EDITOR'S NOTE: Eagle-Tribune columnist Bill Burt and Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers recently had a 30-minute discussion about the state of the Celtics.
Q: So how are your days different now that your season is over?
DOC: "Well, I'm playing golf about four days a week. That's a good thing. I enjoy that. It's also nice to be with the family a lot (at their Orlando, Fla., home). Every time I go to the office I bring out a pad of paper and I put down names and write about how we can get better. ... We have to improve our team if are going to win."
Q: So what are you writing down on that pad?
DOC: "For one, we have to take better care of the basketball. If you looked at our numbers we were third or fourth in the league in field goal percentage (actually second at 48.6 percent) yet we were 28th in turnovers. Two, our transition defense has to get better. Off the edge, in transition, we gave away too many easy baskets. Three, our bench has to get better as a group, positions we have to improve. We need a backup big (man). We need a backup for Paul Pierce. And we need a backup for Rajon Rondo."
Q: The one thing the Celtics hit on last year was bench guys you brought in, including James Posey, P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell. Is it safe to assume that the Celtics have to do a better job at filling those roles in 2009-10?
DOC: "Absolutely. We have to hit on backup positions. That's the key to our season, the subtle moves we make. One mistake we made was our locker room and our bench got too young too quickly. I think it made Rondo and Perkins younger. When guys had questions in the locker room, you had Sam, P.J. and Posey, plus the Big Three.
"It's more difficult when nobody is there in the second group. And when Kevin (Garnett) went down it really came down to the Big Two and now those are the two old guys, minus Scal (Brian Scalabrine). That's way too young."
Q: With the injuries you had, particularly with Kevin Garnett and Leon Powe, is it safe to say that losing James Posey to free agency hurt?
DOC: "That's fair to say, especially in the Orlando series. Orlando plays small with Rashard Lewis at (power forward). Last year we had Posey. But that's no excuse. We knew that when we entered the season. But I think the injuries hurt us more than anything."
Q: Are you proud of the season you had despite the key injury to Kevin Garnett or are you frustrated that it could be the Celtics in the finals?
DOC: "I was saying before our series with Orlando. They are a great team. They are as deep as any team in the league. We had three All-Stars. But they had four with Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson, who was hurt. There isn't another team in the league with four All-Stars. I would like to have played with a healthy Kevin Garnett and a healthy Leon Powe. I would have liked our chances. As for pride or frustration? I don't know. Maybe both."
Q: What was most frustrating about the loss to Orlando?
DOC: "Game 6 was the game we gave away. We had it won. Game 7 Orlando simply played better. You could argue they were the better team and let it go pretty easy. But it was frustrating at the time."
Q: You mention three All-Stars, but wouldn't you consider your point guard Rajon Rondo a fourth All-Star?
DOC: "Rondo still has a lot of growth ahead of him. As great as his numbers were, as great as he played at times, guys still fell off him to double team. Guys don't fall off an All-Star to help with someone else. He has to make them pay for that by hitting his shot. Rondo has a chance to be a great player.
"But you have to do it every day in the playoffs. The first five games of the Chicago series Rondo played at an All-Star level. But the rest of the playoffs you could make the case that he really struggled. He had good rebounding numbers. He also had some good assist numbers at times. But at the point guard level you have to be able to score and get your assists. When teams play the Boston Celtics the one guy they are going to help off of is Rondo."
Q: Does Rondo understand that?
DOC: "Yeah, I think he does. Rondo has a healthy ego. But he understands he has to get better on the scoring end. He has to hit the open shot. But knowing him and how competitive he is, and how tough he is, he will work on that this summer."
Q: What about the progress made by Glen "Big Baby" Davis?
DOC: "Sure, we were happy with his progress. We needed him to work on his jump shot and he was phenomenal in the offseason. But he has to be a better defensive player. He has to get in better shape to move his feet more. He has to be a better rebounder. Baby had games with one or two rebounds. That's not enough. He's also an inconsistent finisher.
