TRAVEL BLOG, GAME 5: BOSTON

BOSTON – The craziest thing about Doc Rivers’ return to Boston was the unknown or unexpected. While you thought there would be a great reception from the fans, you didn’t know for sure.

It was not Ray Allen returning as a member of the Heat or Johnny Damon the Yankee or worse Roger Clemens the Blue Jay. It wasn’t Eddie House as a member of the Knicks, a well-liked role player who received a nice ovation and 24-second tribute video.

This was Doc Rivers.

But considering how loyal Boston fans are, we should have known it would be wonderful.

I’m skipping ahead from the nearly two days in Boston, skipping the beautiful snow-covered Boston Common near our hotel with frog pond frozen and packed with skaters. I’m skipping the gourmet sandwiches at a place called “Cutty’s” that once appeared on a TV show with Guy Fieri. And I’m skipping the train ride, the quaint neighborhood of Brookline and hundreds of times we must have heard someone refer to “Clippahs Head Coach Dawk Rivahs.”

Lost in Rivers’ return was that Antawn Jamison scored his 20,000th point after a somewhat agonizing two games prior trying to reach it and that a well-known out-of-work NBA champion arrived in Beantown in the middle of the night Tuesday, signed his contract and played less than 24 hours later.

This was a memorable trip to Boston for the Clippers. Perhaps more so than any two times combined. Half of the coaching staff other than Rivers, including Kevin Eastman, Armond Hill and Tyronn Lue, have long ties to the area. The whole two days were remarkable.

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But back to Rivers.

There was the well-documented, and deservedly so, video tribute in the first and second quarter. There was the giant media contingent and the hugs and handshakes and laughs. For me, though, the two most indelible memories will be watching the fans pay no attention what so ever to the court while they waited for Rivers to emerge from the visitor’s tunnel and then later, waiting for Rivers to come to a makeshift podium postgame. There was a Celtics microphone flag and green drape on the dais with a Clippers banner in the background. It is likely that has never occurred in a road arena for a regular-season game before.

When we talk about Rivers’ emotions, I can assure you they were genuine and real. Watching him respond to the first question, and tear up and pause, you could feel the room want to join him.

Rivers thanked the media twice after talking to them, pregame and postgame. It was something he did, according to a couple of local reporters, during a conference call when he left in June. I know as reporters we are supposed to be objective, but it felt like even Celtics supporters were somewhere deep down happy Rivers came away with a victory.

And when you think about the titles and brashness of the Boston sports scene, that in and of itself is crazy enough.

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