NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Rivers says Pierce still unsure about 2016-17 — The last news we heard about Paul Pierce was that the 38-year-old former Finals MVP was leaning toward returning to the LA Clippers for what would be his 19th overall NBA campaign. Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who was speaking at a fundraiser for the ABCD Camp in Boston, told reporters he remains unsure if Pierce will play for LA next season. ESPN.com’s Chris Forsberg has more:
“Depends on the day I talk to him. Paul has had the summer, he’s gone back and forth,” Rivers said while back in Boston to host the annual ABCD Hoops Dream fundraiser at TD Garden. “I think he has a right to do that. I really do.
“Paul didn’t have the best year last year. I don’t think he wants to go out that way. So I think that’s why he’s working to try to come back. But he still may change his mind next week. So we just have to wait. I told him if I see him at training camp, I’m assuming he’s playing.”
Rivers plans to talk with Pierce again this week but does not expect an answer until training camp draws closer.
Rivers said he would be brutally honest with Pierce if he didn’t think Pierce was capable of helping the Clippers next season.
“If I don’t think they can play, then I tell them that. But I think Paul can play,” Rivers said. “I don’t know how much he’ll play, but he can play. I’ve always thought it’s easy for someone else to tell you to retire; I think that’s something that the player has to come to by himself.”
Rivers reaffirmed that, should Pierce choose to retire, he’ll encourage him to sign a one-day contract with the Boston Celtics in order to retire as a member of the Celtics organization.
“I think it’s important. I think we have to do that. And I think we will,” Rivers said. “[Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] and [assistant general manager] Mike [Zarren], we’ve already talked.
“The day [Pierce] retires, he’s going to retire a Celtic. He has to. Paul’s a Celtic. So when he retires, he’s got to retire as a Celtic. I don’t think anyone disagrees with me.”
Rivers talked with Ray Allen this summer but wouldn’t tip his hand on whether he thought Allen would resume his NBA career after sitting out the past two seasons.
“I don’t know. I won’t talk about what we talked about. I think if Ray was in the right spot, he may play,” said Rivers. “I think Ray wants to golf a lot too, right now. But Ray is in amazing shape. I don’t know how he does that. I didn’t know how he does that as a player; I don’t know how he does it as a non-player. He’s probably in top-5 shape in the NBA. So could Ray play? Absolutely, I believe he could.”
Rivers sounded most confident that Kevin Garnett would continue his playing career, even as he aids the rebuilding process with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“I think Kevin — and I know it, because I talk to him — loves the young guys on his team,” Rivers said. “He loves how they work. He thinks they have an old-school mentality. So I think he’s really gotten into Kevin, the teacher. And I honestly never saw that coming, either. Yet he was a phenomenal teacher with [Boston]; I just didn’t think he would have the patience to do it. And I think Kevin loves teaching these young guys.
“And I think Paul just loves playing. He was the one that I thought would play the longest because the way he plays, and he’s doing it.”
No. 2: Mitchell sounds again off on firing from Wolves — Last season, Sam Mitchell served as the interim coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves after Flip Saunders‘ sudden passing before the season began. In the offseason, the Wolves hired former Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau for the job full-time, thus putting Mitchell out of work. He shared his thoughts on the move earlier this summer and in a recent radio interview with Darren (Doogie) Wolfson of ESPN 1500 in the Twin Cities, he went off even more about the move. Here’s more from Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk.com, who transcribed the interview:
I’ve known Glen Taylor a long time, and I have had the utmost respect for him. And my whole thing, Doogie, was, whether you thought I earned the job or not, that’s fine. That’s a decision that he has to make. But I felt like after 13 years of being in the organization, after being the captain, after having been the guy that was whenever there was things going on and they needed players to do things, being that go-to guy – I thought I always carried myself and conducted myself when I was in the Wolves uniform as a coach or a player. And after 13 years and being knowing Mr. Taylor for about 10 or 11, to be treated that way, that just did something to me.
It just left a bad taste in my mouth, and Doogie, to be honest with you, it’s something that I don’t know where to place it emotionally or mentally. It’s just tough, man. I don’t know where – still to this day, I don’t think about it or dwell on it, because I understand that the NBA is not fair, that life is not fair. Bad things happen to good people all the time, and good things happen for bad people all the time. I’m about to turn 53, and I understand that. But I’ve always held Glen Taylor in high regard. And just to be treated that way – a 30-second phone call – it just didn’t sit well with me. It’s something I don’t understand, and I’ve had a hard time trying to figure out, where do I place this?
Because, again, it would not have been easy to sit down with me and have that conversation. But I think after the years in the organization, that’s the least that you could have done for me.
Another thing: I’ve known Tom Thibodeau. Look, another disheartening thing is – and, again, I understand the NBA. Somebody offers you the job – someone offers my best friend who may be a assistant coach the job and you have the job, they’re going to take the job. They have to take the job, because there’s only 30. I understand that, Doogie. And I mean, once the decision is made not to hire you, then I’m OK with a friend of mine or someone I know getting the job. Because at the end of the day, it’s not like they’re doing anything behind your back to take your job. No one can take your job in the NBA. Either the owner doesn’t think you did a good enough job to retain you or, for whatever reason, they replace you. So, I understand that. It’s a big-boy league.
