Rivers said some words to his players, jotted down a play on the whiteboard, and then, maybe a bit begrudgingly, he looked up as images of the 2008 title team faded in and out on the screen.
Some two hours later, Rivers settled behind a makeshift podium in the Celtics' media room and the mere mention of the video tribute left him wobbly again.
"I'm still emotional," Rivers said. "I thought the fans were …"
He breathed deep and paused for eight seconds trying to compose himself. Even when he started back up, he was fighting to keep it together.
"It was just a really nice day," Rivers said. "This is just such a classy place here. So it was really nice when I walked out and, you know, I'm not used to walking out on that [visitor's] side, and all those guys, the people, they lined up and I was basically useless for the first 18 minutes of the game.
"It was just nice. It didn't surprise me because -- you've got to live here to understand it -- that's just the way they are. It's an amazing fan base. It really is. And I just want everything to go well for them."
A reporter playfully asked if it was too late to change his mind about leaving town.
"I tell you, boy, this is such a neat place," Rivers gushed. "I tell people all the time -- people don't get Boston, they really don't. They don't understand. And I think you have to be part of it to get it, I really do. I don't think you can get it from the outside. It's just a special, different place, and people were born here, and raised here, and they cheer for their teams, and they love their athletes. And it's just a great place to be.
"The best decision I ever made was 10 years ago, when I decided to come here. That was the best decision I ever made."
He paused a beat again to collect himself and quipped, "Can we talk about basketball?"
(Read full column)
Stevens is a bit of an outsider in all this. He never coached Pierce or Garnett and he's only briefly interacted with Rivers. Heck, even his team -- one that has taken on Stevens' typically cool, calm demeanor -- has downplayed the emotional aspect of these last two games.
"I’ve been asked this a lot this week about my emotions or my thoughts coming into the game," Stevens said. "I respect a good coach. I’m appreciative of the opportunity that I have. I’m appreciative of the time that he spent here. I’m appreciative of the good times he had and I’m appreciative of the tough ones he had that built to those good times. I don’t know him very well, but I admire what he’s accomplished and everyone else was up and I should have been up too."
Their situations are very different, but it's interesting to hear Stevens talk about appreciating how Rivers navigated the tough times to get to the good ones. As the Celtics travel this bumpy and uncertain rebuilding road, there's likely to be a fair amount of those tough times for Stevens and Co. Wednesday's 96-88 loss to the Clippers was Boston's second straight, dropping the team to 10-14 overall.
But Rivers is confident the Celtics found the right guy to get them back to contender status sooner than later.
"[Stevens has] coached as long as me, just not in the NBA," Rivers said. "He’s going to be terrific. He’s going to be a terrific coach. I think he’s already doing it. He’s just solid, does his job every night ... that’s what you want. Brad’s going to be a terrific coach and he’s going to be here a long time."
The 37-year-old Stevens has a six-year contract. Early returns have been encouraging, but he's so focused on the day-to-day progress of his team and enduring the daily process that he almost certainly never allows himself to think too far beyond the task at hand. But if he's able to navigate this transition process and eventually gives Boston a chance to compete for another banner, there could come a time when he'll be feted the way Rivers was on Wednesday.
Maybe at that point he'll be a bit more emotional. Right now, his focus is demanded elsewhere.
Read on for a few more notes from Wednesday's game:
BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Boston Celtics 96-88 Wednesday night at TD Garden:
Chris Paul flirted with a triple-double (team-high 22 points, nine assists, seven rebounds), and Jamal Crawford made big shots off the bench to chip in 21 points as former coach Doc Rivers and the Clippers handed Boston its second straight loss. Jeff Green scored a game-high 29 points on 10-of-23 shooting for the Celtics, while Brandon Bass added a double-double (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Jared Sullinger nearly did the same (10 points, 9 rebounds). Jordan Crawford had 20 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds over 39 minutes.
