The dust has cleared. The Doc Rivers era is over in Boston. Here’s everything you need to know about the affairs of the Celtics-Rivers marriage in three statements which may (or may not) be mutually exclusive:
1. With the star system that permeates the league, the NBA has roughly five teams that can realistically win a championship in any given year.
2. Glenn “Doc” Rivers is one of the best coaches in the NBA. He is paid accordingly and is owed $21 million over the next three seasons.
3. As currently constituted, the Celtics are not one of the aforementioned five best teams in the running for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Here are three implications from the three previous pillars we’ve assigned to the Celtics-Rivers divorce:
1. All told, the Clippers have a roster that, with the right coach, could win a championship.
2. In my time covering the Celtics beat, Doc Rivers was a swell dude and pleasure to talk to. The media adores him. He’s been classified as a player’s coach, and that statement goes beyond him being extroverted and a people person. Rivers literally has the mindset of a player (more on this later).
3. In the here and now, the end game of paying Rivers to coach a team with a potential upside of 50 wins and an early playoff exit doesn’t behoove the Celtics or Rivers. Nor is it pragmatic.
Now, the devil’s advocate would like a word, or at least his own three statements for you, the reader, to pontificate:
1. Coaches can hurt or help a cause, but ultimately the NBA is a player’s league. Case in point, before The New Big Three era, Rivers went 102-144 in his first three seasons coaching the Celtics.
2. The idea of “Ubuntu” – a philosophy Rivers impressed upon the 2007-08 championship team that preaches community, with its mantra of “I am because we are,” over anything else – is as real as the “Patriot Way” or Manti Teo’s “girlfriend.” Ray Allen figured that out a year before everyone else.
3. Finally, mercenaries can be nice guys, too.
OK. That was a little harsh. Let’s meet in the middle:
1. Rivers is a recruiter and mastermind, but knows that his influence only goes as far as the players compromising his roster, and at this stage of the game, Chris Paul/Blake Griffin are more appealing than an aging Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett playing alongside a rehabilitated Rajon Rondo.
2. Doc’s level of commitment to the Celtics appeared strong when he signed his extension in 2011. Actions, however, speak louder than words, and with rebuilding on the horizon, Rivers jettisoned quicker than a 21-year-old college kid the morning after a one night stand. He’s still a swell guy, of course; but he’s also savvy, and has the mindset of a player in the contemporary sense – mixing and matching assets to create a super team. He’s no better than LeBron James, but it should be noted LeBron James just won back-to-back championships. Not a bad model to follow.
3. He’ll be remembered fondly, but long-term Doc could have been recognized as a fixture in Boston sports history. He’s already won a championship and it’s been long understood that the team was in need of a complete overhaul – meaning there is little pressure to put together winning seasons. Instead, he went championship chasing. Gusty call, I guess. All that aside, it feels dirty to say, but in the end, Doc was good for Boston; Boston was good for Doc. Despite how he went about manufacturing his exit, sometimes, that’s enough.
Follow Ryan Hadfield on Twitter @Hadfield__