BOSTON (CBS) – Last season, the return of Doc Rivers to the TD Garden was one of the few highlights of a dismal Celtics campaign.
Rivers sought the allure of a promising roster and total control over personnel moves in Los Angeles with the Clippers instead of the daunting challenge of rebuilding in Boston at the end of the 2012-13 season.
Doc’s reasons for leaving town made sense, but his failure to admit that it was he, not the franchise, who wanted a fresh start created an ugly soap opera in the summer of 2013 before he was traded away for a future first-round pick.
Upon his homecoming last December, Rivers finally accepted some responsibility for the ordeal, which allowed the Boston faithful to give him an emotional homecoming.
More than 15 months later, Doc returns Sunday night to the Garden for his second visit as Clippers’ head coach, and there is plenty of buzz around the game, but not for the reasons you would have expected.
The Celtic fanbase is riled up for an upstart roster that is fighting their way for a postseason spot in the final three weeks of the regular season. The Clippers are in the midst of battling for playoff seeding in the competitive Western Conference, as well. With both teams having so much at stake, the focus will be on the actual contest, instead of who is coaching on the sidelines.
Brandon Bass is one of the four remaining Celtics from the Rivers era, and he could care less about his former head coach returning to town.
“I think you guys [in the media] try to make it a little something more than it is,” Brandon Bass said at practice on Saturday. “We’re just trying to get a win. We’re trying to get better day in and day out.”
Meanwhile, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has received nothing but praise from Rivers from afar. However, Stevens indicated the pair have spoken hardly ever since Danny Ainge hired Stevens in July 2013.
“Every time I’ve seen him he’s been really kind to me. He’s certainly said really nice things about me. I certainly have a lot of respect for him, what he’s doing now, and what he did here,” Stevens said.
With both sides happily moving on after the ordeal, it’s refreshing to see that the Celtics fans have no real reason to harbor any ill will toward Rivers for the way he left town. The team is in great hands with Stevens at the helm, and the rebuilding process is going better this year than most would have imagined.
Meanwhile, Rivers is getting his chance to coach a contender, something that would not have been possible in Boston until the latter half of this decade.
So Sunday night looks to be one more happy reunion between the two sides, as each party shoots for greener pastures in the years to come.