I still believe that Doc isn't tanking games on purpose (I don't think we need any help being bad), but if he keeps denying it, and denying it, and bringing it up, and answering questions about it, I'm going to stop believing him.Â His biggest mistake was opening his mouth and bringing up the subject himself, thus giving media members all around the country a great sound bite.
Â â€œI mean, I got killed two weeks ago for literally making a very good decision when I decided to keep the starters on the bench for a very good reason. It actually paid dividends a couple of games later when we won because our bench played well. But the assumption was, â€˜Theyâ€™re just dropping games.â€™ â€
Following that loss to Charlotte on March 21, Rivers announced he had not tanked even before the subject was raised. And it didnâ€™t pass without notice when he left Ryan Gomes and Kendrick Perkins [stats] on the bench in the last quarter of Tuesdayâ€™s come-from-ahead loss to the Hawks. Assuming Rivers is taken at his word and that he wasnâ€™t simply trying to fend off the falling Bucks, he is swimming against perception.
â€œYou canâ€™t do anything,â€ he said. â€œThe game in Atlanta, I wanted to go to Gerald (Green) down the stretch to see what he would do in that situation. Iâ€™m coaching for next year. . . .
â€œBut right now, anything we do or anything Milwaukee does - or anybody - thereâ€™s suspicion behind it. There should be, honestly. Thatâ€™s the way it is.â€
Thatâ€™s certainly the way it will be tonight when winning is in neither teamâ€™s best interest. In the immortal words of Paul Pierce [stats] before that Charlotte game, â€˜Weâ€™ll see who donâ€™t want it more.â€™ â€
Update: Ok, I'm willing to concede that by his own admission Doc is "coaching for next year" which means he's not focused on winning as much as he is on developing or teaching.Â That, by definition, is not trying to win games.Â As a result, I do think you can make the case that he's "tanking."Â I just find it hard to believe that he would purposely manipulate a game where we have a lead and make it so the Celtics lose.Â I think what he's doing makes sense in his head for teaching purposes and he doesn't care if we win or lose as a result of those actions.Â Maybe it is a fine line, but it seems important to me.