But even with Tom – all the years I’ve been knowing Tom and with Bill Musselman actually having helped Tom get on the staff as a player with the Wolves when I played for them because of my connection with Bill Musselman – the fact that he never called me saying a word to me, never sent me a message, never sent me a text. And that the new general manager Scott called me a month and a half later.
A month and a half later. So, at that point, why are you even calling me?
So, again, the way things were handled in Minnesota, I was totally shocked. I had always given the organization credit for how they treated people in the past and being a first-class organization. But to be treated that way after 13 years, I think I have a right to feel a certain way about it.
And again, not bitter. Not angry. I’m happy. I’m moving on with my life and doing other things, and I’m happy. But Minnesota was home for me for a long time. I had a lot of good friends there, and I just never thought I would be treated that way on my way out the door. But, again, that’s life and it is what it is, and you get better for it.
It was so disrespectful to even call me a month and a half later. I think when I realized it was him, I was hanging up the phone as he was talking. There was nothing really much to say. A month and a half later – you think a month and a half later, you think I haven’t read the tea leaves and understand what is going on? Especially, a month and a half before that, I talked to Glen Taylor. So, what was there to call me about?
I’m proud of the job I did there, and I always will be proud of it. I’m disappointed in how I was treated. Always disappointed that you weren’t retained and given an opportunity to keep the job, but I understand the business. A lot better coaches than I am have been let go and not retained. So, I understand that.
But in the manner in which it was done, I felt like because of the years I’ve been there, that it could’ve been handled better. But, again, that’s how they chose to handle it.
And Wayne Embry used to tell me this all the time. It’s not what people do to you that’s important. It’s how you handle and bounce back what was done to you. So, that’s the thing that I keep focused on. That’s what I think about. And again, like I said, I’m happy with my life, and I’m happy with the direction that it’s going in.
No. 3: Gordon, Magic won’t settle for less than playoffs — On Christmas morning of last year, the Orlando Magic solidly holding down the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference and seemingly on their way to a playoff berth. Fast-forward two months and the Magic had fallen below .500 and were on their way to another playoff-less season. An offseason of mild roster shuffling has the Magic hoping to right that postseason wrong come 2016-17, or at least that’s the stance forward Aaron Gordon is taking in a Q&A with Alex Kennedy of BasketballInsiders.com :
Kennedy: Many people are predicting that this could be a breakout year for you. Do you expect that to be the case?
Gordon: “I think when you say ‘breakout,’ most people think of statistics and how well you play. To me, a breakout year means the level of fun and joy that I receive from the game. And yes, I think this year I’ll be much more joyful when I play, much happier when I play. I think I’ll be much more confident in my play. If those three things lead to a breakout year, then yeah, I believe that I’m ready.”
Kennedy: How confident are you now compared to when you first came into the league? You were a pretty confident guy entering the NBA, but how much more confident and comfortable are you now?
Gordon: “I would say much more. I’ve had two years under my belt. One year, I had to sit out due to injury and only play 47 games. Then, I had a year of playing the entire season. Having both experiences – sitting out and learning versus playing the full season – helped me. I also have three more years of working with Graham Betchart and Lucid. I would say that when I came into the league, I still needed validation. Now, I don’t need any validation. I play for joy and the fun of it. That’s all that I need in my life.”
Kennedy: You have a new head coach in Frank Vogel. How do you feel you fit in with Coach’s Vogel’s style and what have you guys discussed in terms of what role you’ll play?
Gordon: “I think he wants me to do a whole lot of everything, from defending to distributing to scoring. We’re going to need to score the ball this year and I’m looking to take on a bigger scoring role. Defensively, I want to guard the best player on the other team every night. These are things that I want, but they are also things I want from my teammates. I want them to say, ‘No, I want to guard the best player.’ And we have those type of players. Serge, Bismack, Jeff [Green], EP [Elfrid Payton] are guys who would love to do that. They all want that challenge and I love playing with guys like that. It’s always team-first with me and I’m going to do whatever I can to help my team win.”
Kennedy: The front office brought in a lot of veterans such as Ibaka, Biyombo, Green, D.J. Augustin and Jodie Meeks. What did you think of the additions? They’re clearly win-now moves.
Gordon: “It’s just exciting to me. I’ve always trusted Rob Hennigan and I’ve always trusted Scott Perry. To me, it validates my trust in them. They made moves that other people couldn’t have made. They were confident, aggressive moves. Now, it’s on us. We’re ready to play. We have the coach, the staff, the players, the organization. We have a foundation of players who have been there and been through the losing, and now it’s time to start winning.”
Kennedy: Clearly, making the playoffs is the goal. Do you feel that this team has what it takes? And if you guys aren’t in the postseason, is that a disappointment?
Gordon: “Oh, of course. Of course. We are a playoff team. I haven’t stepped foot in the gym with everyone yet, but just through our text messages and calls, that’s where everybody’s mindset is at. They’re ready, and I’m ready as well. Really, we have to play present. We need to take each game and play it like it’s our last. If we do that, we’re going to have a very successful season.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Julius Erving, Alonzo Mourning, Isiah Thomas and Bill Russell with be the presenters for Shaquille O’Neal at the Hall of Fame ceremonies on Friday … For the record, Doc Rivers is a fan of the Boston Celtics signing Al Horford this summer … Former San Antonio Spurs big man DeJuan Blair is closing in on a deal with a team in China … Looks like NBA 2K17 is going to have some pretty accurate renditions of NBA arenas …