Doc Rivers seems particularly upbeat and not a brand of nervous energy, it should be pointed out, as his Celtics take to Thursday's Game 7. This could be because he's about to set his little soldiers free, once the whistle blows Thursday night.
"I've always thought," Rivers said during Wednesday's media availability session, that "Game 7 is the ultimate player game. It's the game that all the things you've worked on all year, you have to do it and execute it and trust and play. You know, there's going to come a time maybe where a timeout is important and an adjustment may be important." Beyond that, though, the win or loss is on the players.
No pixie dust here, either, Rivers pointed out.
"Chuck Daly always said it's the make/miss game. The league is a make/miss league. But especially Game 7. It comes down to makes and misses. And on the misses, on their misses, make sure they don't get another opportunity to have a make, and that's what they come down to."
Of course, having Rajon Rondo(notes) (5-15 in Tuesday's Game 6) make some of his misses could have had the Celtics "on an airplane," as Rivers put it ("which would have been nice"), and Rondo has a good history of bouncing back after poor playoff games. So is Rivers expecting his point guard to be great in Game 7?
"I just need him to be him. I don't need anyone to be great. Obviously Rondo is important to our team. First half we really just couldn't get any pace in the game because they just dominated the game so thoroughly in the first half. They made every shot, and when they didn't make the shot, they got the rebound. So we have to create some kind of pace for him.
"And then he has to create a pace. I thought he was looking for too much stuff instead of being aggressive. One of the things we told him — Rondo has the best instincts that I've ever coached in the open court, and he has to allow those instincts to take over tomorrow. I thought he allowed his thinking to take over yesterday. He was trying to run stuff, trying to get guys in stuff. And with Rondo, he has great instincts and he has to let those take over tomorrow."
Rivers also think Glen "Big Baby" Davis, who hasn't made a field goal since June 10, will turn things around. Especially now that Kendrick Perkins(notes), with a host of torn ligaments in his right knee, is confirmed as being out for Game 7.
"Baby will be great, and just get back to just playing. I think Baby the last couple games has been doing way too much thinking. Baby is an instinctive intensity player. When he starts playing with thought, you know, that's not what you want. Boy, that sounds terrible. I don't mean it that way."
But he kind of does, and we understand.
Phil Jackson seemed ready to put on his corduroy-lined, leather-patched sport coat and run out a history lesson. When asked if the Xs and Os preparation had changed any since he worked through some Game 7s as a member of the Knicks several decades ago, Jackson brought up an oft-referenced but not recently heard story revolving around backup Knicks guard Dean Meminger, as New York prepared to play a heavily favored Boston Celtics team in 1973.
"We had tape developed overnight, or film I should say, regular film. And Jo Jo White was punishing us with high screen rolls, and we had a moment in the film study that we were doing back in those days, the same old thing was happening. Dean Meminger saying, ‘I don't get any help,' and Red Holzman barked at him, ‘The job has got to get done.' One way or the other the job has to get done. As you know, Dean Meminger had the game of his life in the seventh game. So yeah, it's not any different. The job has to get done."
When asked if Kobe Bryant(notes) was unduly (or "duly," really) worried about potentially catching Magic Johnson (with five rings) or Michael Jordan (six) in terms of NBA championships, Jackson let the media in on a fascinating bit of Bryant insight.
Catching Magic or Michael, Jackson pointed out, is "not at the front of his mind. That's not what the big issue is. It's about his personality. It's about winning."
"At one point when I first got to the Lakers, I got a call from Jerry West, who was vice president and player personnel director at that time, and he said, I'd like to tell you I had a long conversation with Kobe, and he wanted to know how both Elgin and I were capable of scoring close to 30 points or more a game at that level of basketball at that time. And it's going to be so difficult for him to score 20 points with Shaq scoring the kind of points he was scoring at the time, which he was probably scoring 29 or so points a game.
"So at that point in his career, 21, which was the age Kobe was at that time, he was very concerned about his mortality and how history is going to look at it as a basketball player. At this time I don't think it's in the back of his mind that he has to catch Magic or he has to catch Michael or anything else. He wants to win. It's what the effort is worth for him to do what he has to go through to play this game."
Never mind that there was no possible way for any two players to score in the high 20s on a 1999-00 Lakers team that averaged around 93 possessions per game, probably 20 or 30 down from what the mid-1960s Lakers scored. Or that some of those Laker teams with West and Baylor, pre-Wilt Chamberlain, were some of the worst defensive teams in the NBA. But that didn't stop Bryant, who was worried about his legacy far too earlier than he should have been.
But Bryant's actions and Jackson's observations paint a much more admirable picture, here, of a defending champion trying to win another ring, working one game at a time.
Jackson also laid out, exactly, where his or Doc Rivers' team could go wrong in Game 7. Namely, hyping themselves out of cohesion.
It's still a basketball game, Jackson noted, so "you have to go through the same execution things."
He continued. Hopefully both teams are listening.
"You may be moving at a faster rate, you may be playing at a quicker elevation, spirit, et cetera. But if you're not going to be able to do the most basic things, if you come out of your skin, in other words — if you're out of character things are going to happen awry. They're not going to go right for you. So you have to stay in character. Even though it's not just a game, it's a different type of a game, but it's something that you have to be able to confront and hold your composure in."
We'll see just how much character is revealed, just over 24 hours from now.