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Celtics preparing to take on ‘a stud’ in Tony Allen and his short-handed Grizzlies

03.08.16 at 8:50 pm ET
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Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) dunks against Boston Celtics guard Evan Turner (11) in the second half at FedExForum on Jan. 10. (Justin Ford/USA Today Sports)

Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) dunks against Boston Celtics guard Evan Turner (11) in the second half at FedExForum on Jan. 10. (Justin Ford/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM – If ever a team needed a timely reminder that a wounded team is a dangerous team, the Celtics got one Monday night when they watched the short-handed Memphis Grizzlies take out the Eastern-leading Cavaliers in Cleveland.

The 38-25 Grizzlies, who currently stand in fifth place in the West and would face Doc Rivers’ LA Clippers in the opening round of the playoffs, took the court Monday night without the likes of Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Matt Barnes and Chris Anderson. All four of those players are regular starters in the lineup.

But it was Tony Allen, the fifth starter for Memphis who stepped in and stepped up his game. The 2004 first-round pick of the Celtics has become one of the most reliable players on the Grizzlies and a 34-year-old leader. Allen, along with Vince Carter and Lance Stephenson gave the Grizzlies enough Monday night to overcome LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

“You take any team for granted that has Tony Allen, Vince Carter, Chalmers, Zach Randolph, Matt Barnes down the line, you haven’t been watching basketball for a while,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after Tuesday’s final tune-up for Memphis Wednesday night at TD Garden. “We have to play well against these guys. They’re physical, long, big., They physically manhandled us the last game. They’re a team that’s won, regardless of who’s been on the floor, pretty much all year. It’s a credit top them. Dave’s done a great job with the team regardless of all the curveballs they’ve had to hit.

“You don’t respect the game you don’t win. We have to play well to win. We can’t be focused on all of the things we can’t control. We have to do it the right way, we have to share the ball, otherwise we’ll get beat. That’s the same across the league. Any time guys aren’t available, they’re usually being replaced by someone who is awfully hungry to play. That’s enough in this league with this level of talent.”

Certainly the Celtics respect Allen and the Grizzlies, who beat Boston, 101-98, at the FedEx Forum on Jan. 10. In that game, Allen had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds as Memphis overcame a 34-16 hole after the first quarter to come back and win.

When Allen was helping the 2008 Celtics win their 17th NBA title and the 2010 team reach Game 7 of the NBA finals, he was considered a defensive specialist and a role player off the bench behind Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. Allen said he felt somewhat “overshadowed” in Boston and signed a three-year, $9.7 million contract with Memphis.

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Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) ’50-50′ for Wednesday

03.08.16 at 4:58 pm ET
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Kelly Olynyk

Kelly Olynyk

WALTHAM – It’s wait-and-see time for Kelly Olynyk and the Celtics.

The 7-footer who’s been out since injuring his right shoulder in the second quarter of the Feb. 10 game against the Clippers went through practice Tuesday and was cleared for contact.

“Kelly did everything in practice, will probably do a little bit more with the young guys, we’ll reevaluate [Wednesday],” Brad Stevens said after practice Tuesday. “He’s day-to-day. I just asked him how he was doing and he said he was a little bit tentative. He didn’t play that way. He played five-on-five and did all of that stuff, and that was encouraging.

“I would say based on [practice], it would be 50-50, questionable, that he goes [Wednesday].”

Stevens said that if cleared, sitting out four weeks won’t affect Olynyk.

“Other than the shoulder, sure,” Stevens said. “He takes pretty good care of himself, takes care of his body, pretty diligent in that regard. Anytime you haven’t played in a few weeks that first wind might hit you. He shouldn’t have a problem.”

Olynyk admitted that he’s still sore after taking some contact in practice.

“It’s still not quite there, so we’ll see where it is. It’s all right. It’s still sore, a little discomfort, but it’s good to get back out there,” said Olynyk, who just shot around on Monday. “It’s still sore. There’s discomfort and pain, so obviously I’m a little tentative. I don’t feel like I’m at full strength or at full motion.

