MIAMI — Doc Rivers knows better than probably any other coach about the dilemma of defending against Ray Allen. After five years of coaching Allen with the Celtics, Rivers is preparing his team to guard Allen as a member of the Miami Heat in Tuesday night’s season opener.
“I think Ray Allen is going to get shots, just like he got them with us, because he’s playing with great players,” Rivers said before practice Monday. “He’ll just stand somewhere, all by himself, and either you help or you don’t. If you don’t, LeBron [James] gets a dunk or [Dwyane] Wade gets a layup. If you do, Ray gets a jump shot. No different than when he was with us — [Rajon] Rondo drove, Paul [Pierce] got to the paint, they had to double-team Kevin [Garnett]. Ray benefited from that and he’ll do the same thing here, maybe even moreso here.”
Rivers said he expected to be quizzed about Allen, who signed with the Heat as a free agent.
“Ray’s pretty good, he deserves that,” Rivers said of the attention. “He’s on the team that beat us, so that’s natural. But I’m still tired of answering. I don’t know what you want me to say — he went to the other team.
“Adding Ray and Rashard [Lewis] makes them better, and winning a title makes them better, because now they know they have it in them. That’s the biggest advantage they have.”
Lineup limboRivers would not reveal the Celtics’ fifth starter, likely to be Brandon Bass or Jared Sullinger, for the opener.
“You’ll find out,” Rivers said. “I don’t know what the rush is.”
Rivers is concerned with Sullinger’s lack of experience.
“I do trust him,” Rivers said. “He plays older than his age but he still makes young mistakes because he’s young. Most of his mistakes are more just not understanding the guys that he’s guarding. It’s more just personnel mistakes than execution; he actually executes extremely well.
“He’s our best rebounder and the other thing you like about him is smaller guys can’t guard him. And, when you put him with Kevin, the smaller guy is going to be on him, because the bigger guy is always going to be on Kevin. So, it’s more than just him being the best player, sometimes there’s other better players, but sometimes he fits. To help him be a better player, playing him with Kevin is more important.”
Flight timeThe Celtics have scheduled a Wednesday afternoon return flight to Boston.
“Ring night, 8 o’clock start, game won’t be over until 2 or 3 in the morning, the triple-overtime game we’re expecting,” Rivers said with a laugh, “so, stay overnight, hoping by then the storm’s gone. And hoping to get the wind behind us, and it’s an hour-and-a-half flight.”
Rivers said the Celtics have begun scouting the Milwaukee Bucks, their opponent for Friday’s home opener.
“It’ll be over, I guarantee, Wednesday morning,” Rivers said of the Miami game. “And we both have 81 more games and we play a lot of good teams. That would be interesting if we played them 82 times this year.
“If we win [Tuesday] do we get a trophy? If we win, that would be great, if we lose we can still win it. We play a rival, it’s human nature, the players are going to be up. You like those games, you want them in the middle of the season, too. You always like when they have more meaning. It would be crazy to think it’s just normal — it’s not just another game. The best thing is, after the game it becomes just one game.”
Lingering lossRondo delivered some spectacular performances in the Eastern Conference finals last season, pouring in 44 points in a 115-111 overtime loss in Game 2.
But the Heat rallied for victories in Games 6 and 7 to advance to the NBA Finals.
“They had the last word, they beat us, and that’s the end of it, really,” Rondo said.
Asked how long he needed to move on from the defeat, Rondo replied: “Like six months. I’m still not past it. We had a 3-2 lead, all we had to do was win one game out of two. We bring it back here [for Game 7], it’s a tough place to win.”
Change of heartThe Celtics have lost popularity among Rivers’s family since son Austin joined the New Orleans Hornets.
“At least in my household no one will be cheering for me,” Rivers said of impending Celtics-Hornets matchups. “That’ll be a first. I go home, there’s New Orleans gear all over the place. My son’s got stuff, my wife’s got a hat on. They kind of jumped ship quick but that’s OK.’’
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.