HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — No one can accuse Doc Rivers of being anything other than a pragmatist.
It makes no sense for the coach of the Boston Celtics to worry himself with the Los Angeles Lakers and what goes on in the Western Conference when Rivers and his crew have to contend with the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat in their own conference.
Rivers said it himself when he uttered this line: “I have my eye squarely on Miami,” to Bob Ryan during an interview at the Action For Boston Community Development’s Hoop Dreams event (check video, above):
“Honestly, I don’t care about the Lakers … I have my eye squarely on Miami. I come up to my players during the year — they’re in the facility now — I bring up Miami every single day to them. I want them to hate them. I want them to beat them. That’s gotta be our focus.”
Rivers is right to keep his focus on the Heat and right to make sure his team does the same. The Celtics pushed the Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, showing a bit more fight than many of us expected while sending a clear message to the crew in Miami — that they were not going to ride roughshod over Boston on their way to what could be several appearances in The Finals with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at the controls.
(That has to be painful for Celtics, Bulls and Pacers fans to hear, but it’s the truth … we could be in the midst of a Heat championship era unless someone in the East rises up and stops them.)
Kevin Garnett is back and healthy. Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce have never met a challenge they couldn’t get up for. Jeff Green returns to action after observing all last season and Jason Terry, one of the league’s most competitive veterans and the owner of a championship ring won in the Mavericks’ 2011 Finals defeat of the Heat, replaces Ray Allen (now with the Heat) as the Celtics’ resident sharpshooter. And there’s a strong crop of reserves that includes Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee.
As was stated clearly over the weekend, the Lakers have chemistry issues of their own that must be resolved this season. It’s up to Lakers coach Mike Brown and his staff to figure out how to make the Kobe Bryant-Steve Nash-Dwight Howard-Pau Gasol dynamic work. And truth be told, the teams that need to be most concerned with the Lakers right now call Oklahoma City and San Antonio home.
The Celtics need to maintain a near-sighted focus on the one team that stands between them and a return trip to The Finals while there are still a few shreds of their vaunted Big 3 remaining.
That’s not say another Lakers-Celtics duel in The Finals wouldn’t be as entertaining as ever. They always produce some of the best drama when Larry O’Brien trophies are up for grabs. And if they get there, we’ll have our popcorn ready like always.
But before they get to that point, they both have hurdles within their respective conferences to consider. Boston plans to be one big hurdle for the Heat.