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Thursday / May 19.
  • Rivers: Celtics Still Team to Beat in East

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    NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — The Miami Heat added LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

    The Knicks brought on Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton.

    The Orlando Magic still have Dwight Howard and Vince Carter.

    And the Boston Celtics will be without Kendrick Perkins for half of next season and Rasheed Wallace forever.

    But Celtics coach Doc Rivers says they are still the team to beat in the East.

    “[The Heat] are a contender but that’s all they are,” Rivers said at the Peach Jam tournament where he is watching his son, Austin, arguably the top senior prospect in the nation. “The Lakers are the champs and we’re the Eastern champs and someone’s gonna have to take that away.”

    Rivers didn’t watch James’ nationally-televised special last week on ESPN in which he announced his plans to join Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami. He didn’t need to.

    “Hell no, I didn’t watch any of that stuff but I heard about it,” he said.

    Rivers said the additions of James and Bosh to the Heat makes the league stronger.

    “I think it’s good for the league and harder for the East,” he said.

    James has taken heat across the country — red-hot heat in Cleveland — and been called a traitor and mercenary by some.

    But Rivers has no problem with it.

    “I thought it was a good business decision,” he said. “You own the corporation. You can buy two more and in your mind you can form what you’re hoping is a monopoly, you do it. I don’t mind him doing it. I don’t think it’s bad.

    Rivers credited Pat Riley and the Heat braintrust for making it all happen.

    “Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra, they’ve done an amazing job,” he said. “You gotta give them credit. It is very difficult to turn a team around that quickly and you gotta have unbelievable planning and they pulled it off.”

    As for the Knicks, Rivers said the additions of Stoudemire and Felton should make them improved.

    “They’re better,” he said. “I’m sure they’re disappointed not getting LeBron or Wade or whatever, but Stoudemire’s one of the better players in the league. He already knows the [Mike D’Antoni] system so it’s gonna be an easy fit for him.

    “Raymond Felton is just a heck of a player. He”s underrated so they’re gonna be a better basketball team.”

    Asked if he knew anything about 7-foot-1 Russian center Timofey Mozgov, whom the Knicks inked to a three-year, $9 million deal, Rivers cracked: “I hope he can’t play but I don’t know who it is.”

    As for the Celtics, they lost Wallace and Perkins until mid-season but did pick up Jermaine O’Neal.

    “We gotta replace size and getting Jermaine O’Neal, that was a huge pick up,” he said.

    (Photo courtesy Orlando Sentinel and Palm Beach Post)

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.