Celtics

Ainge: Despite C's troubles, Rivers' job is very safe

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Ainge: Despite C's troubles, Rivers' job is very safe

LOS ANGELES Not even a month into the NBA season and the Los Angeles Lakers kicked Mike Brown - a former NBA coach of the Year in 2009 with a winning percentage better than 65 percent - to the curb.

Avery Johnson, who was the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for October and November, was fired by the Brooklyn Nets.

Both were fired for, among other things, underperforming.

About a third of the season has been completed, and it's clear that the Celtics (14-14) fall into that category.

But don't look for the C's to make any kind of radical changes anytime soon.

"Doc (Rivers) has proven his worth as a coach," Danny Ainge, Boston's President of Basketball Operations, told CSNNE.com. "There's nobody I want more to coach my team, than Doc Rivers."

Like most NBA observers, Ainge is well aware of the quick-to-hire, quick-to-fire mentality that has pervaded many NBA franchises in recent years.

"First of all, every situation is different," Ainge said. "There's so much information that no one knows, and really information that never gets public and a lot of misinformation that does get public depending on who is giving the information or which side is telling the story. I don't think anyone gives up on coaches this fast without there being a feeling that there's not a long term solution or they're just not compatible; coaching staff with owners and management. It's a very hard dynamic, the world of professional sports.

Ainge added, "One thing I've learned in this business is patience is a virtue. That's one of the reasons why I love Doc. Because when things aren't going well, there's no one I want in my corner more. Anybody can put on a smiley face and come to work with energy and enthusiasm and passion when you're winning. But it takes a special person to do it with an 18, 19-game losing streak with a bunch of young players and to still have that respect and work ethic before we were able to put a great team together and obviously, have some success."

Still, that doesn't fully soothe the pain that many in Celtics Nation are feeling right now when they see a team that was built to compete for one of the top spots in the Eastern Conference.

So far this season, the Celtics look more like a team trying to fight their way into the playoffs.

Ainge will be the first to acknowledge that the C's aren't performing nearly as well as he or anyone within the organization expected.

And while it has taken longer for this team to get on the same page than he would have liked, by no means have the C's struggles been solely the fault of Rivers.

"When the team isn't winning, that's just as much my fault as it is Doc's fault," Ainge said. "We're in this together, with the success and the failure of the team. A lot of times, players aren't doing their part. Sometimes it's the coaches not doing their part. Sometimes it's me not doing my part, and my staff. We have to evaluate all of it and find the real reasons why the team isn't performing to our standards and try to make the best of it."

Rivers speaks candidly about where the Celtics are right now, showing no signs of wavering on his belief that this team will eventually start stringing together wins and eventually develop into the kind of team that can at least compete with the elite teams in the East.

"The NBA is a league of ebbs and flows," Rivers said. "That's just the way it is. You go on good streaks, you go on bad ones and you hope you right the ship and go back on a good one."

And when that turn-around does come about, it won't necessarily be the work of one or two men, either.

"To have unity at ownership level, at management level and coaching level is critical when you're trying to build winning teams," Ainge said. "I like what we have. But sometimes at some places, it's just not there. I just think that these things (head coaches getting fired quickly) happen in sports, and they always will."

Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

As the wins continue to pile up for the Boston Celtics, so does the praise and adulation from others throughout the league. 

It’s a double-edged sword if you think about it. 

Acknowledging how good the Celtics are, is indeed a sign of respect. 

But it also means Boston plays every game with a large target on its back unlike any of Brad Stevens’ previous Celtics teams. 

And that means every game they play, even those like tonight’s matchup at Atlanta where they will be heavily favored, are dangerous matchups.

Because for some teams, the next best thing to competing against the champ (Golden State) is facing the team with the best record who just knocked off the champ. 

That will be one of the dynamics at work tonight when the Celtics (14-2) kick off a three-game road trip against a trio of sub-.500 teams beginning with the Hawks (3-12).

Boston has shown tremendous focus and attention to detail during their 14-game winning streak. But in that span, the Celtics have never had a trio of teams right behind each other that struggled as much as the Hawks, the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks have this season. 

Not including games played on Friday, Boston’s next three opponents are a combined 11-33. 

All three of those teams would love to be the one to knock off the Celtics, the kind of victory that could significantly shift the direction of their respective franchises from their current downward spin. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will look to continue to play with the kind of defensive temperament that has catapulted them to the top of the NBA’s defensive standings in several categories. 

“The way they’re beating teams it ain’t pretty,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “But they win. Last I checked, that’s what matters most.”

And that success has to a large degree, put a bigger bullseye on the Celtics than ever. 

“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

Especially if they continue to defend at a level we haven’t seen in years. 

Boston has a league-best defensive rating of 95.4. A key component in Boston’s strong play defensively has been their ability to win the battle of the boards. They come into tonight’s game with a .530 rebounding percentage which is second in the league to Portland (.539).

And that defense, while praised for how it functions collectively, it also consists of some pretty good individual defenders as well. 

Among guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game, Boston has four players ranked among the top 10 in defensive rating (Marcus Smart, 93.5 defensive rating, 2nd); Jaylen Brown (93.6, 3rd); Terry Rozier (95.0, 5th) and Kyrie Irving (96.4, 8th). 

When you look at forwards, Brown headlines a trio of forwards that includes himself, Al Horford (94.2, 3rd) and Jayson Tatum (96.1, 7th). 

Aron Baynes has the best defensive rating (90.6) among centers, followed by Horford (94.2).

“Our guys are locked in and really trying and again we can really play some pretty ugly basketball at times,” Stevens said. “But I do think that we are competing which is really good.”