Doc Rivers On Rajon Rondo: “I believe he’ll be a Celtic for life whether he gets this deal done by October 31st or not.”

October 30, 2009 – 5:00 am by Michael Bean

The Boston Celtics are off to a nice start. After defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in a marquee matchup on opening night, Boston throttled the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night to improve to 2-0. The big addition in the offseason was veteran Rasheed Wallace. Thought to be a risky addition chemistry wise in certain situations, ‘Sheed is generally regarded as a great fit in Beantown, where there’s a strong veteran contingent and a high premium placed on defense. The other prominent stories surrounding the Celtics at the start of the year are the contract negotiations between star point guard Rajon Rondo and the club, and the loss of Glen Big Baby Davis for up to two months with a hand injury sustained during a night of shenanigans out on the town.  

Head coach Doc Rivers joined WEEI in Bostonto talk about the impressive start to the season, whether a victory over the Cavs on opening night was a statement game, how he doesn’t believe Shaq will get in the way of LeBron, and why he thinks Rajon Rondo will be a Celtic for life.

On if the opening night win over Cleveland – who surely will be in the hunt in the East – was a statement game:

“I don’t know if it can be a statement game. I don’t think it’s a statement game to the Cavs, for sure. But I think for us, it helps us. Because we’ve had problems winning in that building, and now you have that monkey off your back, so when you go in there, at least that won’t be in the conversation anymore.”

On if last night’s blowout win over Charlotte was ‘useful’:

“It’s always useful this early in the season. We have a lot of things to work on. They didn’t play well, Charlotte, especially in the first half. It’s funny, I thought defensively we were really good, obviously, you look at the numbers all game. But in the first half, I thought we played terrific defense and our offense didn’t match at all. And then in the second half we continued to play terrific defense and then our offense matched. And that’s what stretched the score. I think it was only 10 points at halftime. It was one of those games. Film-wise, it will be a good film session for us when we watch it tomorrow.”

On if he’s comfortable with his comments being broadcast to everyone before the opener that Boston was going to win the championship this year:

“Well, I’m not comfortable with a camera in the locker room, I can tell you that. … It’s not like it’s a secret that that’s our goal. So, that part of it is not a big deal to me. But with this group, I think it’s fairly important every day to keep them on the thought of a theme. That’s a championship thought. We do that every year. The first game, we state the goal, and then we tell them, “Now, from this point on, that goal is a lost memory. It’s the process to reach the goal from this point on.” And that’s mostly what I was talking about. I didn’t know that was even shown until yesterday after the game someone asked me about it, and I was like “Wow, that’s the first that I’ve heard about it.”

On if he thinks this year’s bench is better than years past:

“Well, it’s very similar to two years ago. It’s absolutely better than last year’s bench. I thought last year our bench was very young. This year’s bench has veterans. And again, they’re multidimensional, so you can put them in different spots. Very similar to two years ago when we had Posey playing the 2, 3 and the 4 spots, P.J. Brown playing the 4 and the 5 spots, Sam Cassell playing the 1 and the 2 spots. So, it’s similar to that team.

On if he thinks the latest incident involving Big Baby Davis will be a wakeup call for him:

“I don’t know. Obviously, you hope so. Like I said last night, at this point with Baby, you’re over the disappointment. The way I look at things is, you do things and it happens and you have to mature. You preach it over and over again, and sometimes these things do help and sometimes they don’t. We’ve seen it happen before, and then someone repeat it. But having said that, he’s still part of your family. Like I told our players, “You can’t forget that.” And I told them, “As a father, your kids make mistakes. You’re angry at them at times. You have to punish them, you have to discipline them, you have to do whatever you have to do. Having said that, they’re still part of your family and you have to keep teaching them.” And that’s what Big Baby is. That’s the moment he is with our team right now. And that’s what you have to do. So, yeah, I hope it helps. It’s not the event that you would want to happen A lot of times, it’s one minute. It’s a five-second judgment that carries on for a while because you made the bad judgment in that split-second, and that’s part of maturity, too.”

On if he thinks Rajon Rondo is a top-5 point guard in the NBA:

“I think he is. I think it fluctuates, obviously. Definitely top 10. Honestly, I don’t know who is in the top 10 when I say this. I’m biased because I coach him every day. I think he’s done a wonderful job this summer working on his weaknesses. … The regular season, he’s going to keep getting better. And then the big test for Rondo is during the playoffs, as you know, and how they defend him. But I think he’s better equipped now to handle that. I just love what he did. He put in hours a day working on that shot and working with Mark Price. And you can see the effects coming through right now.”

On if he thinks a new deal will be reached between Rondo and the organization before Saturday night:

“I have no idea. Obviously, I think both sides are working to get that done. I think if it happens, it’s great. If it doesn’t, I don’t think it affects either side. Like I said before, I believe he’ll be a Celtic for life whether he gets this deal done by October 31st or not.”

On if he thinks Shaq will get in the way of LeBron throughout the year:

“No, I think that one is overplayed. Shaq, Dwight Howard — there are only about four centers in the league that you can’t help off of. You just can’t. Imagine LeBron driving, and Shaq’s guy goes to help. If you leave Shaq at the basket by himself, it’s an automatic two points. I think what may hurt them at times is Shaq and another — not[Zydrunas] Ilgauskas because he can spread the floor — but [Anderson] Varejao. Then you can help. So, I think it’s more of a combination than just Shaq.”

Listen here to Rivers on WEEI in Boston

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