Doc Rivers has always been a master motivator for his teams. Going from the 2000 scrappy Magic squad to the 2008 championship with the Celtics. Rivers has always been able to get the most out of his players and has become one of the most respected coaches in the league.
Rivers certainly faced a lot of pressure to deliver championships once the Celtics stuck with him after acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Along with Paul Pierce they were supposed to be the Big Three. They were supposed to be the trio leading the NBA for the next decade before age slowly took them over.
The one problem is that age came a little quicker.
In the five-year experiment two things happened. First: the Celtics got their championship, but have had only one other Finals appearance and just two other Eastern Conference Finals appearances. Second: the future came early and began to take over. That future was Rajon Rondo. Garnett and Pierce wanted him to take over the team, especially early on in his career, recognizing they needed a point guard of his caliber to manage the ball for them.
The problem for Ray Allen might have been much more deep seated. A jealousy, perhaps, of time gone by and the randomness of injuries zapping his playing ability.
Like Garnett did in 2008, Rivers put his trust in Rajon Rondo and told him to take the ball and run the team. For whatever reason, Allen and Rondo clashed and Allen could no longer deal with Rondo. So Allen left for Miami, upsetting numerous Boston fans. Reportedly the main reason for Allen's desire to leave Boston was Rondo.
Doc Rivers said not so fast. The blame should be on him for the breakup of the Celtics' once celebrated Big Three, as he told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
People can use all the Rondo stuff – and it was there, no doubt about that – but it was me more than Rondo," said Rivers, who is working as an NBC analyst during the Olympics. "I'm the guy who gave Rondo the ball. I'm the guy who decided that Rondo needed to be more of the leader of the team. That doesn't mean guys liked that – and Ray did not love that – because Rondo now had the ball all the time.
"Think about everything [Allen] said when he left, 'I want to be more of a part of the offense.' Everything was back at Rondo. And I look at that, and say, 'That's not Rondo's fault.' That's what I wanted Rondo to do, and that's what Rondo should've done. Because that's Rondo's ability. He's the best passer in the league. He has the best feel in the league. He's not a great shooter, so he needs the ball in his hands to be effective. And that bothered Ray.
"And not starting [games] bothered Ray. I did examine it, and the conclusion I came back to was this: By doing the right things, we may have lost Ray. If I hadn't done that, I would've been a hypocrite. In the opening speech I make every year, I tell the team: 'Every decision I make is going to be what's good for the team, and it may not be what's good for the individual.'"
Rivers ultimately made that decision to start Avery Bradley instead of Ray Allen. It was the one that he felt was the best for his team. After all, the Celtics were 20-8 with Bradley as the starter (with or without Allen, I guess). Allen was not happy apparently that his clout as a veteran did not get him back into the startling lineup once he was back from his injury during the Playoffs.
There were a lot of things bugging Allen beforehand too, according to John Karalis of Reds Army. John writes that Allen was bothered that he was the only one of the "Big Three" mentioned in trade talks and he could see his value decreasing more and more. He was already pushed out of the starting lineup. And having disagreements with the point guard and the future of the team is not a good way to start either.
Rivers ultimately made the decision to feature Rondo more and drive a wedge into the team's relationship with Allen. And so the two sides separated, as often does in these situations.
Boston will move on. Ray Allen will move on. And they will meet again as opponents at some point int he Playoffs.
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