Jamal Crawford hit back-to-back 3-pointers with little more than two minutes to go, turning a one-possession game into an eight-point Clippers lead and, in the span of 24 seconds, the Clippers had sealed a gritty victory. Jamal Crawford's first triple was a 29-foot straightaway bomb in a late-clock situation. Jared Dudley blocked Jordan Crawford at the other end, then provided the assist on a Jamal Crawford wing 3-pointer for a 91-83 lead with 2:10 to go.
C'S HONOR RIVERS WITH VIDEO
Hop HERE to watch the tribute video that ran after the first quarter celebrating Doc Rivers' nine seasons as coach of the Celtics.
Playing the alley-oop-happy Clippers, Boston beat the visitors at their own game with Avery Bradley going with a one-handed slam off a lob from Jordan Crawford early in the first quarter. Lob City got it going later (even after DeAndre Jordan had a humorous moment when his emphatic dunk attempt left the ball wedged between the side of the rim and the glass, leading to a jump ball). Jordan finished with just five points and six rebounds; Blake Griffin had 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
BROOKS GETS A CHANCE
In an offensively anemic second half, oft-unused swingman MarShon Brooks got the call from Brad Stevens. Boston had only two points in bench scoring through the game's first 40 minutes, but Brooks made a layup with 7:35 to go to make it a one-possession game. He played only four minutes and gave way to the starters down the stretch.
Courtney Lee fouled out in just 14:42 of action. He was scoreless (0-for-2 shooting) with two rebounds, two assists and two turnovers. His block from behind on Jamal Crawford did fuel one of Boston's highlight sequences that ended with Green throwing down a monster dunk. ... Kris Humphries (sore right knee) sat out Wednesday's game, while Kelly Olynyk missed his 10th straight game with a sprained right ankle. ... Keith Bogans was a healthy DNP.
WHAT IT MEANS
Boston drops both nights of its Reunion Week to fall to 10-14 overall and now owns just a one-game lead over the Toronto Raptors in the Atlantic Division. The Celtics will take Thursday off coming off this back-to-back, then host the New York Knicks (they of Sunday's 41-point demolition) on Friday night. Boston plays six of its final seven games of the calendar year at TD Garden, traveling only to Indiana on Dec. 22 for a tilt with the Pacers that precedes a five-day holiday break.
Hop HERE to watch all of Boston's tribute videos, including for Ray Allen, Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis and Eddie House.
He admits it might be hard to fight back those emotions when he is acknowledged by the fans during Wednesday's game.
"I’m an emotional guy," said Rivers. "You know me. I’ve been emotional my whole life. I’m not going to change now. I just hope I can coach the team tonight and get through it. Hell, I did a function here this summer and me and Jeff Twiss were sitting there and we both got water in the eyes. You don’t invest nine years in an organization or a town -- I fell in love with more than just the team here. This is a fantastic place to be. I’m not here anymore, and when I do come back, I remember everything. I remember walking the streets. So, yeah, [I expect to be emotional]."
The Clippers visit Brooklyn to play two of Rivers' former players in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on Thursday, but he said Wednesday's game is the harder of the two visits.
"It’s harder to come back here," said Rivers. "Playing against them, I see them. It’s just two guys that I love in a Brooklyn uniform. Coming back here, that’s special, for me. I get to walk under a banner that I helped get and see the fans and see a lot of my friends. This day and a half has been a lot of fun, but it’s also been very emotional."
Celtics first-year coach Brad Stevens reaffirmed that it's really just another game for him, but understands the emotions involved for Rivers, his former players, and the fans.
"The one thing I don’t think you can do is alter the world," said Stevens. "There are going to be emotions, so how emotional they get will be up to each of them, individually. I’m not going to be able to control that, necessarily. You certainly talk about what we have to do to be successful. What we have to do to play our best. That’s part of it. Every night there’s something in this league because of the relationship that guys have with former teammates [or] guys that played together in college, guys that played together as they grew up. There’s always a relationship across the benches. I think guys are used to that by now. The last two nights have been a big deal around here because of the people that were involved in each of these last two games."
