Rondo's reputation as petulant point guard bad boy takes another hit after fight
Doc Rivers tried a little humor, as much into his own demeanor as that of those asking questions.
It's clear that Rajon Rondo is facing his third suspension in two years for his punch-flying run at Nets forward Kris Humphries Wednesday night, a skirmish that spilled into the front row of the stands with 29 seconds left in the first half.
It's clear that the Celtics point guard is adding to the bad part of his tempestuous reputation. So what if his 37-game double-digit assist streak ended Wednesday with Rondo tied with John Stockton for the second longest in NBA history.
Rondo's other streak, the one involving suspensions, is about to add another troublesome link.
So Rivers tried to laugh after his Celtics compounded the sin with a 95-83 loss to Brooklyn that left him using the dreaded S-word - soft - to describe his team.
"Usually he goes after the refs, and this time it was another guy. Nah, I don't know," the Celtics coach joked, referencing Rondo's two bounces last year for throwing a ball at referee Sean Wright and bumping ref Marc Davis in Game 1 of the first round against the Atlanta Hawks.
"Listen, Rondo is emotional, but he isn't any worse or better than anyone else," said Rivers. "He regrets it, I'm sure."
Rondo's next call from the league office - probably today - could exceed last season's three-game total. He charged at Humphries following the latter's foul of Kevin Garnett with 29 seconds left in the second quarter, appeared to throw punches while tumbling with Humphries over the baseline and into the area behind the basket support.
By the time officials sorted out the bodies and fouls, Rondo had been ejected, along with Humphries, who had been assessed his first tech with his foul on Garnett. Gerald Wallace, who had picked up a technical foul earlier in the night, was also ejected after locking up with Garnett off to the side. Garnett was whistled for a tech when he shoved aside Wallace.
To hear Rivers tell it, the Celtics saved their toughest moves for after the game clock had stopped.
"I told them they were soft. Actually, I told them that (the Nets) think you're soft," Rivers said of Brooklyn's ability to push and muscle its way to a 50-40 rebounding edge, including 17 offensive rebounds.
Andray Blatche, the reclamation project who played his first seven seasons in Washington, grabbed eight of his 13 rebounds on the offensive glass. Reggie Evans bagged four of his 10 rebounds in the same end. Overall, three Nets rebounded in double figures.
"We got fired up for one game against Oklahoma City, and other than that we let our guards right back down," said Rivers. "Kevin (Garnett), Paul (Pierce) and Rondo, a couple of other guys, understand the jersey they're wearing and the pride. Some others almost think that because they put the jersey on they think they are something. You have to earn it here, and understand that when we play every team is attacking you. It's a big game for them.
"Brooklyn looked at this as a huge game," he said. "They want to make the playoffs this year. They want to win the division. They've struggled with us to win for how many years. And they showed up to play basketball. That's what I saw."
Garnett, asked about Rivers' halftime address and his use of the word soft, had difficulty nodding his head in agreement. But nod he did.
"We have to have a lot more pride playing at home," he said. "That's what we've had since I've been here, putting this jersey on. Sometimes I question if we really understand what that means, and it bothers me sometimes. I'm a really prideful person, as were a lot of people who built it before me. We have to do our due diligence. We have to get this back somehow, and with Doc as our coach, I'm sure we will."
Asked about whether the Celtics lacked effort, he said, "I guess there were parts where the physicality pointed in that direction. When you say effort, as a whole, I would say that. That's hard to say, because I play hard every night, but I'm speaking on a team aspect. That's very difficult to answer, but yes.
"This is what it is, man. It's not the Girl Scouts and it's not the Boy Scouts. It's the NBA. If you can't handle it then you're not going to be here. Point blank."