|11.13.13 at 2:30 pm ET|
Larry Bird is quick to remind you he is only human. Incapable of any superpowers or magic, he promises, French Lick’s Larry Joe Bird’s talent is simply the product of a man who worked incredibly hard to become one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
“I was always told I wasn’t big enough or strong enough to compete against the best,” Bird said. “I heard it in high school, I heard it in college and I heard it in the pros, so I’d keep working harder. That’s what pays off. I guess things worked out pretty well.”
This past weekend, Indiana State University recognized Bird’s contributions to the game of basketball by unveiling his 15-foot bronze statue on campus outside ISU’s Hulman Center. While the day was tremendous for the Sycamores, the city of Terre Haute, and the basketball-crazed state of Indiana, Bird admitted that a big piece of his heart still belongs to Boston.
“Boston has the best sports fans I’ve ever seen,” Bird said. “They live it and breathe it. I was so honored to be able to put on a jersey and play at a place where they cared. One of the best lines I ever heard, I think it was in ’86 against Houston, and we were going into Game 6 [of the NBA Finals]. The crowd was absolutely going berserk, and this was an hour before the game. Some of the guys were still shooting before they came back into the locker room. One of them said, ‘I’m telling you, them fans want blood out there and they don’t care whose it is. We lose, and it’s our blood!’ And man, was he right, the place was rocking that night.”
Before the statue unveiling on Saturday morning, Indiana State first honored Bird with a “Larry Legend” scholarship dinner on Friday night. Hosted by Jackie MacMullan, the program was broken into four quarters focused on Bird’s career in high school, college and the NBA, and his time as a coach and an executive as team president of the currently undefeated Pacers.
Bird’s statue was unveiled a week after the city of Boston recognized Bill Russell with his own monument. As the two most famous Celtics of all time, Bird feels a connection to Russell, but he was quick to point out that, while both men wore the Celtics jersey for 13 seasons in their careers, only one earned 11 championship rings.
“If anybody deserves a statue, it’s Bill Russell,” Bird said. “We all looked up to him. He set the bar so high for all of us. He’s had such a great career and a lot of success. I’m really happy for Bill, not only for his statue, but for Bill the man. He’s a great man.”
The ceremony started with a look back at Bird’s roots with the game of basketball, a connection that now is more deeply intertwined than ever. Bird’s coach at Springs Valley High School, Jim Jones, served as a mentor, and Bird noted that lessons his coach taught him in 1970 still hold true today.
“Coach Jones spent a lot time with us as young kids and showed us how to play the game the right way,” Bird said. “He was telling us, no matter how long you stay out here or how many jump shots you shoot, there’s always somebody out there doing a little bit more. That guy in my life was Magic Johnson. Maybe that’s why he got the ring from the NCAA tournament back in 1979.”
|11.13.13 at 12:07 pm ET|
When word got out that Danny Ainge attended Tuesday night’s Champions Classic in Chicago — an event that featured the likely top three players in the 2014 NBA draft and four of college basketball’s best five teams — the Celtics president’s presence brought out the Riggin’ for Wiggins folks in full force.
While Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle didn’t disappoint, combining for 76 points (65 TS%) and 30 rebounds, the reality is those two games (Kansas 94, Duke 83; Michigan State 78, Kentucky 74) featured as many as 18 picks in June’s draft. Ainge would be a fool not to show up. Here are the stat lines he saw from those 18 players in order of performance — complete with each prospect’s mixtape and a link to his DraftExpress profile.
18. Tarik Black SR PF Kansas (6 MIN): 0 PTS, 1 REB, 3 PF
|11.11.13 at 9:52 pm ET|
Seven Celtics scored in double figures as they shot 60 percent as a team and stopped the Magic, 120-105.
Avery Bradley led the way with 24 points; Jeff Green, Jordan Crawford and Kelly Olynyk each netted 16; Courtney Lee dropped 12 and Brandon Bass contributed 10 in a balanced effort that improved the C’s record to .500 (4-4) for the first time in the Brad Stevens era.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Steez knees: Believe it or not, Crawford actually looked like a point guard. Submitting by far his best half of basketball in a Celtics uniform, he reached triple-double watch by halftime: 12 points (5-7 FG), six assists and four rebounds. More importantly, he entered the break with zero turnovers in 17 first-half minutes and owned the C’s best plus/minus number (+13) in staking them to a 59-50 advantage.
On the range: Bradley’s jumper from 15-19 feet has steadily improved since his rookie season, rising from to 26 percent in 2010-11 to 41 percent in his sophomore season and 44 percent last year. After knocking down his first three attempts from that range against the Magic — and finishing 7-of-9 on long 2′s — he’s started 13-of-24 (54 percent) from that range this season. Avery Bradley is officially a shooting guard.
Kelly O’Sully: By replacing Vitor Faverani in the starting lineup, Brad Stevens broke up the unselfishly entertaining Olynyk-Sullinger frontcourt combination that had helped produce 105.1 points per 100 possessions through the first seven games. And the two talented young bigs responded by providing consistent production throughout a thorough dismantling of the Magic, totaling 30 points on remarkable 14-of-18 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds, eight assists, three blocks and three steals as Jelly Sullynyk.
|11.11.13 at 1:48 pm ET|
It was quite a week for Brad Stevens. Seven days ago, his Celtics dropped to 0-4 and rose to the top of ESPN’s Tank Rank. Now, his C’s are riding a three-game win streak punctuated by a pair of plays in the span of 3.6 seconds against the two-time defending NBA champions that emphatically announced the coach’s arrival.