A few more pregame notes:
- HUMPHRIES (KNEE) OUT: Kris Humphries is out for Wednesday's game due to a bruised right knee.
- OLYNYK (ANKLE) OUT AGAIN: Celtics rookie Kelly Olynyk will miss his 10th straight game Wednesday due to a right ankle sprain. Said Stevens: "I thought at one point that he would be probable or at least close, but now I’m being told [he could return on] Friday [vs. the Knicks]. Hopefully that’s the case."
- DEFENDING LOB CITY: Stevens noted that Los Angeles' frontcourt of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin play "like there are trampolines on the floor. They can get way above the rim. And if you left Jordan or Griffin get a running start, you’re dead. You have to meet those guys high in transition, you have to meet those guys high on rolls."
- JACKSON WILL PLAY: Rivers noted that newly acquired Stephen Jackson will be thrown right into the fire given the Clippers injuries. "We signed him [Tuesday] and he’s literally going to play tonight," said Rivers. "And we’ll see how that goes."
"I'm used to coming in through the other [Celtics'] doors and used to going to the other side. This is strange already," Rivers said at the Los Angeles Clippers' morning shootaround.
Rivers spent nine years coaching the Boston Celtics before departing in June to take over as coach and senior vice president of basketball operations with the Clippers. He made it clear that he will be battling emotions when he faces off with his former team Wednesday night.
"It's going to be a hard night," he said. "I already told my coaches that it's going to be hard. You don't spend nine years in one place and win a title, and have the emotions you have toward the cities and the fans, and be normal when the game starts. It's just not going to happen, at least I don't think so. I've already prepared my coaches to be good coaches tonight because it's going to be too tough for me."
(Read full column)
- DOC'S RETURN: The obvious storyline here is former Celtics coach Doc Rivers returning to Boston for his first game against his old team. While Rivers' departure was anything but tidy, those summer wounds are healing (in part because of the early success new coach Brad Stevens has enjoyed through the season's first six weeks) and Rivers should received a prolonged standing ovation for what he did in Boston, particularly his role in delivering Banner 17 and changing the culture here. Fans can go right back to booing the Clippers after Rivers gets his moment. Many of Rivers' former players like Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger gushed Tuesday about what the coach meant to them individually.
- CORRALLING CP3: The Celtics struggled to keep Deron Williams out of the paint on Tuesday night and -- in his first game back after a prolonged absence -- the All-Star point guard finished with 25 points and seven assists. It doesn't get any easier for Boston with Chris Paul in town. Said Green after Tuesday's loss: "When you’ve got a point guard like [Williams], and we got one like Chris Paul [on Wednesday] -- they can do a lot of things on the floor. It creates another threat on the team. There’s only five guys on the floor and there’s only one ball-handler. If you control the ball, it can limit what one person can do. [Wednesday], we’ve just got to do a better job of taking care of the ball and defending the ball."
- JORDAN + GRIFFIN: After struggling to contain Brook Lopez on Tuesday night, Boston's undersized frontcourt will be tasked with stopping the size and athleticism of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Both are double-double machines as Griffin is averaging a team-best 20.7 points per game to go along with 10.6 rebounds per game, while Jordan is chipping in 10 points and a team-best 13.3 rebounds per contest.
- WHAT ELSE?: The Clippers are hoping to have newly inked Stephen Jackson to help offset some of their recent injury woes (J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes and Reggie Bullock have all been dinged up). ... After being better at the start of games recently, the Celtics dug themselves an early hole on Tuesday in Brooklyn. Asked what the team learned against the Nets, Gerald Wallace noted, "Don’t get off to a slow start. We’ve got to come out aggressive and we didn’t do that this game. I think that’s the biggest thing that hurt us [Tuesday]. We didn’t start the game the way we needed to start it." ... The Celtics are playing the second night of a back-to-back (the first time this season that the second night has been at home), while the Clippers were off on Tuesday. This is Boston's only back-to-back in a friendly December slate.
