Sunday, May 18, 2008

Apology Letter to Doc Rivers and the Celtics

Dear Doc Rivers,

I am sorry I ever doubted you, Doc Rivers. I am sorry I said that I compared the 2007-2008 Boston Celtics to the movie Freejack, in that both would end up with terrible endings. I am sorry I said that even a caveman could outcoach Doc Rivers.

Doc Rivers finally did something to positively impact his team - Coach Rivers realized that Eddie House was destroying the Cavs, and that Sam Cassell was not helping very much. Eddie House finally played more than 5 minutes in Game 6 and ended up playing 18 minutes and contributing well, albeit in a loss. In Game 7, House may not have scored much, but was involved in some hustle plays and played solid defense, as far as I can remember. While Sam Cassell was hot in Game 1, he really wasn't much of a factor since, and Doc Rivers finally noticed and just refused to play Sam Cassell in Game 7. While Rivers was able to figure out a better rotation as the series progressed, Coach Mike Brown was busy finding new lineups that did not work. For example, Game 6 had a Damon Jones, Sasha Pavlovic, Wally Szczerbiak trifecta and Game 7 had an awful backcourt of Damon Jones and Sasha Pavlovic for extended periods. Mike Brown would certainly point out that Daniel Gibson was injured, so he was forced to play Damon Jones, but Devin Brown was still available (instead of either Sasha or Damon). For some reason, Devin Brown played only played a combined 5 minutes the entire series, despite playing very well in April leading up to the playoffs.

An even bigger continuing problem for Mike Brown, is deferring responsibility to LeBron James. Mike Brown has said in various post-games reports over the years how he "trusts LeBron" in reference to any last-second decisions, passes, or shots taken by Lebron. These quotes make it apparent to me that the Cavs do not even call plays at the ends of the game (hence the LeBron James clear-out play, where everyone sits around and watches him). If the reason that Mike Brown does not really coach the offense is because he doesn't want to upset Lebron, I can understand that. Mike Brown wants to keep his job, obviously. However, Mike Brown is going to have to develop some sort of relationship with LeBron where he can make sure that certain mis-matches are exploited. Throughout this series, the Celtics really do not have anyone to guard Zydrunas Ilgauskas, though the boxscores do not tell the whole story. During Game 6, Z came into the game and single-handedly started a run by scoring 6 points, collecting 2 rebounds, and blocking 1 shot. Unfortunately, Z was not able to get any consistent shots in that game or game 7, because... well, it's up to LeBron each and every moment, which only brings about additional inconsistency. I understand that LeBron needs less of a structured offense, but it would probably have been helpful to integrate Z more often, especially in the crucial Game 7. LeBron is relied on for a lot, and in the end, LeBron should not be relied on for every strategic decision, as Mike Brown should be exerting some direction to the offense, rather than just watching the offense like a helpless spectator.

So in the end, I have to apologize to Doc Rivers. Game 7 showed that Doc Rivers found a better rotation, and he had Paul Pierce and Mike Brown to help him out and save the Celtics. I should have realized these were distinct possibilities, and I apologize for mocking Doc Rivers and claiming that he was an idiotic head coach. It's not like these other factors couldn't have possibly contributed to the Celtics victory in this series.

The funny thing? Now, either Coach Doc Rivers or Coach Flip Saunders will end up in the NBA Finals this year.

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