BOSTON (CBS) — Doc Rivers didn’t want to stick around for Boston’s rebuild, leaving the Celtics in 2013 for the L.A. Clippers.

Rivers was heavily criticized by many for skipping out on a franchise that had committed itself to him by way of a five-year extension in 2011, but maybe we should all thank Doc for bolting when he did. Without Rivers’ departure, there would be no Brad Stevens on the Boston bench, getting the absolute most out of a handful of young players and some of the NBA’s misfit toys.

Like the rest of the NBA, Rivers has taken note of the job Stevens and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge have done in getting the Celtics from the NBA’s basement one season to postseason contenders the past two seasons.

“I don’t know what I expected, but they are in a great spot,” Rivers told the media Wednesday, ahead of the Clippers’ only visit to Boston this season. “They are tough to play because they are 12 deep and they clearly have a lot of decisions to make in the next year or two but they are in a really good place. I think when you look at them compared to other teams that are ‘in a rebuild’ it’s not even close. I just think they are in a really good place to take a huge next step.”

While Rivers guided great Celtics teams with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to a pair of NBA Finals, winning Boston’s 17th Walter Brown trophy in 2008, he probably wouldn’t have had the success Stevens has enjoyed with Boston’s young roster. In guiding Boston to a 71-65 record over the last two seasons (after a 25-57 campaign in his first NBA season), Rivers believes Stevens has earned a spot amongst the best coaches in the league.

“He’s a heck of a coach, I think, one of the best coaches in the league,” said Rivers. “I love his offense. I love his movement. I just like everything about him. He’s a great guy. He’s one of the best.”


Rivers said he’s still not used to manning the visitors bench when the Clippers come to Boston, but at least this time around he’ll have Pierce by his side. He added that it’s always nice to come back to Boston, and he still frequents his old coaching home during the offseason.

“I was here for nine years. You make a lot of friends and have a lot of favorite places to go to,” he said. “You don’t have enough time to go to all those places, but I try.”

 

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