Celtics Need Doc Rivers More Than Ever If Pierce, Garnett Are Gone

Matthew SchmidtFeatured ColumnistMay 14, 2013

The duo of Doc and Rondo will be vital next season.
The duo of Doc and Rondo will be vital next season.Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

If Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have played their last games as Boston Celtics, then we better hope that Doc Rivers has not coached his last game as a member of this organization.

There is a reason why Rivers is so well-respected and well-liked around the league. He is a class act who strives to get the most out of his players, and you'd be searching for quite a while if you attempted to look for a better motivator.

Should Pierce and Garnett not be donning the Celtic green in 2013-14, the Celtics will be a young team craving leadership. That is where Doc steps in.

Even if it is just for one season, having Rivers in charge will pay significant dividends in helping the youth on Boston develop.

As great of a talent as Rajon Rondo is, he is not a leader yet. With guys like KG, Pierce and Ray Allen flanking him throughout his entire career, he has never had an opportunity to step up and guide a team through the grind of a season. He will get his chance soon, and it may come as promptly as next year.

If that ends up being the case, then thank God he will likely have Rivers there to help mold him into a general.

Now obviously, Rondo must have already learned plenty from Doc over the years. However, it is very different when your teammates are no longer Hall of Fame-bound veterans. Instead, he will be mentoring young guns such as Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley, and he will absolutely need Rivers' assistance in doing so.

To be frank, I think this could very well be Doc's last season. During his postgame press conference after Boston's Game 6 loss to the New York Knicks, he was noncommittal when asked if he'd even come back for 2013-14, but we've seen this type of thing before. Rivers generally takes a "year-to-year" approach when mulling whether or not he will return, and for what it's worth, Danny Ainge thinks he will be back.

Still, with this era of C's basketball all but over, it would not surprise me in the least to see Doc decide enough is enough after next season concludes.

He has endured one of the most stressful jobs in the NBA over the past six years, going through more wars than just about anyone else in the league. The fact that he still has a better hairline than LeBron James after all of this is kind of shocking (or disturbing; however you want to look at it).

All of that said, even if Rivers only sticks around for one last hurrah, it will be crucial.

It will be crucial not just for helping advance Rondo's leadership abilities, but for aiding in the progression of players such as Jeff Green, Bradley and Sullinger. Along with Rajon, those three are going to play a monumental role in determining how good the Celtics will be in the future. Those are Boston's building blocks, and Doc is needed to push them forward early on in their careers.

Whatever these young Celtics digest from Rivers will likely remain in their souls for the rest of their time in the game. It's akin to the critical period in a toddler's life. The more the youngsters learn in the beginning stages of their journey, the better off they will be in the long run.

Unfortunately, KG and Pierce are not going to be around much longer, if at all. That is where Doc must take charge and orchestrate one of the finest coaching jobs of his tenure. Whatever he passes down to this group of guys will play an awfully big role in what they can accomplish in the future.

Rivers was a guard during his playing days, so perhaps his most important contribution will be developing Bradley.

It would be nice if Doc can come up with methods to help Bradley finish around the rim, as the 22-year-old shot a rather dreadful 44.1 percent in that area this past season. Take a look at his peculiar shot chart from NBA.com. Bradley actually shot better with long twos than he did within a couple of feet of the basket.

While it's awesome that Bradley is shooting pretty well from mid-range, his inability to put the ball in the hoop at point-blank range is rather concerning.

It's aspects like this where Rivers can really make his impact. Motivating your players isn't the only concept that breeds a good team. You need execution as well, and there is no reason to believe that Doc can't get the most out of Bradley in that regard. After all, he has done it with Rondo.

Of course, Rivers can't be of quite as much assistance to a big man like Sullinger, but what he can do is instill a feeling of confidence and a never-say-die attitude into the young forward.

He can teach him all about tenacity and how to play the game with impunity. That right there can serve as an impetus for top-notch execution out of Sully as he blossoms. You don't think Green's boost in aggressiveness had anything to do with Doc?

The takeaway from all of this? Even if it's just for one year, Rivers' presence would greatly benefit the C's. Sure, Garnett and Pierce's heart and will were enormous factors in the team's success, but a lot of that also comes from Doc Rivers. I'm sure those two wily vets would be the first to tell you that.

Thankfully, it looks as though we will see Doc on the sidelines next season, even if KG and The Truth aren't on the floor.