Posted on: May 10, 2011 7:06 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2011 8:04 pm
MIAMI – In the opening minutes of overtime, in a game the Celtics had to have, Doc Rivers faced a decision he never imagined he’d have to confront.
Badly in need of a basket and unable to afford another turnover from the Heat’s relentless trapping of Rajon Rondo, Rivers had to sit his courageous point guard in the hopes that a healthier Delonte West would handle the ball better and Jeff Green would provide better floor-spacing in the most important minutes of the season.
This was barely a minute-and-a-half into overtime of Game 4 against Miami on Monday night, and it was a problem for which there was no good answer. Take Rondo out? With the inspiration he’d provided and desperation he’d infused into the Celtics after returning from what should’ve been a season-ending dislocated elbow in Game 3? Put the heart and soul of the Celtics on the bench?
“I don’t know what the right call was,” Rivers candidly admitted after the 98-90 overtime loss to Miami, which put the Celtics in a 3-1 hole in the best-of-7 series.
With the Celtics facing elimination Wednesday night in Miami, this was not the last difficult decision Rivers will have to make. However and whenever this series ends, Rivers’ next dilemma will be personal and will affect just what happens to the Big Three era Celtics from here.
Five players remain from the Celtics’ 2008 championship. Rondo’s emergence as one of the top point guards in the league and also a leader with incalculable toughness has since transformed the Big Three into the Big Four. But you can’t mention Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen without mentioning the coach who held them all together.
Rivers has stated that he soon plans to take a sabbatical from coaching to watch his son, Austin, play college ball at Duke. It is a father’s dream, to have the freedom and security to enjoy his children’s accomplishments – especially when those accomplishments intersect on the basketball court.
Rivers hasn’t officially proclaimed his intentions, not wanting to become a distraction for a team that he believed had one more championship run in it. Also, Rivers is a basketball coach, not a basketball spectator. It is a hard game to walk away from if it is ingrained in you as it is in Rivers.
But the reality is that the Celtics’ core isn’t getting any younger, and Rivers’ son figures to play one season at Duke before following in his father’s footsteps to the NBA. It’s a now-or-never moment for Rivers, who is needed away from the court in the same way he was needed in Boston to coax enough sacrifice out of his trio of stars to hang a 17th championship banner from the rafters at the new Garden. If Rivers’ legacy as Celtics coach is two Finals appearances and a championship, he can walk away with his head held high.
Pierce has three years left on his contract, while Garnett and Allen have one each. Rivers and the members of his coaching staff are up after this season, and with at least a truncated lockout looming, there could be no basketball work to do until September or so. If you’re Rivers, how do you view the impending labor crisis as it relates to you? Do you chalk up the potentially shortened season to your sabbatical, and get the best of both worlds – some games with your son and one more chance with the Celtics? Or do you walk away and not look back?
Whatever he decides, Rivers must now prepare for more than the diabolical talents of Heat stars Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, who would like nothing better than to slam the window shut on the Celtics’ run of success. He must prepare for some serious soul searching, and for the accompanying speculation that goes with any accomplished coach who steps down with work still to be done.
The Lakers’ Phil Jackson hasn’t even gotten to Montana yet and already the rumor mill has him coaching the Knicks after next season. The hype machine will churn even more vigorously for Rivers, who will be able to name his team and price whenever he decides to come back.
His history with the Knicks makes him a logical fit in New York if Mike D’Antoni doesn’t last beyond next season. His championship pedigree and ability to manage stars and their egos makes him one of the few men breathing who are up to the task of coaching the Lakers. One high-level coaching source told me recently that the most fitting place for Rivers is Orlando, where he lives. In addition to sons Austin and Jeremiah, who played at Georgetown before transferring to Indiana, Rivers has a daughter, Callie, who played volleyball at the University of Florida.
There are plenty of decisions to be made, not the least of which have to do with trying to keep this season alive for the Celtics Wednesday night in an elimination game on the road. But the bigger dilemma is looming on the horizon for Rivers, and it might just have everything to do with whether the Celtics as we know them are finished.
Posted on: January 25, 2010 5:47 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2010 9:40 pm
Javaris Crittenton’s guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful possession of a firearm Monday cleared one of the final hurdles before the David Stern Department of Justice can render its decision.
That is expected to happen, sources said, once investigators and lawyers from the NBA security department speak with Crittenton – that is, if they haven’t already.
The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement requires players facing discipline to cooperate with league investigators once they are out of legal jeopardy. Crittenton’s plea and sentence of one year probation and a $1,000 fine (plus $250 in court costs) cleared the way for him to share his version of the facts with the league.
