Weekly Countdown: Futures hang in the air after Lakers' title win
Will they reconvene this time next year? That's unlikely, and here's why.
As for Rivers, he has been very much aware that these could be his final days with this Celtics team. I'm not saying he has made that decision -- I don't think he knows for certain whether he is coming back for the final year of his contract -- but he has been preparing himself for that possibility.
Last Saturday, on the eve of Game 5, Rivers invited me to his office at the TD Garden in Boston for lunch following the Celtics' practice. For a story in this week's
At the end of our talk, I mentioned that Ainge has been saying publicly and privately that he believes Rivers will return. "It's funny, when we went to Orlando," Rivers said of the Eastern Conference finals last month, "I set up golf for him. And everybody I know, all my buddies, they said Danny went to each guy individually at different times and they were all talking about it. But I'm not leaning either way. I don't think you can think about that and coach at the same time."
I don't think Rivers focuses on the decision, but in the back of his mind he has to be wondering if this is goodbye. After living away from home for six years to coach Boston, he could spend next season at home in Orlando watching his sons
He insisted that winning or losing the championship would have no impact on his future decision. "My issues will be the family. And my other issue will be this family," said Rivers, pointing toward the locker room down the hall. "Because I have got a tremendous family here. I've got players who are amazingly loyal to me, and I'm loyal to them.
"And then, listen, every working relationship in the world would love to have the kind of relationship that Danny and I have. We can argue about stuff, we can disagree. We agree on most things anyway. But when we don't, we go to dinner right after. There are no grudges. We're open. If I feel like I have a beef about anything, I don't have to whisper -- there's no whispering about anything in this office. It's just like, 'That's bull!' You call it, and you argue about it and it's great. I know you can't get that everywhere."
You may never have so strong a relationship with a GM again, I said.
"No," Rivers said. "San Antonio has it with
You would have a hard time telling
"That's very difficult for me," Rivers said, pursing his lips and stiffening in his chair. He was trying hard to not cry. "Because Kevin is ... he's the best. So ... that's very true."
You get choked up just thinking about saying goodbye to him, I said.
"I do, whenever ..." Whenever he thinks about leaving? He left that part unfinished. "He's the best."
You're referring to Garnett's dedication to the team? "Yes," Rivers said, "and it's pure. He is purely about winning. I've never seen anything like that. And sometimes he doesn't play well, sometimes he doesn't handle things well, whatever. But his heart."
And then Rivers changed the subject by pointing to the U.S.-England World Cup match that was playing on his office TV.
After the Game 7 loss, Rivers became choked up again during his press conference. Has he made a final decision? I don't think so. But he does find himself taking account of his relationships with Ainge and his players while wondering if this may be the end.
If Rivers leaves, I'm going to stick with my original
The issues of Jackson's salary and potential wage decrease are going to sort themselves out. One reason former assistant
Jackson took enormous pride in bringing out the best in
Fisher, 35, is a free agent who must be brought back. The Lakers would not have won this series if not for his fourth-quarter push to win Game 3 at Boston and his enormous three-pointer that tied Game 7 midway through the fourth quarter and liberated his teammates to finally push ahead -- everything became suddenly easier for the Lakers after Fisher made that shot. They cannot replace the calming influence created by Fisher's big plays, as well as his counsel among teammates in the locker room. He knows what to say and how to say it.
The bigger issue is how Lakers GM
Does that mean replacing free agent
Could another potential Laker be Celtics free-agent guard
Allen is a free agent who will be 35 next season. During this regular season, he was by far the most reliable star among Boston's Big Three, and Rivers has been pushing publicly for the Celtics to re-sign him. But what if Rivers doesn't return?
If the Knicks fail to sign two elite stars with their cap space this summer, they could fill in by recruiting Allen to a short-term deal that would enable them to open up cap space again in 2011 or '12. The Celtics will have a hard time replacing Allen's production and explosive potential from the three-point line. But they also have to decide when they're going to begin turning over the roster to build a younger team around the 24-year-old Rondo. They approach next week's draft with as many six players under contract -- Pierce (who can opt out), Garnett, Rondo,
Fans may be surprised to hear that Wallace had a good relationship with Rivers. This is because Wallace wants to be a coach someday -- apparently sooner than later. He has told Rivers that he plans to ask for the playbooks of Rivers and
"He said, 'I don't want to deal with these [NBA] guys,' " Rivers recalled. "Then I jokingly said, 'You mean you don't want to deal with you!' "
Rivers held individual 20-minute meetings with each player in February, which is something he does at least twice during each season. He began the meeting with Wallace by asking if he viewed himself as a good shooter. Wallace answered yes.