(Read full game preview)
And a peak ahead to Wednesday's visit from former coach Doc Rivers:
"Kevin said, 'What's up?' which doesn't really happen," Sullinger said with a smile. "He said, 'What's up?' He was talking to me, asking me how my back was. I wasn't expecting that, but it was Kevin. I guess we're special, I don't know."
Boston's reunion week got off on the wrong foot as the Nets held their own mini-reunion, getting both point guard Deron Williams and another of Boston's old friends, Paul Pierce, back for Tuesday's tilt at the Barclays Center.
Williams stole the show, scoring 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting with seven assists and three rebounds in a 104-96 Brooklyn win. Williams willed in some tough shots down the stretch and ultimately allowed the Nets to fend off Boston's late charge, snapping the Celtics' three-game winning streak in the process.
But Garnett and Pierce did their part, too. Garnett used the green jerseys on the opposite end to give himself a much-needed jump-start, and he chipped in 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting with nine rebounds. He hit a cluster of vintage Garnett midrange jumpers and was the chest-pounding, spit-spewing guy Boston fans remembers oh-so fondly.
Pierce, surprising most by returning early from a fractured right hand, played in a protective black glove. He missed all three shots he took and finished with only four points, but did his familiar give-the-game-what-it-needs routine, which included seven rebounds, three assists and one well-timed fourth-quarter drawn charge.
Both Garnett and Pierce, as well as the former teammates they played with on the Celtics, tried their best to downplay the emotional aspect of Tuesday's meeting.
(Read full column)
Turns out he wasn’t just pumping his tires.
In Williams' first game back after missing 11 of the Nets' previous 12 games, Williams scored 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting with seven assists and three rebounds over 37 minutes. The Celtics had no answer for big man Brook Lopez (18 points) over the first three quarters, but it was Williams that helped generate easy looks for the 7-footer and controlled the game in the fourth frame.
“I think you saw what I was talking about with Williams,” said Stevens. “End of the shot clock, guy makes a play, driving it in, kicking -- he made huge plays, I thought, for them. And, probably the most important thing was, when we got after them in the backcourt, they subbed him in, which was a good move. And they handled [the defensive pressure] better with him on the floor. I thought he was the biggest difference in the game, though the obvious difference was also Lopez’s size.”
If you’re a Celtics fan, the spin you put on it: Imagine how good Boston can be when it gets its own All-Star point guard back in Rajon Rondo.
A few more notes from Brooklyn’s triumph:
- THE KG EFFECT: Stevens might not have got a chance to coach Kevin Garnett in Boston, but he now knows the perils of coaching against him. “They took us out of what we wanted to do, Garnett specifically,” said Stevens. “Defensively, he did some really good things that took us out of what we wanted to do on a couple of occasions. Credit them, like I said, we weren’t playing the [Brooklyn] Nets that played without D-Will for those  games. That is their team and they are a good basketball team. You add [Andrei] Kirilenko to it and it’s scary."
- C’S GO DOWN SWINGING: Stevens had a thin layer of perspiration around his face when he arrived for his postgame press conference outside the visitor’s locker room; it's about as sweaty as reporters have seen him after a game. That was likely a product of feverishly coaching Boston’s late rally (and the occasional bark at the officials down the stretch). Despite the loss, Stevens liked how his team went down swinging. “I thought we fought. I thought we played hard, I thought we played with effort,” said Stevens. “I didn’t think we played well, but I thought [the Nets] had a lot to do with it. I’m not going to get caught up in, necessarily, the little things as far as how we feel after winning or losing. I think you have to get caught up in, we came here, we took a really good shot from a really good team on their home court and played competitively, really competitively most of the night, when we could have gone away at points.”
