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Sports

November 14, 2006

Struggling Rivers can't do it on his own

BOSTON - Magic forward Grant Hill couldn't help but laugh softly at the question.



"Ultimately," a reporter asked, "does personnel determine a coach's performance?"



"I think it does," he said before grinning and launching into a medicine ball exercise to warm up his left ankle.



Hill played for Doc Rivers - albeit sparingly due to injuries - in Orlando from 2000-03. He's a fan of the recently embattled Celtics coach, but he's also a realist. Hill knows Rivers can only do so much to help the Boston players, who average 23 years apiece. Five of them, including summer acquisition Sebastian Telfair, never played college ball.



"I don't know what's going on up here," the 11-year veteran said last night before the Magic defeated the Celtics 92-89, "but I know he's one of the better coaches I've ever played for.



"I think he definitely has what it takes. Unfortunately, he's off to a slow start."



Hill doesn't have to remind a wary fan base, which has been treated to seven games worth of sluggish basketball. When Rivers was announced over the loudspeaker last night, the announced crowd of 14,379 emitted a smattering of boos.




"Being 1-6 is no fun," the coach said after last night's loss. "But I think (the players) are going to get it. They're close."



Rivers has been here before. He was fired in 2003 after his Orlando club began the season 1-10. People forget that the axing came after he led the Magic to three straight playoff appearances. And that was mainly without the oft-injured Hill. "I played maybe 40 games in those years," he said.



Those teams did have Tracy McGrady, who as Rick Pitino might say, isn't walking through the Garden door any time soon.



"He does have passion, he cares," Hill said of Rivers. "He's a great motivator. I think that players enjoy playing for him."



That might be true. But can they win for him?



"I don't know, I don't know the personnel," said Magic forward Bo Outlaw, who also played for Rivers in Orlando.



It always comes back to the personnel, doesn't it? Other than the consistent play of star guard Paul Pierce (26.3 points, 1.7 rebounds per game heading into last night), the young bunch occasionally shows flashes of what general manager Danny Ainge hoped it was capable of.



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