"He's obviously a tough kid," Rivers said. "He comes and competes every night. It doesn't mean that he plays a perfect game every night, but he's stronger. He's a really good player, an all-star."
A new division order
The New York Knicks' 20-point victory over defending champion Miami on Thursday - accomplished without the services of superstar Carmelo Anthony - caught the eyes of a lot of people, including Rivers.
The Celtics, who reached the Eastern Conference finals last season before being eliminated by the Heat, have won the Atlantic Division five straight times. But with the Knicks and some other teams seemingly improved, the Celtics' reign could be in jeopardy.
"I liked it the way it was," Rivers joked. "There are a lot of good teams: Brooklyn, the Knicks, Philly. We're part of it. It's competitive, and I'm sure it makes all of you guys happy, but I liked it the way it used to be."
Rivers did not place much emphasis on the Knicks' 112-92 win, their second 20-point victory over the Heat this season. But the Knicks, he said, clearly pose a serious threat to the Celtics' run of division crowns.
"I think if you haven't taken notice of the Knicks yet, you should now," Rivers said. "They're talented, they're deep, and they have a lot of different guys they can play on that team. They have so many veterans that on one night one vet steps up and the other one sits. They've got a lot of moving parts."