“The conditioning wasn’t bad. [Bryan Doo] kept me in pretty good shape. I’ve been riding the bike non-stop, treadmill stuff, swimming. I don’t think that’s too big of an issue. Obviously basketball is a different kind of conditioning and game conditioning is a little bit different, but you’ll get that back pretty quick.

“It’s good to feel what it can take and where it’s at. Hopefully keep improving. I don’t want any setbacks or anything like that. Keep going at the right level.”

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Marcus Smart gets message from Brad Stevens: ‘I take whatever [he] says to heart’

03.08.16 at 3:51 pm ET
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WALTHAM — In light of the latest Marcus Smart outburst that resulted in a $15,000 fine from the NBA, Brad Stevens had a heart-to-heart discussion with the 22-year-old passionate guard about controlling and harnessing his emotions during a game.

“I think that he can continue obviously to grow and get better,” Stevens said after practice Wednesday. “He’s only a young 22 years old. But I think the biggest thing is that he’s improved offensively with his reads, he’s improved offensively with his understanding of the NBA game. Obviously, defensively he came in ahead of the curve but he’s a guy that’s still 22, so he’s got a lot of room to get better.”

Stevens said he did address the crotch grab that the NBA defined as an obscene gesture with 1:49 left in the third quarter of last Friday’s win over the Knicks. 

“I talked to him before practice. I did not see it live and still haven’t seen video of it at all, but I did talk to him about it,” Stevens said. “And you know you talk to him about obviously you’ve got to do a great job in those situations of controlling your emotions and representing yourself well. And he’s a young guys but he understands that and hopefully we’ll see that as we move forward.”

When Smart spoke Monday after practice, the league had yet to levy its fine. He insisted he didn’t need to change his intensity on the court. On Tuesday, he said he just wanted to accept the fine, accept the advice from Stevens and move past it. 

“My reaction to it is it’s in the past,” Smart said. “It’s something I can’t control. The NBA felt that it was needed so I deal with the consequences and it’s onto the next game. This team is doing very well and that’s my main focus and we’re not going to let this bother us. It’s something that I can’t control, something that happened. They made a decision, respect it and you move on with it.

“Coach Stevens is an unbelievable coach and person. He’s always doing the right things and trying to make sure we’re in the right position to win games. Off the court, do things off the court the right way. Everybody on this coaching staff I listen to and I take whatever they say to heart and into consideration and try to apply it.”

Both Stevens and Smart said there is a fine line between intensity and lack of control on the court, something Smart is still mastering. 

“I think there’s a fine line there. I think there’s a fine line. But it’s a line you can stay—you can play that way without crossing,” Stevens said. “He’s aware and when you’re away from those emotions not in the game setting or when you’re getting ready for a practice the next day or whatever the case may be, he’s a smart guy. He’s aware of that.”

“I think there’s a fine line that everybody has to [tread]. Growing up, everybody has been a competitor,” Smart said.”They’ve always been taught to compete and never give up, and to have that fight and determination in them. So, everybody has it and you’ve just got to know when to turn it off and turn it on.”

“I am still learning it. Working on it day and day, trying to get better at it, trying to take a little bit off practice here and not go so hard here. But definitely still learning to take that into consideration and take a little bit off of it.”

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Isaiah Thomas wants a meeting with Tom Brady: ‘I need to pick his brain’

03.08.16 at 3:13 pm ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) celebrates against the New York Knicks during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) celebrates against the New York Knicks during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — Those who aspire to greatness always want to learn from other great ones.

That’s why Isaiah Thomas took to Twitter on Tuesday in a very public attempt to get a sit-down with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

I want to sit down and talk to Tom Brady… I need to pick his brain,” Thomas posted on Twitter Tuesday before practice. 

A day after Peyton Manning’s retirement, was there something that spurred the request of the other legendary quarterback?

