Los Angeles Clippers at Boston Celtics
4:30 p.m. PST
December 11, 2013
FOX Prime Ticket
1. Will Celtics fans boo or cheer Doc Rivers?
Michael Pina, CelticsHub, (@MichaelVPina): I can’t speak for all of us, but any Celtics fan who endured the agonizing pre-Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen era should stand and clap until their hands ache. Rivers’ departure was messy but most breakups are. He did wonderful things for an organization that needed them badly, and for that, he should be fondly remembered.
Michael Shagrin, (@mshaggy): They’ll cheer him. This is a city that takes an unhealthy amount of pride in its sports teams and Doc Rivers brought Boston a championship. We’ll certainly continue to mutter about the breakup of the Big Three because it’s interesting, but Doc’s place in Celtics lore is secure.
Aaron Fischman, (@aaronhartf): There will definitely be some of each. Rivers didn’t leave under the best of circumstances. Realistic Celtics fans will remember the great times Rivers oversaw as head coach, including the 2008 NBA championship and understand that as a self-interested person, it made little sense for Doc to oversee the Boston rebuild. Who really has blind loyalty anymore? Then again, certain fans will fault him for not having that blind loyalty.
2. Where does Brad Stevens rank among the best first-year coaches in the NBA this year?
Pina: If not for the wonderful job Jeff Hornacek is doing in Phoenix, Stevens would easily top this list. He’s either first or second.
Shagrin: Purely based on which teams are performing better than projected, Brad Stevens and Jeff Hornacek would be the best first-year coaches. But Stevens had a particularly hard job during the early season. He had to get his team to buy in when the roster is reportedly in flux and a prickly star point guard returning at some unknown point in the future. It’s nobody’s idea of a spring picnic.
Fischman: Stevens ranks near the top because of what he’s done without Rondo in what many expected to be a rebuilding season. The Celtics have more talent than many are letting on and the team has been extremely streaky, so I’m not completely letting the boy wonder off the hook, but he appears to have a promising future. Much respect to Phoenix’s Jeff Hornacek and Charlotte’s Steve Clifford, though.
3. The Celtics currently lead the Atlantic Division in a down-year for the East. Will they make the playoffs?
Pina: No. Players will be traded, and divisional and conference-wide competition will get healthy and better. I hope.
Shagrin: A tentative yes. Even if the Knicks and Nets turn their seasons around and slip their way into the postseason, the Celtics are already in playoff position and Rondo’s coming back. He may not be what he once was, but he’s not a ball stopper that will disrupt the present flow. His virtue is enabling others. But all of this is academic if Danny Ainge books a one way ticket to Tank Town.
Fischman: The Celtics will make the playoffs. There are a lot of subpar teams out East. In fact, many of those teams would prefer to be worse than they are (Hint: lottery juevos). Maybe even the Celtics’ front office secretly want them to lose. That said, barring any huge salary-dumping, lottery-minded trade, Beantown has enough talent to hover around .500 even without Rondo (i.e. other teams will be much better at tanking).