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Rivers on the Big Easy

Posted by Gregory Lee Jr. Globe Staff  February 14, 2008 05:42 PM

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Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who is leading the East squad in Sunday's All Star game, on Friday will lead a group of NBA players, coaches and celebrities that will take part in a volunteer day that will bring good will to a variety of sites in the New Orleans metro area.

Rivers said he had visited the Hurricane Katrina ravaged city and shares his thoughts with the Boston Globe.

Have you been in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina?
“I haven’t been there in a while. I went there the year after the hurricane. (My son) Austin was playing in an AAU event. ... We were staying downtown and it was really the only place alive. And that was really sad. It’s interesting because it’s such a festive city in that one area (French Quarter). But then you take a half a mile drive and there is zero lights, no life, nothing. I just thought, ‘What a hell of a contrast.’ Half a mile away there are people partying, drinking. And the other half (a mile) there was nothing, no lights. I found it to be depressing to me. It was so close to the hurricane that you knew they had a lot of work to do. It was a year and a half ago I assume that it was better. But clearly every picture you see there is a lot of work to do. I think these events are needed.”

What do you think about NBA All-Star weekend coming to New Orleans?

“These events are really important for New Orleans. They need it. They really do need it. It brings income to the city. It’s good.”

What's the difference between seeing New Orleans post-Katrina footage on television and in person?

“It’s night and day. As bad as it looks on TV, and that was back then when I went, it was way worse live and in person. I don’t think (TV) can do that justice though. I don’t think people realize how bad that was. You saw it. And you saw the footage of it and all the whole dome incident, but when you go there, and when I went, it was heart breaking.”

What was it like for you to drive to the Lower Ninth Ward to view the devastation?

“I just wanted to see it. It was so close to the time, eight months later. I wanted to go and see. I noticed when I drove in it was pretty much dark and then all of the sudden you saw these lights and I was downtown. So it piqued your curiosity. So I just got up in the morning before a game and I drove around. It’s massive. People think it’s one block, two blocks. It’s massive. The first thing you think is how can this be re-built and how long is it going to take?"

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