NEWPORT, R.I. – Doc Rivers was not among those watching LeBron James’ nationally televised “Decision” in horror. He’s an old-school point guard who’s come to accept the new-school ways of the NBA.
“I think they’ve gotten a lot of criticism that they didn’t deserve,” the Celtics coach said Wednesday of the Miami Heat’s free-agent coup. “I don’t understand. I think LeBron did everything legal, right? He played it out until he was at the end and he could be a free agent. It didn’t bother me that way. I guess I’m an old-school guy, but it really didn’t bother me in that way. But it bothered a lot of people. For whatever reason, it did.”
And it shouldn’t have, Rivers said – especially for those former players who would’ve done the same thing given the opportunity.
“We did it, but we did it through trades,” Rivers said. “There were 23 teams when I played. Everybody had a Dream Team for the most part. The reason why a lot of guys didn’t leave is because they had two or three Hall of Famers on their team already. LeBron was in that one place for seven years. So it’s not like he didn’t give it a shot. That’s what I don’t get; it’s almost like he never gave them a chance. He was there for seven years. Some of the guys that have been giving criticism wanted to be traded from their teams back in their day, too. It’s just interesting.
“Listen, I’m kind of in between because I’m an old guy but I’m coaching these guys, and it is a different league in that way,” Rivers said. “It is scary that a guy can sort of hold everybody prisoner that way, but it’s in his rights. It’s the way the collective bargaining [agreement] is, so he can do whatever he wants to do. And by the way, there’s not a lot of LeBrons. There’s not a lot of players who would be able to do that. There’s not even going to be one a year, and it’s not going to be anything to that magnitude.”
Superstar team-building, though, won’t stop in Miami. Chris Paul already has made noise this summer about wanting out of New Orleans so he can team up with other superstars. The Carmelo Anthony saga is stalled for now, but his desire to leave Denver and pull a LeBron isn’t going away.
Though Rivers’ played in the ‘80s, few current NBA coaches are more in touch with what he calls “the AAU generation” than he is. He’s living it not only as a coach, but also as a father of two highly recruited players – sons Jeremiah, a point guard at Indiana, and Austin, who has all the top programs fawning over him.
“The first time I ever met Danny Ainge was when we made the All-Star team, and that was like six years in the league,” Rivers said. “I shook his hand before the game – begrudgingly – but I didn’t know him. I didn’t know any player. I knew the players on the Hawks and every player from Chicago. That’s it. Our kids, Jeremiah and Austin, they talk to each other every night – from the guy they played with in California and everything else – and they all know each other. And they all talk about; they’re doing it now, in college. They say, ‘Hey, let us two go here.’ It’s just different now and we’ve got to get used to it.”