“Not really. Sometimes I’m thinking on my drive to the facility, and just thinking about that,” Thomas said after practice Tuesday. “I mean, I’m in his backyard. It would be nice if somebody could make that happen to formally meet him, and like I said, just picking his brain about the road to winning a championship, like what it takes and how to focus in on being great.”

What was fascinating about Thomas’ discussion was his comparison with another current NBA star who is headed out the door like Manning.

“It would just probably be like sitting down with Kobe,” Thomas said. “I got the chance to talk to Kobe. I’m real good friends with Floyd Mayweather so I get to pick guys’ like that’s brain. I just would like to sit down and actually meet him and also just pick his brain about winning championships, and how he goes about his day, how he prepares. I like his preparation to everything. I like to pick guys’ brains, especially the best in the business, best in their field, and see what he has to say to me. Hopefully I can make it happen.”

Thomas was reminded that he is from the West and a Broncos fan. Wouldn’t that get in the way?

“He shouldn’t be mad at that,” said Thomas, a native of Tacoma, Washington and a product of the University of Washington. “I didn’t grow up here. It’s not like I grew up here and I’m not a Patriots fan. But I’m a fan of his. I like how he carries himself. He carries himself like he’s the best quarterback ever.”

Like Brady, Thomas was somewhat overlooked when he played for the Huskies in the Pac-10, becoming the NBA equivalent to the NFL’s Mr. Irrelevant in 2010 when he was the last pick of the NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings.

“No doubt. He was definitely not – coming into the NFL he wasn’t supposed to be a Pro Bowler, wasn’t supposed to be a franchise player, wasn’t supposed to win Super Bowls and be arguably the best quarterback ever,” Thomas said of Brady. “And I want to be on that path. I’m not saying I’m going to be the best player ever but…”

As for taking a leadership role on the Celtics, like taking Marcus Smart aside on Saturday and settling him down, Thomas says he’s enjoying the responsibility.

“I just want to grow. I want to grow,” Thomas said. “Not just being a basketball player but being a leader in all aspects, all facets of the game. And why not learn from the best. Especially, I think it’s better to learn from different guys in different sports in how they lead and how they get respect from their teammates.

“Like I said, I would love to pick his brain, ask him a few questions. I got to do it with Kobe. I got to do it with Floyd Mayweather, always do it with him and things like that. Manning’s retired so I can’t do it with him. So I’d love to do it with Brady.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Floyd Mayweather, Isaiah Thomas, NBA

Jared Sullinger released from hospital after skin infection, could play Wednesday

03.08.16 at 2:20 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

WALTHAM – Jared Sullinger has been released from the hospital after a skin infection caused him to become sick and miss two days of practice this week.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens made the announcement when he was asked about the big man’s absence on Monday and Tuesday at practice.

“Jared has a skin infection and was actually hospitalized [Monday] but has been released and hopefully, will be available [Wednesday],” Stevens said. “We don’t know that yet. We’ll reassess that [Wednesday]. He did not practice either day.”

Stevens said he had no idea when or how the infection happened. Sullinger had 17 points and 13 rebounds in the team’s last game, a 120-103 loss in Cleveland Saturday night. Sullinger has had double-doubles in six of the last 10 games. 

“I don’t know exactly,” Stevens said. “I didn’t get into the details of that.” 

If Sullinger isn’t available, it will break a string of 20 games that the Celtics have had the same starting lineup of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Sullinger, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder.

Sullinger has started 26 straight and 55 of Boston’s 63 games this season.

The Celtics play the Grizzlies Wednesday at TD Garden at 7 p.m.

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Marcus Smart on his emotions: ‘It’s nothing I have to change’

03.07.16 at 5:34 pm ET
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Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) is trying to play under control. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) is trying to play under control. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM – Marcus Smart is trying to let his mind catch up to his body. 

The second-year guard out of Oklahoma State said Monday after practice that he is feeling “good, probably the best I’ve felt in my two years here.” 

Problem is, his emotions have been running hot and cold and he, more than anyone, knows he’s going to have to learn to keep them in check down the stretch. 

