MIAMI -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers believes the NBA got it right by not levying a fine or suspension against forward Kevin Garnett for his role in a post-buzzer flare-up with Knicks forward Bill Walker after Sunday's Christmas Day loss in New York.
After missing a potential game-tying shot, Garnett and Walker appeared to exchange words and Garnett shoved Walker near the throat. Rivers took umbrage with what he said was Walker instigating the incident by initially hitting Garnett on the shoulder.
"You know what’s funny, Kevin is Kevin, he gets in a lot of stuff. But I thought everyone missed the beginning of that," said Rivers. "No one noticed that the other guy actually reached out and hit Kevin on the arm. It's amazing how I watched that for two days and I didn’t see that one time -- [the highlights] would only show Kevin’s reaction to it.
"No, I didn’t think he would [get suspended]. Once I saw it I didn’t think it was enough -- much ado about nothing, really. But I was amused by the attack on Kevin, when no one noticed. The guy just missed the shot, and then the other guy hits him on the shoulder, then [Garnett] turns. That’s what made him turn around. So I was amused by that."
Even with a pattern of dust-ups, especially in recent seasons, Rivers said he still doesn't want Garnett to change.
"He’s an instigator, I don’t mind. He is who he is. How old is Kevin?" asked Rivers. Informed he was 35, he added, "Yeah, I’m not going to change him. Really, I’m not even going to try. I like his fire, I like who he is. There are times where you say, 'You gotta back away and walk away.' But you know the saying: You can always tend to the fire; It's much harder to start one."
Rivers did acknowledge that Garnett played too many minutes (37) in the season-opener.
"Our bigs were struggling a little bit in the game, so he had to go back in," said Rivers. "There will be nights where he plays that, and there will be nights when he’ll play 25 and it’ll all even out. But I don’t like the 37 minutes with Kevin."