This weekend, Rivers is a father, not a coach

A handful of NBA teams have drawn fines when coaches or executives have spoken publicly about college underclassmen or underage international players who might be in the June draft.

Which begs this question: How does Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose son, Jeremiah, is a Georgetown freshman, handle that?

Georgetown faces Ohio State tonight in the NCAA Final Four doubleheader in Atlanta, where UCLA takes on Florida in the other matchup.

"That's easy," Rivers said, laughing before the Celtics met the 76ers last night. "We go out to dinner together and we don't talk. Typical teenage son-father relationship, right?"

This relationship is far deeper than that. Rivers planned to return to Boston on the Celtics' charter flight late last night, then catch an early-morning commercial flight to Atlanta. For the rest of the day, he's nobody's coach. He's Dad.

"Once you get to the game, it gets harder," he said. "The lead-up is much better. It's fun. I mean, you're talking about your son."

A leg to stand on

Shavlik Randolph is as eager as he's ever been, but he's trying to be smart, too. Out since suffering a fractured and dislocated left ankle Nov. 30, Randolph said he has medical clearance to play. He has yet to practice, but still holds out hope he can see spot minutes in perhaps the final five games of the season.

"[The doctor] says the bone is solid enough now where I should be able to play," Randolph said. "He said it'll be a few months before I'll be 100 percent, but [it's] enough to get my game legs and timing. It's my decision. It's how I feel. I've been very encouraged the last week, week and a half. It's the first time I've started to see light at the end of the tunnel as far as starting to feel somewhat normal.

"I can actually start to picture myself in the games. To be honest, I could probably go out and play right now. I don't think I could be effective, I don't think I'd be that efficient. I don't want to be out there to say I can [play]. I want to be able to actually do something."

Here was coach Maurice Cheeks' caution flag:

"We're not going to rush him out there. Players always think they're healthy and ready to go. We'll evaluate that next week and see how he feels, see if it makes sense. If it doesn't make sense, we won't do it."

Dressed for the bench

Celtics star Paul Pierce, who played nearly 53 of a possible 58 minutes in Wednesday night's double-overtime victory over the Orlando Magic, reluctantly declared himself out of last night's game. Pierce has missed significant time with a stress reaction in his left foot and a lingering left elbow problem.

He acknowledged that he couldn't bring himself to say he was shutting down for the remainder of the season.

"I hear two voices in each ear," Pierce said. "One says 'Go, go, go,' the other says 'Stop, stop, stop.' I feel like I'm caught in the middle." *