Doc Rivers endorses Derrick Rose

CHICAGO -- Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers was by his son's side Tuesday afternoon as Austin Rivers received an award as the nation's top high school player, but the coach wouldn't accompany his son to a Chicago Bulls game Tuesday evening.

"I don't want to go to that game tonight, no interest," Doc Rivers joked while visiting ESPN 1000 studios. "I just don't want to watch the Bulls play. Who would want to watch that?"

Austin Rivers headed to the United Center to talk to Bulls head coach -- and former Celtics assistant -- Tom Thibodeau. He also planned to watch the player Austin -- and Doc -- believe is the NBA's MVP as Derrick Rose and the Bulls hosted the Washington Wizards.

"There are a lot of good players," said Austin, who plays in Winter Park, Fla. "Dwight Howard is doing a lot for the Magic. But D-Rose is one of my favorite players. I like him for [the award]. But you have LeBron [James] and people like Kevin Durant who are playing great, too.

"If I was forced right now to choose one player, I'd pick D-Rose."

Doc Rivers, who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Maywood, agreed with Austin and the growing consensus who believe Rose has earned the nod as the league's best player.

And although few expected the Bulls to be battling the Celtics this late in the season for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, Rose's development made Doc a believer.

"I'm not that surprised [the Bulls are contending]," Rivers said on ESPN 1000's "Afternoon Saloon". "Derrick Rose is the best player this year in the NBA. I think he'll be the MVP, and when you have the MVP on your team, you're usually pretty good."

Rivers also credited the coaching of Thibodeau.

"I talked to Thibs this afternoon for a long time," Rivers said. "We're still very close.

"We want to beat each other's brains out when we play, but right after that we're very close friends. And I respect the world out of him. He's the hardest working guy that I ever had on my bench."

Thibodeau earned the reputation as a defensive guru in Boston, but Rivers said it didn't imply that Thibodeau couldn't coach offense.

"With Tom, we needed him to be the defensive guy," Rivers said. "We have Armond Hill, who's our offensive guy.

"But Armond can coach defense and Thibs can coach offense. That's one of the things two years ago when I was making calls for Thibs, I kept getting that question from GMs: Does he know anything about offense? The guy is a heck of a coach. You have to give him a shot. And Chicago was very fortunate that they did."

Thibodeau appreciated the support of Rivers.

"[Rivers] and that organization were great to me," he said. "I have a lot of respect for him. He's done an unbelievable job there. He's a great coach and a great person."

Thibodeau is considered one of the leading candidates for coach of the year, but Rivers isn't quite ready to hand over the award just yet.

"I would put him right there," he said. "I think [Philadelphia 76ers coach] Doug Collins, honestly with what he's done ... You think about Philly, they didn't make a move. And you look at their record, it's pretty remarkable what he's done. And [Portland Trail Blazers coach] Nate McMillian, those would be my three. You can toss it up after that."