MIAMI — Doc Rivers reached out to the Globe for the first time since the Celtics’ season concluded, but would not offer any hints as to whether he will return to the team as coach in a text-message exchange Sunday evening.
Rivers said he needed to “detox” after the season and apologized for being inaccessible to reporters. But he would not give any indication whether he will be back for a 10th season in Boston, although Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe last month that Rivers planned to return.
Rivers has not confirmed that and with the Celtics season having ended five weeks ago, speculation has grown that the beloved coach is seriously considering stepping down.
Asked if he is still in the decision-making process, Rivers told the Globe, “I’d rather not say.” Although he has not been available to the media, Rivers has been present for predraft workouts and has discussed the future of the Celtics on several occasions with Ainge.
He also has three years and $21 million remaining on the table, and several NBA sources believe he would not hold the Celtics hostage for more than a month and then step down, especially with the number of available qualified coaches dwindling by the week.
There is speculation that Rivers and Ainge are discussing the immediate future, including the fates of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
With the draft in less than three weeks and the decision on the contract of Pierce necessary by June 30, Rivers is expected to make his final decision within weeks.
He only promised that he would speak publicly about his situation “soon.”
James tunes out critics
LeBron James said he tunes out everything during the postseason, especially those critics who say he should be doing more even though he works feverishly to facilitate the Miami offense and also piles the stat sheet with assists and rebounds.
He finished with a triple-double in Game 1 — his second straight in an NBA Finals game — but the Heat lost, 92-88, and the onus as usual was placed on the four-time MVP despite his 18 points, 18 rebounds, and 10 assists.
In Game 2 Sunday night, his numbers weren’t as impressive — 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists — but the Heat cruised to a 103-84 win.
James realizes he’s going to hear noise from critics when he doesn’t produce a monster playoff games and he struggled for the first 2½ quarters, missing 12 of his first 14 shots before converting his final five.
“I don’t really read into it when people want more of me or whatever the case may be,” he said afterward. “I will continue to find my shooters, if they’re open. I will continue to try to put pressure on the defense. If I draw two, I’ll find my shooters. I have confidence they’re going to knock them down. They did that tonight. Ray [Allen], Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers made big plays after big plays for us.”
The AmericanAirlines Arena crowd feared James reverted to his 2011 NBA Finals form with a passive 6-point first half on 2-for-7 shooting. They became even more distressed when he missed his first five shots of the second half. But he continued to be active on defense and attacked the basket for layups to generate momentum. Of course, James made the play of the series by cleanly blocking Tiago Splitter’s dunk attempt with 8:20 left in the game. After the block, James stood in the San Antonio key, rose his head to look at the crowd, which admired his feat.
“Now, offensively if I’m not in rhythm, you need to make a couple of plays to make an impact,” he said. “That’s what you’re on the floor for. You need to do it on both sides of the floor, however you can do it. I think what helped me was the late third-quarter pocket pass from [Chalmers], I was able to get a layup. Then I came out in the fourth, I was able to make an elbow jumper. Then I made some plays defensively to try to help. I made some defensive rebounds. I was able to get the block on Tiago, and then my shooters finished some shots when I was able to get them in transition.”
“When I’m not scoring or I’m not as efficient offensively, where I feel like I’m missing some shots, I just figure out ways that I can still help the team, even if it’s not scoring as much.”
Billups receives award
Prior to Game 2, Los Angeles Clippers guard Chauncey Billups was given the league’s inaugural Twyman-Stokes Teammate Award, presented to the NBA’s ideal teammate. The award was chosen by a panel of NBA legends and is named after Cincinnati Royals teammates Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes. After Stokes was struck with a tragic brain injury that ended his NBA career, Twyman became Stokes’s legal guardian and advocate.
“I think the biggest sacrifice maybe that I’ve made for a teammate is there’s been a few times, of course I won’t mention names, I had to help a few teammates through some really tough family situations in a few different ways,” Billups said. “It’s something that it caused me to go above and beyond what a regular teammate would do, but I never thought twice about it because I knew they needed it, and they respected me enough, and looked up to me enough to ask me. So I always try to be there for the guys.”
Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe.