Chris Wilcox has been caught in the most unforgiving cycle in sports.

The Celtics forward, like most players, needs regular playing time to thrive. But until he plays better, those minutes aren’t going to come.

Until now, anyway.

The Celtics reluctantly included Jason Collins in their trade package for Jordan Crawford last Thursday. Collins may be limited, but he’s a solid defensive player who doesn’t make mistakes, and gets the most out of what he has.

Wilcox, Rivers’ only big option off the bench for the time being, is another story. The Celtics coaching staff has long harbored the belief that Wilcox, as he has shown in flashes, is capable of more than he has shown.

In the wake of the trade and until the coaching staff can determine whether the soon-to-be-signed 6-foot-9 forward D.J. White can make a realistic contribution, Wilcox is the primary big man off the bench.

So as has been the case with Wilcox in the past, Rivers called him out — both in the media and in person.

It’s amazing what a little fire can do. An energized Wilcox came off the bench with a season-high 14 points on 7-for-9 shooting and eight rebounds during Friday’s win over Phoenix.

Consider Rivers’ line of talk before and after the game.