WALTHAM - Doc Rivers was in understandable shock on Thursday morning.
The Celtics coach had just told WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan that the C’s would be without their emotional leader and shutdown defender, Kevin Garnett, likely for the playoffs. And he had just found out that his boss and one of his closest friends in the game, Danny Ainge, had just suffered a heart attack.
So he could certainly be forgiven when he said on Friday that he couldn’t remember which came first.
“We make the Kevin decision and then literally, the next thing follows,” Rivers retold. “I don’t remember which was first. It was just not a good period. When someone calls you and says, ‘A guy had a heart attack.’ They should follow. It scares the hell out of you, because they stop. And it’s the pause is what killed me because obviously you think the worst but he’s lucky. And that’s good.”
But good was about the last thing you would call Thursday for anyone associated with the Celtics.
“It was awful,” Rivers said. “Someone said it didn’t look like I wasn’t giving the Kevin thing a lot of thought at the time, and I said that’s because you didn’t know what was going through my mind at the time.
“At that time, he was going into surgery,” Rivers continued. “You’re scared, you’re worried. So it hit hard for that, it hit me hard because he’s my friend and it hit me hard because he’s my age. It was scary for me and for everybody but when you know somebody like I know Danny, it just really tugs at you.”
But Rivers knows full well what lies ahead on Saturday starting at 12:30 p.m. at TD Banknorth Garden. Derrick Rose, Ben Gordon and the Chicago Bulls. So the Celtics went about the business of continuing preparations on Friday.
“Because you have to,” Rivers explained. “It’s what you do. The one thing we all know in life is that it continues and it keeps going on and no one is going to wait for you. And I know who’s not going to wait for us is Rose and Gordon. They’re not going to wait for us to get it together so we’re going to have to get ourselves together.”
Celtics captain Paul Pierce was trying to do on the court what Rivers was from the sidelines-keep his team focused.
“It was a tough day to get a start to,” Pierce said of Thursday’s ordeal. “You feel all down, and you feel bad for these guys. But the good thing is that they’re in good spirits. Danny’s in good spirits and Kevin’s coming along, he’s in good spirits. We just have to go out there and get the job done. There’s been a lot of adversity surrounding this whole year, even right now, but it’s something we’ve got to deal with and get through.”
“Everyone else told me that but I try not to go there,” Rivers added. “We had a bad day and that’s the way I look at it. Now, let’s go have some good ones.”
Judging by the smiles on the faces of Rivers and Pierce, Friday was a good start.