don't know the difference) concerning what Doc Rivers was doing and what he would do was incorrect.

There goes my vision of a Rick Pitino revival meeting.

After actually giving the situation some thought, the Celtics had no other choice but to re-sign their coach for five years and $35 million (a vast reward for keeping his mouth caulked when Danny Ainge screwed up the roster and rhythm at trade deadline) even if he finishes only three-fifths of the contract before getting fired.

The thing is, when coaches like Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan and potentially Rivers leave the pulpit there's a colossal chasm to fill, especially when sacrosanct veterans are left behind.

How easy do you think it would be for a new guy to get Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo to buy into his command?

That's why it makes sense for the Lakers to hire someone like Rick Adelman or Mike Dunleavy vs. untested assistant Brian Shaw despite Kobe's unequivocal endorsement; in time, Bryant will accept either of the older guys or someone on their level.

However, having signed off on all of the above, paying $7 million per season to a coach (one title) not named Jackson (11) or Gregg Popovich(four) is preposterous . . . particularly now when the NBA is howling at the prospects of losing (another?) $380 million this season.

Seems like David Stern might want to insist owners include the contracts of coaching staffs in their team's salary cap. Let's see how many assistants the head guy will hire then.

Afterthought: I guess Rivers' son, Austin, isn't worth watching in person after all.

* * *

Announcer Michael Kay concludes Isiah Thomas should be given credit for Zach Randolph's harvest this season, as well as Jamal Crawford's productivity with the Hawks.

Aside from Kay's view being back-to-front, inside-out and crooked, his position is almost on target.

Had Thomas guided the Knicks anywhere worthwhile when coaching the pair, he would have deserved praise. What they're doing for their respective successful clubs makes him look worse.

In any event, the ghost of Elvis prepared the Grizzlies pregame meal of fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Unfortunately, Eddy Curry and Jerome James (recruited to New York by Thomas), were hired to deliver them.

Before moving on to the Heat-Bulls hoedown, think about the nightmarish flashback Jack Nicholson must have had after the Mavericks smothered his team in four straight:

I put zero weight into Chicago's three-game skid against Miami (one minus LeBron James) during the regular season . . . unless, of course, Chris Bosh decides to unleash another 1-for-18 field goal onslaught.

Here's what concerns me about the Heat, which has to embezzle at least one game in Oprahville. LeBron James & Co. appeared so amped to take down the Old Green Mare that Pat Riley might want to remind them they're only halfway to paradise.

My Grand Prix trainer would jerk me out of the saddle if I celebrated after overcoming turns and distances I had failed to navigate before when there are two additional difficult obstacles ahead.

"What will LeBron do if he wins the conference finals?" column contributor Mike Lione wonders. "Pass out! Set himself on fire! Demand a pyramid of his likeness in the sands of South Beach!"

You don't have to steal money from TNT, ESPN or NBA-TV to comprehend the team that zip-locks its opponent most often will prevail. As renowned as the Bulls are for their premeditated and incessant defense, the Heat have the length, quickness and desire to bewitch, bother and bewilder more effectively.

Particularly since Dwyane Wade matches up with Derrick Rose as well as anyone in creation.

My staff finds it interesting that everyone is going wild over the Bulls' defense being ranked first in field-goal defense this season. Imagine that; the brainpower of (Coach of the Year) Tom Thibodeau was able to lift Chicago all the way up from third place in that category, which is where Vinny Del Negro and defensive assistant Bob Ociepka had it the previous year before being fired.

Taking nothing away from what Thibodeau accomplished, but where credit is due, it should be acknowledged.

True, the Bulls gave up more points per game under Del Negro. Still, field goal defense is generally regarded as a better barometer of the defense being played.

Regardless, this season's Bulls' edition didn't come from nowhere to do what it has done, and the addition of several big bodies—Carlos Boozer, Kurt Thomas and Omer Asik—had to help. Moreover, the leftovers are a year smarter.

Again, not to sleet on Thibodeau's show, but Del Negro got waxed for his effort with a constantly regressing roster—making the Bulls competitive in two consecutive playoff presentations and got little internal support and no acclaim.

Meanwhile, these Bulls play at a pace rated 23rd vs. 11th for Del Negro. His Bulls took 250 more shots, including field goals and free throws; Thibodeau's team went to the line more often.

The point is, this was not a miracle job, as squawking heads would have you believe, simply an improvement.

Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.


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