In the final moments of Saturday’s Heat upset, Stevens concocted a pair of post-timeout plays that offered the first NBA glimpse of the brilliance that everyone who knew him at Butler has raved about for the past four months.
The first: Since Shane Battier had previously fronted Gerald Wallace in the post, Stevens called for Jeff Green to lob an entry pass to Wallace under the basket for a layup that cut a four-point deficit in half with one second left.
And second: Weighing the risk of throwing crosscourt against the reward of potentially freeing up a shooter where LeBron James might sag defensively, Stevens called for Wallace to return the favor, lobbing an entry pass to Green in the far corner for a 3-pointer that beat the buzzer. Both seemingly made more brilliant by the fact Dwyane Wade made the youth basketball mistake of missing the rim entirely on a free throw attempt between them.
During his tenure in Boston, Doc Rivers was rightfully praised for his post-timeout play calls, but he also had Paul Pierce to help him look good despite so often calling the same isolation elbow jumper. Stevens doesn’t have that luxury and requires a bit more creativity in engineering scoring opportunities for a team without a playmaker.
In the aftermath of the two most remarkable play calls during Stevens’ brief NBA coaching career, now seems as good a time as any to examine the Celtics coach’s success in post-timeout situations.
|11.09.13 at 10:15 pm ET|
Exceeding expectations are one thing, but this was ridiculous.
Down by two points with :00.6 left, Jeff Green gathered in an inbound pass from Gerald Wallace and proceeded to sink a three-pointer from the corner as the buzzer sounded. The result was a 111-110 victory for the Celtics over the world champion Heat in Miami
“Gerald made a great pass. Kelly [Olynyk] made a great screen. It went in,” Green told Comcast immediately after the win.
It looked as all things were lost in the final few moments.
Avery Bradley cut the Heat lead to two with :38.4 left after knocking down a jumper. Then, after a Chris Bosh miss, the C’s got their opportunity to tie or go ahead, regaining possession with 19 seconds remaining. But Kelly Olynyk’s jumper with seven seconds to go went in and out.
Wallace converted a lay-up with just more than a second left, allowing the Celtics’ to foul Dwyane Wade. The Heat guard went on to miss both free throws, committing a violation on the second shot (not hitting the rim), setting the scene for the C’s dramatics.
It was the Celtics’ third win in a row.
Green finished with 25 points on 8-for-16 shooting from the floor, while Bradley chipped in with 17.
LeBron James scored 20 or more points for the 32nd straight game against the Celtics, finishing with 25. As a team, the Heat shot 57 percent from the floor.
The 35 second-quarter points by the C’s were the most scored by Brad Stevens’ team in a quarter this season. It also marked the fifth straight time both teams have put up at least 100 points when facing off in Miami.
|11.08.13 at 9:38 pm ET|
The Celtics claimed their ninth straight win over the Magic, this time beating Orlando, 91-89, Friday night.
Leading the way against the Magic — who had won three in a row — was another strong performance from Brandon Bass, who finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.
The Celtics, who improve to 2-4, also go double-digit outputs from Avery Bradley (14 points), Jordan Crawford (13), Courtney Lee (13), Jared Sullinger (11) and Jeff Green (10).
The Magic closed the gap to two points with 1:38 left in the game after a four-point play from Aaron Afflalo. Celtics rookie Kelly Olynyk came back to knock down a jumper with 1:13 left to make it a two-possession game heading into the final minute.
Afflalo, however, struck again converting a three-point play with 26 seconds left, cutting the Celtics’ lead to one. Bass built the Celtics’ lead back up to three by knocking down two free throws with :10.5 remaining.
Afflalo struck one more time, converting a jumper just on the three-point line with :04.6 on the clock, bringing Orlando within a point.
The C’s, who came with the third-most turnovers in the NBA, limited their miscues to 11, while Orlando turned the ball over 20 times.
|11.08.13 at 12:59 pm ET|
The Kris Humphries Minutes Watch is one of the more interesting subplots of this Celtics season.
By sticking him on the end of the bench early this season, the C’s benefit twofold, accelerating the development of rookies Kelly Olynyk and Vitor Faverani while improving the team’s lottery chances.
On the flip side, the Celtics might also benefit from increasing Humphries’ playing time. He’s a 10-year NBA veteran who’s averaged a double-double per 36 minutes over his career, so there’s little doubt he gives Brad Stevens a better chance to stay afloat until Rajon Rondo returns than Faverani. Meanwhile, showcasing him might actually increase his expiring contract’s trade value in the coming months.
In other words, the Kris Humphries Minutes Watch might just be the best tanking barometer we have. And, unlike at least one of his Celtics teammates, Humphries doesn’t seem all that bothered by either situation.
“I don’t look at it like that,” he told the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett. “I look at it like I’ve got to prepare myself to help my team whatever way I can. I can’t read into all that stuff. If you’re a professional, you’ve got to do your job. That’s preparing yourself to play, whether you’re playing or not playing. We’re all trying to do that.”
The fact his name was on the tip of just about everybody’s tongue when the Knicks lost Tyson Chandler for 4-6 weeks is a good sign for his trade market. Considering each team’s financial situation, such a deal seems far from likely, since the Celtics would almost certainly have to absorb the $23.3 million left on Andrea Bargnani‘s contract through 2015 in return. Still, any number of contending teams might need frontcourt help by February.
It’s a good thing Humphries has enough Patron, wine and craft beer to get him through the season (see video).