|10.22.09 at 4:32 pm ET|
Isiah Thomas responded to criticism from his longtime friend Magic Johnson by lashing out at the Lakers legend in a story today on SportsIllustrated.com. Thomas, the former Pistons standout, most recently failed miserably as coach of the Knicks and is now coaching at Florida International University.
“I’m really hurt, and I really feel taken advantage of for all these years,” Thomas told SI.com. “I’m totally blindsided by this. Every time that I’ve seen Magic, he has been friendly with me. Whenever he came to a Knick game, he was standing in the tunnel [to the locker room] with me. He and [Knicks assistant coach] Herb [Williams] and I, we would go out to dinner in New York. I didn’t know he felt this way.”
Johnson and Larry Bird contributed to a book by Jackie MacMullan, “When The Game Was Ours,” which is due out Nov. 4. In the book, Johnson accuses Thomas of questioning his sexuality after Johnson was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1991. Johnson also confirms that Thomas was not well-liked by other NBA stars.
Thomas fired back at Johnson and defended himself in today’s story. He also accuses Johnson of duplicitous behavior in his friendship with Bird.
“Let’s be real. I’m not going to say the things Magic said in private about Larry, but I do know the public stance he’s taken [in becoming Bird’s friend],” Thomas told SI.com. “I know that’s not how he felt about Larry Bird. Magic hated Larry, and he tried to make other people hate Larry. Magic was no friend of Larry Bird’s during that time. And his Laker teammates will tell you that. And I’m sure they’ve got to be disgusted with the way he’s carried on with this whole me-and-Larry bull.”
|10.22.09 at 4:10 pm ET|
Despite playing better than expected this preseason, the Celtics are ‘unlikely’ to commit to a guaranteed contract to keep Michael Sweetney, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Sweetney averaged 3.6 points and 1.2 rebounds in five preseason games after being out of the NBA for two years. He shot 67% from the field and 86% from the line.
Sweetney has not been shy in expressing his enthusiasm to play for the Celtics. Prior to the first preseason home game he told WEEI.com, ‘Coming here is just a great moment. Coming in the building was like, wow. But coming into this locker room and the history and just being on this team is just amazing … I’ve never been on a team at the beginning of the season and everybody says, ‘We’re going to make the playoffs.’ But this team has won championships, so it’s a different feeling surrounding it.’
He also gelled quickly with the team’s chemistry, including some friendly trash talking with Rasheed Wallace over football.
UPDATE: The Celtics waived Sweetney on Thursday.
|10.22.09 at 9:44 am ET|
Hawks center Al Horford took to the Twitter to tell his followers that he was joking about making a wager with Paul Pierce for $10,000 during the 2008 playoffs and that he doesn’t bet on hoops, or any other sport for that matter.
Horford caused a mini controversy earlier in the week after an appearance on an Atlanta sports talk show with teammate Marvin Williams in which he said that Pierce bet him $10,000 that the Hawks wouldn’t win a game during their first round series with the Celtics.
On Wednesday, Horford posted two comments on Twitter:
“Some of my comments from the radio interview I did yesterday with 790 the zone were overblown. I was joking.”
“Paul Pierce and I did not make a bet during the playoffs in 2008. I do not bet on basketball or any other sports.”
|10.21.09 at 9:49 pm ET|
The first rule of preseason games in any sport is don’t read too much into preseason games. It is very unlikely, for example, that there will ever be a time in the regular season when J.R. Giddens is matched up one-on-one with LeBron James at the top of the key with no help coming.
That said, the Celtics final preseason game against the Cavaliers Wednesday night revealed one very valuable truth, which is that when it comes to Cleveland, the Celtics aren’t messing around. They sat Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Glen Davis and had Paul Pierce play just 13 minutes and yet they were still the aggressors from the opening tip in a 96-82 win at THE Ohio State University. (Click here for a recap).
Sure, there were some strange sights like Giddens covering LeBron and Lester Hudson stripping the ball from Shaquille O’Neal down on the block but you have to admire the intentisty with which the Celtics went after the Cavs on the road in the final exhibition game. There was even a fun little skirmish toward the end of the first half when Shelden Williams exchanged shoves with Daniel Gibson Mo Williams. (Note to the Celtics bench: Stay off the court during fights.)
The games between the Cavs and Celtics this season promise to be Events with klieg lights surrounding the building and national TV and media inside. To carry that kind of intensity and attention to detail into the final preseason game is a nice way to wrap it up.
But, let’s not read too much into it.
Other items of note for the Celtics:
The Marquis Daniels lovefest can not be stopped: The free agent swingman might be just a little sad to see the preseason end. You can make the argument that he was the Celtics most consistent player during the preseason and he capped it off with a phenomenal 17-point, five-assist performance in 30 minutes.
Daniels has been everything the Celtics could have hoped for (and he can rap too).
Lester Hudson continues to make a case: Let’s say this before going too far: It will be very difficult for Hudson to get playing time once the season starts. But if he continues to make the most of his chances he has a chance to carve out a niche on this team. Hudson scored eight points in 21 minutes, but most importantly he continued to play without fear or hesitancy.
The players and coaching staff like the 25-year-old rookie from Tennessee-Martin and he has allowed them to feel a little bit more secure about the lack of a “true” backup point guard.
