It’s not as jarring as seeing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in a Brooklyn Nets uniform, and it won’t have the same emotional resonance as when a fan with a thick Boston accent yelled out “we love you Cooz!” at Bob Cousy’s retirement ceremony 50 years ago, but Doc Rivers’ return to Boston on Wednesday night will tug at the emotions a wee bit. Rivers understandably left the Celtics last spring so as to avoid the rebuilding project he once committed to, and his high-priced Los Angeles Clippers will have their hands full with a young Celtics team that hasn’t laid down for anyone in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season.
Rivers’ departure from Boston was complicated. Both the Celtics and Rivers offered similar stories about wanting to stay together even as C’s general manager Danny Ainge explored ways to prepare for the future in dealing Garnett and Pierce, but both also showed several signs that suggested that either side of the table knew it was best to have an amicable parting. Though Rivers drew much deserved criticism for going back on his promise to see the Celtics through whatever rebuilding phase awaited upon signing a five-year contract back in 2011, it’s completely understandable that Doc would shy away from the second rebuilding turn of his Boston career, and look to secure a second ring with a formidable Clippers squad.
Rivers admitted that he didn’t want to work with a rebuilding team in a conversation with Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski a few months back , and in talking with CBS Boston’s Felger and Massarotti on Tuesday night , Doc copped to walking out on his former Celtics team with three years left on his deal.
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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers weren’t the only ones with this game circled on the calendar.
The defending champion Miami Heat had to hear all summer about the Pacers’ improved depth, their internal growth, and their budding rivalry with a Miami team that knocked them out of the playoffs in 2012 and 2013. The Heat roared out of the gate in their first meeting with the Pacers since downing Indiana in Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference finals, grabbing a 30-19 first-quarter lead before Indiana used its height and defensive smarts to slowly chip away and eventually down the two-time defending champs, 90-84 .
Pacers center Roy Hibbert is used to working as the game’s most important player on the defensive end, but the big man worked as his team’s go-to offensive force during Indiana’s second-half comeback. Hibbert routinely found his way to the front of the rim against the slow-to-rotate Heat defense in the second half, piling up 15 second-half points on his way to a 24-point night against the undersized Miami front line. Swingman Paul George overcame a miserable first half to finish with 17 points in the win, while the Indiana defense completely flummoxed Miami in the second half, holding them to just 37 points in the term.
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While Rudy Gay moving to the Sacramento Kings was the headline news of the big seven-player trade agreed to Sunday and completed Monday, the swap also sent Kings starting point guard Greivis Vasquez back east to the Toronto Raptors, elevating Isaiah Thomas — who had been sensational off the Sacramento bench this season — back to the starting lineup. And in his first start of the season against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, the third-year dynamo wasted no time in making Kings general manager Pete D'Alessandro and head coach Mike Malone look like they'd made the right choice.
Thomas began the game on fire, scoring 10 points in the first six minutes to push the Kings to an 11-point advantage and imbuing the Sacramento offense with the sort of electricity for which he's become known as one of the league's top reserve scorers and playmakers. By the midway point of the first quarter, he'd canned two 3-pointers, set up a Jason Thompson jumper, darted into the passing lane for a steal that led to a runout layup, and blown past Dallas point guard Jose Calderon on this quick little hesitation move:
(It's also always nice when the help defense actually hurts.)
The 24-year-old Washington product showed there was more to his game than bursting to the rim and pulling up from long-distance, though — check out this second-quarter contest of an attempted dunk by Mavericks center Bernard James:
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