On Monday, he was fined $15,000 by the league for his crotch grab in the third quarter of the win over the Knicks, resulting in a technical foul. The next night, with his team battling to stay in the game in Cleveland, he picked up a technical foul that help spur the Cavs on a late run that ended in a 120-103 loss. 

Monday after practice the player who had red flags at Oklahoma State because of his emotions, was asked how hard it is for him to keep his emotions in check. 

“I mean, everybody that plays this game is going to feel that way. That’s why it takes five guys out there,” Smart said. “Isaiah [Thomas] was just talking to me [during the game in Cleveland], and we just had a discussion. He was telling me what I already know and what everybody knows with the technical, you know, we didn’t need it at the time. We were just talking how we can come back and capitalize on the next play.

“I don’t think it’s nothing I have to change,” Smart said. “Everybody’s going to make mistakes, just not as a player but as officials, too. They’re humans just like us. So it’s nothing personal between the players or the refs to us or vice versa. It’s just everybody gets caught up in the moment of the game and stuff like that’s going to happen.”

Brad Stevens knows what he has in Smart, a fiery, intense player with tons of energy on defense. But he knows he there’s a fine line between energy and being out of control, both physically and emotionally on the court. 

“I think there is a fine line, for sure. But I think you’d rather a guy be more competitive than not,” Stevens said. “And Marcus is really a great competitor. He’s get frustrated, but he’s a young player and those are things that he can continue to learn. And, again, I don’t think you can just flip the switch on a person that’s not as competitive. When you bring that energy and competitive type of play, you’re going to have some moments where you’ve gotta reflect back and improve from it.”

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Brad Stevens: Coty Clarke ‘rewarded for his great play’ in signing 10-day contract

03.07.16 at 5:12 pm ET
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Coty Clarke meets with reporters Monday after signing a 10-day contract. (Mike Petraglia/

Coty Clarke meets with reporters Monday after signing a 10-day contract. (Mike Petraglia/

WALTHAM – Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge hope that Coty Clarke is proof to other players on their D-League roster that the organization is keeping a close eye on them. 

Clarke, undrafted in 2014 out of Arkansas, was signed to a 10-day contract on Monday and joined the Celtics in time for their light practice at the team’s practice facility in Waltham. 

In 39 games for the Maine Red Claws, Clarke, a 6-foot-7 forward, averaged 16.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals in 26 minutes per game. Clarke is currently shooting 50.8 percent from the floor, 38.8 percent from three and 79.2 percent from the free-throw line.

“First and foremost, as I told our team today, he was by no means given a 10-day. He was rewarded (for) his great play,” Stevens declared after Monday’s workout. “He really has played great. Our front office has been thrilled about him and thrilled about his play in Maine the whole year.

“We obviously have a familiarity with him from being here in the fall, and so we thought it was a great opportunity to bring a guy on board while we have some practice time to really get a chance to evaluate him within our system, with our team, as the season has progressed. He’s kind of an undersized shooting forward and so we’ll see how it all goes from there. But he’s had a really nice year.”

The year abroad in a second-tier league in Israel paid off for Clarke, who worked on his rebounding and defense to earn a chance in the states and catch the eyes of the Celtics last summer. 

“I’ve actually played with Coty in summer league and everything, so I’ve been around Coty. What I’ve seen in him is just his aggressiveness and his ability to come in and do things right,” Marcus Smart said. “He’s very versatile, too, so that’s another uniqueness that Coty has. He’s been playing very well and he’s earned a spot up here.”

For Clarke, Monday was a re-introduction to many of the same players – like Smart – he met during training camp and the preseason. 

“It was pretty good, I’m getting acclimated. I’m here to work, and bring what I can bring,” Clarke said. “

What is he hoping to prove in the next ten days?

“That [the Celtics] made the right decision, by bringing me into training camp, putting me down the D-League and showing that I can play at this level,” Clarke said. “Just showing that, ‘Hey I’m here, I’m ready to work and you got a guy that you should keep.”

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