Here’s Doc Rivers after yesterday’s game on how he’s coached the Knicks (and past few games)
I wanted to win this game. I want to win them all, alright? But we were – you know, (Brandon) Bass, when he went out that stretch, kind of made us shorten our bench. And this four games, if you notice, we’ve been going – we’re basically at nine. And that’s what we’re going to do. The only guy – obviously with overtime it’s kind of skewered – but the only guy that I really tried to limit minutes is Kevin (Garnett). And every night, or most nights we do. He can have an occasional 40-minute night; just can’t have many of them. But I like our rotation; I tightened it on purpose. I told our coaches after the Oklahoma City game, ‘When we come back, there’s nine guys. And that’ll be it.’ Every once in a while when we can go ten we will, but that tenth guy right now is going to be a short-minute guy, whoever it is. And I like what we’re doing.”
Around this time of year in the past would be the point where I (or someone else at the Hub here) would make a plea with Doc to shorten minutes. When you’re fighting to stay above .500 though, that book changes. I’ve said it many times in recent weeks and I’ll say it again. These guys are playing right now for the right to stay together. They need to prove to Danny that there’s something there to keep the core intact for one final push, so it’s not worth turning completely ahead to the future this season.
With a nice four-game winning streak out of the break, these guys have done a nice job of that. It hasn’t been pretty always, but the promising signs are there. The rotation is tightened as well, as it should be. The minutes are high for the starters and they should be as well. This team is playing for their lives right now, nearly two months before the playoffs start and that’s a good thing. The next question may be, pending the status of Jermaine O’Neal of whether Danny will try to get any additional help for this squad if he keeps them intact.
Jermaine to have surgery?
We’ve heard this one before, but J.O. is doing his due diligence before deciding whether to go under the wrist for his injured left wrist, as Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston reported this weekend:
Doc Rivers said there’s been no new developments as he ponders options for his ailing left wrist. Rivers did laugh when a reporter asked about O’Neal’s decision, putting a LeBron-like spin on it.
“The Decision? Yeah, he’s going to have a show to announce it,” Rivers said with a laugh as O’Neal contemplates surgery or a cortisone shot that might allow him to grind through the rest of the season. “I think he’s definitely going to see one more [hand specialist], I don’t know when that is.”
In case you hadn’t heard the three options are:
1) Cortisone shot (out at least two weeks)
2) Minor surgery (out at least two weeks)
3) Major surgery (out for season)
I give the guy credit for gutting it out with the pain for much of the season, but now can only hope he punts on the decision to have surgery until after the season. For all his struggles, it will be tough for this team to operate with just three NBA-caliber rotation bigs for the rest of the year, even though they may be the better team for it.
Atlantic Division in play
For some perspective (and to brag a little bit), here’s what I wrote last Tuesday:
The road back starts Tuesday night. Moral victories will no longer suffice. Outside of Chris Wilcox and Jermaine O’Neal, (health statuses unclear) the C’s will be rested and healthy. Boston is four games back of the stumbling Atlantic Division leaders (Sixers are losers of five straight themselves) and wouldn’t you know, Boston faces them next Wednesday right after this “winnable” five-game stretch.
Will that contest be one of the last games this core has together, or will the train be back on the tracks at this point, making this a game where Boston could pull within a game or two of the division lead? I’m not counting that possibility out and neither should you.
Well the C’s have done their job winning four of the first five games of that “winnable stretch” I spoke of. The Sixers? They’ve continued to stumble, going 2-2 out of the break, dropping their division lead to a mere two games, with a back-to-back awaiting them in Milwaukee this evening after losing to Chicago last night. After many left them for dead, Boston after Wednesday night could be back tied for the Atlantic Division lead. Again it’s not a likely possibility, but as I said before, it’s not one you should count out either.