The proffer of facts presented Monday by prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia revealed that there was “no evidence” Crittenton’s firearm – a 9mm semi-automatic Taurus – was loaded when he pulled it out of his backpack during a dispute with Arenas in the Verizon Center locker room on Dec. 21. Prosecutors also stated: “There also is no evidence that Crittenton ever chambered a round, pulled back the hammer, raised or pointed the firearm, or otherwise brandished the firearm in a threatening manner at any time during this incident.”
The government’s version of events supported earlier statements by Crittenton’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, who had said that his client did not brandish a gun during the argument with Arenas. But does that mean Crittenton – or Arenas, for that matter – will be viewed more favorably by Stern? Most likely not, and here’s why:
The closest precedents for this case are Stephen Jackson’s seven-game suspension for firing a gun into the air outside an Indianapolis strip club in 2006, and two gun-related suspensions assessed to Sebastian Telfair. In 2005, Telfair was suspended two games when a gun was found in his luggage on a team flight, and in 2008 he was suspended three games after getting pulled over with a loaded gun in his car. With the public calling for – and the players association bracing for – a lengthy suspension for Arenas of between 25 games and the rest of the season, how can Stern go there when at least some of the facts acknowledged by prosecutors suggest a tone more consistent with a practical joke than a gun battle? How could Arenas’ suspension stretch many times longer than those given to Jackson and Telfair?
Here’s how: First of all, witnesses who were in the locker room at the time of the incident gave conflicting accounts to the authorities as to whether Crittenton’s gun was loaded. You and I would do the same. How would you know? One source told CBSSports.com that the players present – Randy Foye, Mike Miller, and DeShawn Stevenson – ran out of the locker room when the guns came out. As you might imagine, nobody in his right mind is going to stick around to find out if the guns are loaded. Even under some aspects of the D.C. criminal code, brandishing an unloaded gun carries the same penalty as brandishing a loaded one because potential victims have no way of telling the difference.
Also, Arenas and Crittenton crossed a precedent-setting line that neither Jackson nor Telfair crossed: They brought the guns onto NBA property – i.e., the locker room – and worse than that, they took them out. This, along with Arenas’ decision to mock the seriousness of gun play with his fake-guns display in a pre-game huddle on Jan. 5, set him up for a lengthy ban by Stern. The only factor in Arenas’ favor, in my opinion, is the suspension that is pending for the Cavaliers’ Delonte West, who was pulled over in Maryland last year carrying a loaded arsenal. If Arenas gets 50 games, what does West get? A hundred?
Aside from NBA investigators interviewing Crittenton, one other issue will have to be resolved before this is over. Under the CBA, players who have committed on-court transgressions are eligible to appeal suspensions of longer than 12 games to a grievance arbitrator. In all other cases, Stern is the arbitrator – and you can imagine the success rate of those appeals. After the Palace brawl in 2004, the definition of “on-court” was expanded to include areas like arena hallways (known as vomitories) and the locker room. But a distinction was made to specify violations committed “at, during, or in connection with” an NBA game. Since the Arenas-Crittenton incident occurred on a practice day, it is likely that an arbitrator will have to rule on whether he can hear the appeal before actually ruling on it.
Either way, all signs point to a whopping punishment coming from the commissioner’s office. All things considered, I would recommend that Mr. Arenas and Mr. Crittenton get hobbies.
Posted on: January 1, 2010 1:11 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2010 11:13 pm
Posted on: September 30, 2009 2:07 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Jameer Nelson played three years at St. Joseph's with Delonte West, toiling endlessly in practice and forming a strong bond, not to mention a prolific backcourt. Never once did he know or suspect that West was dealing with mood disorders or depression.
"People don’t look at us as having problems because we are professional athletes," Nelson said Wednesday after practicing with the Orlando Magic. "They look at us as the guys that go out there on the basketball court. We have outside life as well, and things can go on in your life that would trigger you to act a certain way. We’re human just like anybody else."
Nelson said he spoke on the phone with West several times during the summer, and nothing seemed wrong.
"He seemed well," Nelson said. "But you can never tell over the phone how somebody is doing."
Now, as West has spiraled into his second day of unexcused exile from the Cleveland Cavaliers' training camp, Nelson's calls have gone unanswered.
"I know he’s going through a lot," Nelson said. "It’s tough on a young man to go through. We all go through things and we handle things differently. I just hope that he gets through it."
Few NBA players can appreciate the depths of West's despair the way Nelson can. Not only are they friends and former teammates, but Nelson also has endured more than his share of hardship. Only weeks before the start of the 2007-08 season, Nelson's father, Floyd, died accidentally while working as a welder for a tugboat company on the Delaware River. He was 57. Nelson suffered through his pain and grief while trying to do his job as a professional basketball player. And so he wants to be there for West, when his former teammate is ready.
"He's in my prayers," Nelson said. "I know this about Delonte: He’s a strong person and he's a great person. I don’t want anybody to think because of what’s going on and what happened to him that he’s a bad person. He’s a great person, and people need to understand that."