Everyone will be very happy on Tuesday when the regular refs are back: The officials everyone know, and some hate, will undoubtedly make mistakes. They will undoubtedly make a call or two that will leave people scratching their heads or cursing a blue streak at their HD. But, there won’t be many calls that will be influenced by people yelling from the bench and there won’t be too many calls where everyone with a whistle looks at each other and tries to figure out what just happened.
Both those things happened last night and far too often during the preseason. Love them, hate them or tolerate them because they’re generally the best the game has to offer the NBA needs to have the best possible officials on the court and that is the best outcome of all of this preseason.
|10.21.09 at 10:11 am ET|
Several reports Tuesday indicated that the league and the referee’s union are closing in on a labor agreement that would return the regular refs to work and prevent the so so-called “replacement refs” (read: scabs) from working regular season games.
People are of two minds on this one. The casual NBA fan will shrug his or her shoulders and wonder why anyone would care about the refs since they’re all horrible anyway. The hardcore NBA fan, on the other hand, is smiling a little bit today because the thought of a 60-foul, 3+ hour game is no good for anyone.
Throughout the preseason it became rather obvious that the replacements weren’t up the speed of the NBA game, which led to a number of ticky tack calls after the original foul. Despite a directive from the league to not talk about the refs, complaints had begun to surface.
Charlotte coach Larry Brown was fined $60,000, while Memphis coach Lionel Hollins was fined $25K for saying the refs favored Magic center Dwight Howard. Not surprisingly, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy didn’t like the insinuation. Plus he had already been docked $35,000 for criticizing the refs in a separate incident. (Perhaps Hollins didn’t get the memo that the Magic don’t get any respect from the media, the league or the zebras).
The final straw may have been an exhibition game between the Knicks and Maccabi Tel Aviv, in which Maccabi coach Pini Gershon was ejected and refused to leave the court for an extended time. According to a report by Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Maccabi had paid $500,000 to play the game and was using the money from the game to benefit an Israeli orphanage.
International incidents aside, the return of the regular refs in time for the start of the regular season is good news for the league, the players and believe it or not, the fans as well.
|10.20.09 at 10:41 pm ET|
The Celtics and Knicks entered Tuesday’s game with the same goal: to win. But the two teams had different underlying objectives. For the Knicks, it was about getting a victory from their starting unit. For the Celtics, it was about developing the bench in what looks to be the Big Three’s final game of the preseason.
Despite losing, 108-103 (recap here), Doc Rivers told the media after the game there were plenty of things for him to be pleased with, including the development of the second unit. Below are numbers and notes from Tuesday’s game:
- Managing Minutes: None of the Celtics starters played over 30 minutes. In fact they only combined for 130 minutes, compared to the Knicks starters with 157. Final counts for the starting five: Rajon Rondo (27), Ray Allen (30), Kevin Garnett (24), Paul Pierce (26), Kendrick Perkins (23).
- More than the Second Unit: Rivers added Brian Scalabrine and J.R. Giddens to the mix with Eddie House, Marquis Daniels, and Rasheed Wallace in the fourth quarter. Scalabrine and Giddens came into the game down 98-90 and were part of an 11-1 Celtics run.
- Getting Chippy: Preseason action got heated in the second quarter as the Celtics and Knicks exchanged flagrant fouls in a matter of a minute. First House was whistled for a flagrant against Jared Jeffries, which sent Jeffries to the ground. (House did help him to his feet.) Nate Robinson followed up with a push that sent Rondo into the scorers table. Garnett was also called for a technical foul in the third quarter.
- Three’s Not Company: Last season the Celtics were hampered by the Magic’s long-range shooting during the Eastern Conference Semifinals. On Tuesday they faced the same challenge as the Knicks shot 13-for-36 (36.1%), compared to the Celtics 6-for-24 (25.0%). The Knicks’ missed their fair amount of three-pointers, but at the end of the game they still put 39 points on the board from behind the arc.
The Celtics will take on the Cavaliers on the road on Wednesday night. Don’t expect to see Pierce, Allen, or Garnett on the court for the final game of the preseason. Catch their regular season debuts in Cleveland next Tuesday.
|10.20.09 at 9:32 pm ET|
Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks had some interesting things to say about Celtics captain Paul Pierce Tuesday in a radio interview on Atlanta’s 790 The Zone. Recalling the teams’ intense, seven-game, first-round playoff series in 2008, Horford said Pierce was so confident that, during some trash-talking on the court, Pierce bet Horford $10,000 that the Celtics would sweep.
“I haven’t talked to him [since the series], but I know he owes me money,” Horford said. “Marvin [Williams] was a witness. We were at the free throw line and he was telling me that they were going to sweep us and all this and, you know, we bet and I never got anything.”
Williams also took part in Tuesday’s interview and backed up his teammate’s accusation.
“He bet ten thousand we wouldn’t win a game,” Williams stated.
Later in the interview, Horford and Williams claimed that they were not holding a grudge.
“I’m not mad at him at all,” Horford said. “You know, I mean, he’s a competitor like you said and, you know, he wants to win. He’s a good player, so, I mean, it’s fine for him to talk. He’s a vet.”
Said Williams: “You know, growing up, you know, Paul Pierce was one of the guys I looked up to. At the end of the day, he’s a competitor, man, he wants to win just like we want to win and it’s never personal.”
For more on the story at Hooponion.com, including the audio of the interview, click here.
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