Rivers nodded and asked, "If you were a coach, would you let a player shoot threes if he was only making 20 percent of them?" Because, at that time, Wallace was converting at that lowly rate.
"And he started laughing because he knew I had him," Rivers said. "And he said, 'Well, if I thought the guy could really shoot and was just missing shots, then I'd say, Yeah, he can shoot them.'
"Then I said: 'What if the guy never practiced his shooting?' He said, 'I would say if he didn't practice his shooting and he was shooting 20 percent, then he shouldn't be shooting.' So it was easy, I didn't have to say anything more. That's where I give him credit, because from that point on he put the time in. Before and after practice he was shooting."
The story of Wallace's postseason rejuvenation has everything to do with hard work: Through 23 playoff games, he had made 19 threes at 34.5 percent, an increase from his 28.3 percent in the regular season. But the reason Wallace cramped up in Game 7 was because he didn't maintain himself in excellent condition during the season.
I look forward to seeing how coach Wallace deals with high school players who mouth off at the referees. That will be interesting.
I think it helps their chances with him, Larry. I can't see how James would have had any interest in playing for a college coach with no NBA experience. I don't know anyone in the NBA who understood the Cavaliers' logic for offering the job to Izzo; if they were unhappy with
If it's true that James was OK with the hiring of Izzo, then I view that as a very bad sign for the Cavs. It tells me James didn't care who they hired to coach because he didn't plan to play for him. I just cannot imagine an NBA star who skipped college being convinced a college coach who has never had anything to do with the NBA could lead him to a championship. James isn't going to want to listen to directions from a coach who knows less about the NBA than James himself.
I don't see Izzo's rejection affecting James' decision. Let's give the Cavs some credit for being smart. They came close to botching it this time because owner
If James returns then they'll have little problem hiring an excellent coach, that's for sure.
If they offer him a max contract for six years, then he'll stay. Anything less and he may leave. Money should dwarf the other issues. Miami, Chicago and New York would be among the usual suspects recruiting him.
I tend to agree with your second question, Sam. You're right, Robert Horry should not be up there among the greatest ever. But when it comes to separating the players at the top of the list, their ability to make the biggest difference and complete the ultimate championship goal has to be an enormous tiebreaker. The players themselves view it that way.
They need discipline and accountability, and he'll provide that. Johnson has to live with claims that he suffered a meltdown during his Mavericks' 2006 Finals loss to the Heat, but let's be realistic: The Nets are years away from reaching the Finals, and in the meantime, he will create important standards that will help develop his young team. If he ever should return to championship contention, who's to say he won't learn from his experience and be prepared to create a different ending next time?
The Lakers' assistant is (or should be) a leading candidate to become a head coach in the near future. But he isn't necessarily going to take the first job that comes along.
"I don't have an ego and have to feel like I'm the head honcho. I'm in a great situation. We're so visible, we're on national television all the time. I'm coaching one of the best players, arguably, ever to play the game, and I'm with one of the best coaches to ever coach the game, and so I just take that and when the time comes, whatever happens is going to happen.
"You don't need that headache [of coaching a bad franchise]. I played 14 years in the NBA and one year overseas, and I'm not in a money crunch and have to have it where I've got to coach and have a money increase. And so I can afford to do what I'm doing. I'm comfortable, my family is comfortable where we are, I can do it for the love of it and the enjoyment of it and not feel like I have to be pressured to try to elevate myself at this point."
For years I've heard American fans complain about international soccer players who fake injuries in order to compel the referee to award a yellow or red card to the opponent. The player will be carried by stretcher to the sideline, then hop up a minute or two later and soon be sprinting up and down the pitch as if nothing ever happened. Because nothing did happen.
The NBA has created the same dynamic around flagrant fouls. The acting is only going to grow worse.