"A lot of that has to do with his size. We want him to finish at the basket. He has a tendency of wanting to draw fouls. As good as he was, he took a step back defensively and rebounding. We talked about it. I think Baby fell in love with his offense, which helped us. But I think it comes down to conditioning. That's something he has to do next year. He'll be in better shape next year."
Q: Big Baby is a free agent. Will you re-sign him?
DOC: "He has to do his business, and see what's out there, but hopefully we'll sign him. I think we have a great shot at signing him. He fits in well with our team. I know he loves being here. He's just a young guy who needs to mature. We want him back."
Q: There was talk that Kevin Garnett might have returned to the lineup if the Celtics beat Orlando. Is that true?
DOC: "I said it before and I'll say it again. I don't think there was any chance. He didn't do surgery, so there was always hope. But I moved on. I know Kevin wanted to play and he did everything in his power to return. But I saw him walk. I saw his gait. He wasn't playing. I knew that."
Q: You were asked about having Kevin on the bench and you got a little testy. Why?
DOC: "The reason I said that he wasn't coming back (early in the Chicago series) was because I wanted our players to move on. That became a distraction in the Chicago series and I wanted to end it. Kevin was funny. He was on the bench and we were struggling for one stretch and he thought it was him. I told him, 'It's nothing to do with you. It's our defense.' I love having him on the bench. I love all our players on the bench."
Q: What did the Celtics miss most not having Garnett?
DOC: "You can yell all you want on the bench, but it's not the same. We missed his leadership. We also weren't the same team on defense. Our defense gave up 102 points a game in the playoffs. Last year we gave up 88 points a game. That's a 14-point difference."
Q: What did you think of Ray Allen in the playoffs?
DOC: "It's unfortunate for Ray, not having Kevin. When Ray comes off pin downs with Kevin, nobody is helping. But with Baby, Perk and Scal it was different. What also hurt was Rondo's guy, on every pass, ran to Ray. Think about it, Ray had Rondo's guy running at him. He had Perk's guy running at him. They didn't fear those guys on the offensive end. If you look at a lot of Baby's shots, it was his guy going to Ray. Clearly, not having Kevin, affected Ray the most."
Q: A lot of people brought up the loss of Garnett, but you often corrected the questioner by bringing up the loss of Powe, too. Why?
DOC: "Leon was our low post scorer. Paul was an easy guy to trap. We became an in-out team to an out team. A lot of our points in the paint came off drives rather than feeding the post. Look at Orlando. They are a pick-and-roll team and an in-and-out team. After a timeout is called you know Orlando is going to go down low and then back out. Leon would have allowed us to do that a lot more.
"Leon also would have been a big help on defense because he would have been able to cover Rashard Lewis. He has quick feet. It also would have been tough for Rashard to guard Leon. That was a big loss for us. I don't think people understood how much it would have helped. It would have helped Baby, too. I think that dynamic would have pushed both of them."
Q: You often talk about basketball not being No. 1 in your life. Did Danny Ainge's heart attack affect you?
DOC: "That scared the hell out of me. Danny is still so young and so healthy. I'm about the same age. No doubt about it that it makes you rethink everything. I love coaching. I will coach forever. But I will take time off, but it won't be because of coaching. It will be because of my family. My family needs me more. I have no problem saying that. Every summer I evaluate that. I have a young family. You don't get that time back."
Q: Does that mean you could take a coaching hiatus soon?
DOC: "I don't know how to answer that right now. I will evaluate it every year. I do know that coaching the Celtics is the best job in sports. It's a great team in a city which loves the game and the team that I coach. This is a great franchise. I love working for Danny. He's not only a great judge of talent, but he's a great person. Even when I walk around Orlando I see people walking around in Celtics shirts and hats. You can't get many franchises like that; maybe the Yankees, Red Sox and Cowboys. I love it ... The only thing I would trade it for is my family."
Q: There was a time not long ago that a lot of African Americans looked down on Boston and the Celtics. Has that changed?
DOC: "Danny and I had long conversations about that topic. We said we were going to change that and make this a place that players and people wanted to come to. I do have a sense of pride that race isn't a factor. Players want to come here to play because the Celtics do it right. And the fans have been there, no matter their race, and I love seeing that."
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