- TOUGH TO SLOW LOPEZ: Lopez finished with 18 points on 10-of-13 shooting, much of his output coming in the first half when he simply bullied his way to the basket with none of Boston's big truly able to offer much resistance. The Celtics managed to slow Lopez in the fourth quarter with double teams, but the damage had been done. "Brook is tough," said Jared Sullinger. "He’s a big dude. I mean, he’s what 7-1? It’s kinda hard to even contest his shot because he’s just shooting right over us." Echoed Wallace: “He’s 7-foot. He gives everybody in the league a hard time. ... We tried to do as much as we could to keep the ball out of his hands and control him on the block, but he’s a great player and an All-Star and he did what he’s supposed to do."
NEW YORK -- Jared Sullinger is calling shenanigans. The Boston Celtics' second-year forward/center finds it way too convenient that one night after jousting with old friends Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Brooklyn, the Green must host former coach Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers.
But there are probably 28 other teams the Celtics would rather see on the tail end of this back-to-back on Wednesday. Even after most downplayed the emotional aspect of Tuesday's tilt in Brooklyn, the hype machine will be in overdrive again for Wednesday's game. Oh, and it doesn't help that the 14-8 Clippers were relaxing in the Hub on Tuesday night.
That said, Sullinger didn't hide how much Rivers meant to his own development.
"I can’t be a rookie -- that’s one thing he kept telling me [last season]," Sullinger said of Rivers' coaching during his first NBA season. "That if you want to play, you can’t be a rookie. He always pushed me. I was the hardest he coached throughout the team [last season], and every little thing I did, I couldn’t get away with. He was always on me. Almost like playing for my father [Satch] all over again."
Across the locker room, Jeff Green likewise gushed about Rivers' impact on him.
"What he’s done for me, individually, he made me look in the mirror and try to figure out what type of player I want to be," Green said. "He gave me a chance to really showcase what I can do. And he gave me an opportunity that I needed to present myself out there to people, to come with the aggression each night. I’ve known Doc since I’ve been a sophomore in college. ... He’s done a lot for me, he’s done a lot for this organization as well.
"It’s going to be fun to see him again, but when the ball is thrown up in the air, he’s on the other team, he’s the enemy. And we’re going to try to beat his team."
NEW YORK -- Rapid reaction after the Brooklyn Nets defeated the Boston Celtics 104-96 on Tuesday night at the Barclays Center:
THE NITTY GRITTY
At Tuesday morning's shootaround, first-year Celtics coach Brad Stevens noted, "We’re not playing the Nets that have played the first  games. We’re playing the Nets that everybody thought were going to be the Nets." The return of Deron Williams (25 points on 10-of-16 shooting, seven assists, three rebounds) and old friend Paul Pierce, along with a dominant effort by center Brook Lopez were enough for Brooklyn to snap Boston's three-game winning streak. Lopez got whatever he wanted against the size-deprived Celtics, registering 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting over 38 minutes. Brooklyn outscored Boston 48-30 in the paint. Even old friend Kevin Garnett (11 points on 5-of-10 shooting, 9 rebounds) found his missing touch against his former team.
Down nine coming out of halftime, it took the Celtics only 2:21 to tie the game, a couple of Jared Sullinger 3-pointers bookending the offensive spurt. But Brooklyn regained control even quicker. The Nets embarked on a 10-0 burst over a two-minute span, culminating with a 21-foot jumper by Williams for a 70-60 lead with 6:48 to play in the third quarter. Any time Boston showed signs of another spurt, it was smothered in the form of easy Lopez buckets as he bulled his way to the hoop.
BOSTON MAKES A CHARGE
The Nets had Boston at arm's length for much of the second half after taking control midway through the third quarter. But the Celtics wouldn't go quietly and, despite trailing by 13 with 4:47 to go, surged within five with less than two minutes to go. They would get no closer and a little 5-0 burst was enough to ice the game for the Nets.
