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BOSTON (CBS) – The players have all been graded, now it is time for the two head honchos of the Celtics (other than the ownership of course) Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge.
Ainge hired Doc back in 2004, one year after he was given the keys to the storied franchise. The two have worked together since, going through the tough times of the 24 win season in 2007 followed immediately by franchise’s 17th championship in 2008.
This season proved to be one of the more difficult for the two, from Doc’s busy commitment to both the Celtics and his family, and Danny’s shocking trade that changed the course for the championship contender.
Celtics 2010-11 Season: 56-26 Regular Season, 5-4 Postseason (Loss to Miami in Conf. Semifinals)
Rivers continued to cement his image as a consummate professional as he juggled numerous egos, injuries and a major roster transformation to lead the Celtics to a 56-win season. Rivers, who nearly stepped aside after last season’s Game 7 loss lost to the Lakers in the NBA Finals, not handled all that went with running an NBA team but also found time for his family. He often traveled around to country to attend the games of his son Austin, one of the top ranked seniors, only to return to his team the following day or immediately following the game.
Doc is THE perfect coach for the Celtics. The players trust him and he gets the most out of each of them because he demands it. He treats them as professional equals rather than holding his position over them. Players believe in what he says whether it is in the locker room or a 20-second time out. The majority of the time, the play he draws up works flawlessly. Unfortunately one of the few times it didn’t all but ended the Celtics playoff run. The team admitted the final play of regulation in Game 4 against the Heat fell apart because of their execution, but Doc would never throw any of his players under the bus.
The toughest job for Rivers this season dealing with the trade of Kendrick Perkins and the months that followed. He likened the move to sending away one of his kids, as Rivers had coached Perk for all but one of his eight NBA seasons. After the shock of the trade settled, then came the even more difficult task of getting a whole new team ready for a postseason run. Not only did Rivers have to adjust to not having his defensive bastion (for the long term that is, he did just fine without Perkins for the beginning of the 2010-11 season) but he also had to figure out how to integrate Jeff Green. A starter and offensive force in Oklahoma City, Green now had to morph into an off-the-bench spark for team reliant on it’s chemistry on the floor. In the long run, it did not go well. The Celtics struggled down the stretch and lacked a big body in the paint during the postseason (that is mostly on Ainge, but we’ll get to that).
One of the big reasons for not having a big body was Shaquille O’Neal’s injury-riddled January to May. It was a situation Doc was asked about seemingly on the hour, every hour for that entire span of time. Rivers addressed the situation cordially, and even began joking about it as the months wore on. The “he will play”-“he might play”-“he isn’t playing” dance was as complicated as the “Dougie” would be on ice, but Doc took each step in stride.
Although the 2010-11 ended in disappointment at the hands of the Miami Heat, Doc’s days in Boston are far from over. He signed a five-year extension with the Celtics just two days after Boston was eliminated, thus proving his commitment and pride towards the franchise. “I’m a Celtic and I love our guys. I want to win again here, and I’m competitive as hell,” Rivers said after Game 5 against the Heat, also stating that he was leaning towards a return. There is little doubt the Celtics have the right man on the bench as the team transitions from the new Big 3 Era into whatever is next.
Key Moves: Re-signed Ray Allen and Paul Pierce; Signing Jermaine and Shaquille O’Neal; Traded Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and a future draft pick.
It was a busy season for Danny Ainge and one that will not soon be forgotten. He had little time after the Celtics Game 7 loss to the Lakers in the NBA Finals, with Ray Allen a free agent and Paul Pierce opting out of the final year of his contract. Ainge promptly re-singed both, Ray to a two-year deal (he has a player option for the upcoming season) and giving Pierce a contract that will allow him to retire a Celtic. The loss to the Lakers was supposed to be the Celtics final championship run, but Ainge went out and signed veteran centers Jermaine and Shaquille O’Neal and backup guard Delonte West to add another year to the aging squads life expectancy.
The O’Neal signings made sense despite their old age and 200K miles on their tattered knees (and backs, and shoulders, and ankles) because Kendrick Perkins was out until February. Once Perk came back, the two would be big bodies off the bench to clog the lane and give five fouls. The problem was Jermaine was not healthy to start the season, and Shaq eventually fell apart. He played well early in the season, enough to have the Celtics feeling confident in his 39-year-old body. Confident enough to trade Perkins, the man nearly everyone thought would have made the difference in Game 7 against LA last season.
Having Perkins would not have won the Celtics a championship this season. They ran out of gas in the end, losing fourth quarter leads to the younger Heat in both Game 4 and 5. The Celtics were just too old. What they needed was a some youth, which is what Ainge tried to add in Jeff Green. He wanted some energy for a second unit that was blowing leads and going nowhere with Nate Robinson and Big Baby lulling around. The Celtics lacked a defensive minded forward with Tony Allen in Memphis, and Green was supposed to be that guy. He started to play better defense in the playoffs, but it was too little too late.
Photo Gallery: Danny Ainge’s Trades
Ainge has never been afraid to pull the trigger on a move even if it draws the ire of the fans, media, Lucky the Leprechaun or his players. He made a deal that was had more value for the future instead of a season built “All About 18.” Green is a good player and will mean more down the road. At the time of the trade, Boston was in dire need for a backup for Paul Pierce with the spine injury to Marquise Daniels. His injury just added on to the already MASH like injury list, and with Perkins also facing an injury, the Celtics needed some bodies.
It was unfortunate that Ainge sent off players like Semih Erden and Luke Harangody to add Troy Murphy, because Murphy ended up being as effective as Harangody would if he was playing on Erden’s back. Ainge struck gold with PJ Brown in 2008, but veteran big men do not always just fall on your lap. Sometimes you get stuck with the Troy Murphy’s of the NBA.
Now Danny has to make sure getting Jeff Green pays off over the next few years. He got off to a good start by getting Doc back for five more years which will no doubt help in getting players come to Boston. He will have some cap space available with Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett coming off the books after next season as well, so it will be another busy couple of summer for Ainge.
His moves did not work for this season, but if Ainge can keep the Celtics from falling into the same basement apartment in the standings they did post the original Big 3, it may all be worth it.