We posted Phil Jackson’s practice quotes from Wednesday afternoon earlier today, but here’s a look at the opponent’s perspective from Celtics head man Doc Rivers:
Q. Doc, can you go back two years ago to how these guys played Rajon, and compare it to how he would respond to the same situation now?
DOC RIVERS: You know, he’s going to have to respond to it because it’s going to be the same in a lot of ways. I just think Rondo is better equipped to handle it. Two years ago he was still trying to find his own way. As a player he probably wasn’t sure who he was going to be as a player yet, and I think now he has much better obviously. I don’t think he takes it personal anymore. I think he looks at as, it doesn’t matter who’s guarding me. At the end of the day I’ve got to run the team. And I think he does that now, and in the past I thought whenever teams did that, Orlando did it, and he felt like he had to prove to them that he could score, and he doesn’t do that anymore.
Q. (Off microphone.)
DOC RIVERS: He takes a shot when he has a shot, but he doesn’t turn it into a one on one warfare anymore; he just runs guards the team. We don’t care really who guards Rondo, we’re still going to run the same sets. I thought in the past it happened we got out of our offense because he was trying to prove to them you can’t get away with doing this. Now he couldn’t care less.
Q. Two years ago the teams hadn’t played in The Finals in 21 years and other players maybe didn’t know as much about the Lakers and Celtics rivalry. Some of the guys were barely born when they last played. Playing twice now in three years, how much more awareness is there of that rivalry?
DOC RIVERS: Well, I think all the players who participated obviously have that feeling. I think the guys on both teams who didn’t participate in 2008 probably have heard the talk and are probably more aware of it than the guys in 2008 were who hadn’t been a part of it. So I think in that way it definitely adds a lot to the pre series. But once the games start, then its own story will be written, and that’s what we have to focus on.
Q. Does Andrew Bynum’s injury situation come into account at all as you’re considering a game plan, considering rotations? Do you try to capitalize on that, or is it a complete non factor in what you would do anyway?
DOC RIVERS: Non factor for us; factor for them probably. We’re not going to worry about whether he’s healthy or not. Players tend to be healthy once The Finals start no matter what their injury status is, and you know that. We’re viewing him as 100 percent and a factor in the series.
Q. How different was Rajon two years ago compared to now? And also, how do you think he’s dealing with all this Sports Illustrated attention, “the best point guard in the league,” all the things that have been said and written?
DOC RIVERS: Well, you know, how he’s dealing with it is he’s still playing well. So in my opinion, he’s dealing with it pretty well. He has done a terrific job of running the team with all the glamour, and that tells me he’s handling it very well. He still understands for us to be effective that he has to run the team better, get everybody involved, let it come to him. As far as two years ago, he’s just more mature. He’s a better basketball player than he was two years ago. Our players trust him now. Two years ago he was on the bench in a lot of the big situations. The 24, whatever, the number comeback that we had against the Lakers, Rondo wasn’t on the floor the entire time. We took him out in the middle of the third and he never played against in that game. That would never happen now. So he’s just a better player. He makes us a better team than he did two years ago.
Q. What was it about him when the three guys got together that you and Danny (Ainge) didn’t push to go get a veteran guy as a point guard? You guys were confident?
DOC RIVERS: Well, we were out of money. (Laughter). So that’s probably the first thing.
The scond thing was that we just liked him. Two years ago there was a lot of talk that there was no way you were going to win it with Rondo and a young guy at point guard, and obviously that wasn’t the case. I think it was a great learning year for him going through that stretch. But the thing I love about Rondo is he didn’t relax at winning a title. He wanted to be a driving force on the team that won the title, as well. And so the credit all goes to him. He’s done the work. He spent the summer working with Mark Price, and he put in the hours himself because he wanted to prove that he could lead his team himself to a championship, and he’s doing that.
Q. I just wanted to follow up on what you were saying yesterday about Perkins and the way games are called. Given all of that, how likely do you think it is that he will get one more technical somewhere throughout the series and end up being suspended for a game?
DOC RIVERS: Well, you know, I think it’s very likely. You know, again, I don’t like why it’s likely, but you know, we are a physical team. That’s who we are. The Lakers are saying they’re going to be physical. So there’s going to be a double technical in this series, and if there’s a double technical in the series, there’s a very good chance it’ll be with Perk involved. That’s just the way it goes. And that hurts us. But we’re not going to change who we are, and we’re definitely not going to tell Perk to play any differently. He needs to walk away from everything. But even if he does, he may still be involved in a double tech. We’ll see. Hopefully it doesn’t come into play. It would be a shame if it did. Like I said yesterday, I don’t agree with the ruling. I said it before, he got into trouble so I’m not posturing. I said this right away, I just think the double technicals are a way for the officials to clean the game up, and it’s a good way for them to clean the game up, but it shouldn’t be counted. And then I think also the longer you go, you’re penalized more for being a good team because you’re still alive. So anyway, it is what it is. Our guys understand it. Perk understands it. But I want him to be Kendrick Perkins, and that’s the bottom line.
Q. Just to follow up on that, if you guys do miss him for a game, if he’s suspended, how valuable is he to your team?
DOC RIVERS: Well, it would mean a lot. Yeah, it would hurt us just like if Bynum didn’t play at all it would hurt them. But again, there’s nothing we can do about it. The number is where it’s at. Unless we have a Board of Governors meeting over the next two days and change the rule, then we just have to deal with it.
Q. How would you compare this season and this postseason to your 2008 postseason? And where do you see this team as being right now compared to that ’08 team?
DOC RIVERS: Well, I try not to compare the ’08 team and whatever team. I understand the question, so the team wise, I don’t know where we’re at as far as the two teams. I think in a lot of ways they’re the same team but completely different. I think our younger guys are better. Glen Davis is a much better player than he was two years ago. He had to platoon him, if you remember, with him and Leon Powe. Rondo we platooned with him at times. We went with Ray and Posey and Paul in one stretch at the guard spots. We don’t do that anymore. Perk is much better. We didn’t have Rasheed and Nate and a bunch of other guys, so we’re different. The journey was completely different. Obviously even though we had two seven game series in 2008, this was the tougher one. The first round was Dwyane Wade even though we won in five. And then the second round LeBron and the third round Dwight Howard. Forget the teams, that’s just the individuals you had to go through. And then when the put the teams with those two, the first and second best records in the league. This was a far tougher journey to get here. But we kind of expected that going into it.
Q. Two years ago in the series came back here for Game 3, there was talk of Paul Pierce struggling, there was talk he was weighted down by the whole coming home aspect of it and being the prince of Inglewood and all that. How do you think he’ll be dealing with that this time around? And have you had any discussions regarding that?
DOC RIVERS: The only input was take care of your tickets. Tickets can be a distraction. I think they were for him at times. You know, “no” is a positive word in the English language, and he should learn it in the next day or two. Other than that I think he’s better equipped. All the guys here are better equipped now.
Q. Could you see it two years ago?
DOC RIVERS: I couldn’t, honestly. I knew it was a strain, but I didn’t know if it affected his game or not. But it definitely off the court he was on the phone, and you just saw he was way too busy.
Q. If Perk gets into foul trouble or if there was a suspension, is Rasheed healthy enough to play major minutes?
DOC RIVERS: Well, I don’t know the answer to that. We’re prepared if it happens. You know, obviously the longer the series goes on, the more healthier Rasheed will get. You could make that case. Or you could go the other way. But I don’t know the answer yet, so we’ll find that out.