KG GREETS FORMER TEAMMATES
Garnett, famous for his icy greeting of former teammate Ray Allen after he defected to the rival Heat last season, greeted each of Boston's five starters -- all returners from last season -- with daps and hugs before tip-off. Later, Garnett gave good friend Rajon Rondo a sideline squeeze during a break in the action.
PIERCE STILL DOING ALL THE LITTLE THINGS
Playing his first game back from a broken hand and sporting a black protective glove, Pierce had a fairly quiet line with four points on 0-for-3 shooting with seven rebounds, three assists and a steal. But, per usual, he did all the little things. That included taking a fourth-quarter charge (yes, bad hand and all) on Gerald Wallace when the C's were threatening to make a run. The Celtics miss those crafty plays that don't always show up in the box score.
Wallace earned a technical foul for throwing the ball off Alan Anderson after giving a foul with 33.7 seconds to play. Anderson had flipped the ball at Wallace initially after the whistle, but Wallace's flip is what the refs noticed and drew the tech.
Rookie Vitor Faverani played only 4½ minutes, picking up two fouls and finishing at minus-12 in plus/minus. .... Rookie Phil Pressey's 20-foot jumper early in the second quarter ended a 68-minute field goal drought for the rookie point guard. He hadn't made a shot since Nov. 25, a span of six games. ... Former Nets MarShon Brooks and Keith Bogans were healthy DNPs. Kris Humphries played 16:38 and couldn't help slow down former frontcourt mate Lopez. ... Rookie Kelly Olynyk missed his ninth straight game due to a sprained right ankle.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics were scrappy, but Lopez's early dominance made it tough to fight all the way back (and some late whistles didn't aid their cause). Boston's win streak is over and the team fell to 10-13 but still sits atop the Atlantic Division. Reunion week continues Wednesday in Boston when the Celtics host former coach Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers on the tail end of this back-to-back. Boston closes out the calendar year by playing seven of their next eight games at TD Garden, including a visit from the Knicks on Friday.
The Nets will get a double dose of All-Star infusion with the returns of point guard Deron Williams and Pierce. Nets coach Jason Kidd was coy with how much the duo will play, but it can only seemingly help a team that's staggered to a 6-14 start.
Pierce, who spent the first 15 years of his career with the Celtics, and Kevin Garnett, whose arrival helped spark Boston to its 17th world title in 2008, will play their first regular-season game against the visiting Celtics. What is Kidd's advice for them facing their former squad?
"To breathe and to relax and to enjoy the moment," Kidd said. "There will probably be, for Paul and KG, a period before the game of reflection of what they accomplished in Boston in winning a championship and then, being competitors, they’ll be ready to play."
First-year Celtics coach Brad Stevens said his team prepared for Pierce to play after he returned to practice on Tuesday and said Pierce's presence won't alter Boston's approach. Stevens has noted that he hopes some of the emotions in playing Brooklyn dissipated during two preseason meetings (though Garnett sat out both).
"I don’t have the emotional pull that our players will," Stevens said. "That being said, I just want to play good basketball. And that’s my job, to figure out how we can continue to play good basketball."
Asked if he's noticed any change in his team's emotional state during this reunion week (Boston hosts former coach Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday), Stevens said, "[The Celtics players] are not a huge rah-rah group, generally. They are pretty business-like, so it’s been pretty much like normal. ... I like that because it’s pretty business-like and -- 82 games, boy, if you go up and down, you’re in trouble because the down nights, you’ve got no shot. The up nights, you hope to give yourself a chance to win, [but] you better stay steady, just try to play as well as you can."
“I don’t anticipate [being booed]. I'd be very surprised by it. If it happens, it happens,” Rivers said. “I’d be disappointed, of course, I’m a human being. Having said that, the way I look at it is I gave nine amazing years and I think the fans will see that more than anything else, and that’s a fact. I won a title here, Mike. There's a banner that has my name on it that's going to hang right above me when I walk out. This is all good.”
What kind of reception would you give Rivers? Vote in our poll above.
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