|04.17.09 at 10:13 am ET|
Here’s the quote from Miller:
“Boston is a team that people have in the conference finals. It’s probably easier to go through Orlando than to try and match up with Boston, with Boston coming in with a lot of energy and trying to get through the first round as fast as they can.”
“I agree with ‘Dre. Orlando’s a great team, but we definitely want to play them. Boston is fresh off a championship. That’s the worst thing you can do is go play a team that just won a championship. They’re going to want to get back and be hungry.”
It’s surprising to see such candor, especially from a team that will be a decided underdog against the Magic, but if there’s a lesson to be had there it’s that the rest of the NBA still has great respect for the Celtics.
|04.16.09 at 6:23 pm ET|
Austin Ainge, the son of Boston Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge, has confirmed to WEEI.com’s Jeff Goodman that his father did suffer a heart attack early Thursday morning and was taken to the hospital. Austin Ainge says that his father is expected to be released from the hospital in the next couple of days. WCVB was the first to report this story, stating Ainge woke up Thursday morning with chest pains and taken to a hospital, where it was discovered that he had an artery which was 100 percent clogged, forcing a stent to be inserted. Ainge was originally scheduled to appear on WEEI’s The Big Show Thursday afternoon, but was not available due to sickness.
|04.16.09 at 4:37 pm ET|
But to quote the man himself, “Anything is Possible!!!”
Paul Pierce has been prepping himself for this possibility all along, or at least since Garnett went down for a second time in mid-March with the right knee injury.
“Last 10 to 12 games, if Kevin comes back or if he doesn’t, we have to be mentally prepared for it,” Pierce said. “That’s the way I approached these games coming down to (the end) of the season.”
As a matter of fact, the Celtics finished 16-7 this season in the 23 games without their emotional leader. They even won 10 of 11 without him after losing to Orlando to capture the No. 2 seed in the East.
“You feel bad for a guy who wants to be out there, wants to help his teammates in the playoffs. I know it’s hurting him more than it’s hurting us,” Pierce said.
Pierce believes the team, with shooters like himself, Ray Allen and Eddie House and inside players like Kendrick Perkins, Leon Powe and Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis are more than capable of picking up enough slack.
“Now the guys know he’s probably not going to play, we have to move forward with what we got,” Pierce said. “Guys have to be ready to step up. That’s about it. We’ve been playing without him for quite a while so we know we’re still a pretty good team and capable of winning a championship.”
As for those who doubt the Celtics have any chance at all of even reaching the NBA Finals to defend their title, Pierce hardly sounded like a man whose feelings have been hurt.
“There’s always going to be doubters,” Pierce said. “That’s something we don’t really worry about. We know what we have in this room and we know what we do when we play well and that’s all that really matters right now. It’s going to be an uphill battle of course not having Kevin but that’s how we like it.”
|04.16.09 at 3:20 pm ET|
But let’s take a deep breath and try to figure out what not having Kevin Garnett means for the Celtics. With him (as ESPN’s John Hollinger points out), the Celtics were 44-11 and a +9.5 in scoring differential, making them one of the best teams in the league. Without him, they are 21-9 and +4.0, making them one of the better teams in the league, but not one of the elite.
Without Garnett, the Celtics have been getting by with a combination of Big Baby Davis and Mikki Moore. While Baby and Moore are decent jump-shooting big men, what was missing was a low-post presence on offense.
Enter Leon Powe, whose per-minute averages in scoring and rebounding are about equal to Garnett’s contributions. Powe’s concern, like that of Moore and Kendrick Perkins, is staying out of foul trouble and on the floor to make those numbers translate into per game averages.
What’s really missing, though, is the captain of the defense and there’s simply no way for the current Celtics to make up for Garnett on that end of the floor.
Before Doc Rivers declared KG essentially out for the playoffs, conventional wisdom had the Celtics reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. Without KG, but with homecourt in the first two rounds, the Celtics are still in decent position to reach that plateau, and a whole lot of things can happen between now and then.
There’s no question the Celtics chances of repeating took a significant hit, but over? Nothing is over until… well, you know.
|04.16.09 at 2:46 pm ET|
WALTHAM – After dealing with the stunning news delivered by their head coach that Kevin Garnett has probably played his final game this season, Celtics players are making one final demand of their best defensive player and emotional leader.
“That’s where I need him to be I need him to be on the bench because if he can’t be on the floor, he can be valuable to us on the bench,” Ray Allen said. “In a lot of instances it’s like he is on the floor. I will push as hard as I possibly can because his voice over there on the bench will be just like he is in the game.”
And just before Thursday’s practice, head coach Doc Rivers assured Allen and the rest of the Celtics that Garnett will indeed be there starting Saturday afternoon at 12:30 when they open a first-round series with Chicago.
“Yeah, he will be, he will be,” Rivers said. “That’s the one thing I told him. During the playoffs, we need everybody in there, out on the floor, in the locker room and on the bench. We just hope he doesn’t get a technical.”
Garnett has often said that he’s afraid how he’ll handle himself when he can only watch. But they are all asking KG to make an exception this time because of the lift it could give during the passion-driven playoffs.
The team’s captain also feels strongly about Garnett’s value to the bench.
“It’s very important because of the way guys look at Kevin,” said Paul Pierce. “He’s an unquestioned leader of this ball club and he can help us just by being on the bench, seeing some of the things he sees out there and giving his knowledge of the game, especially to the other big guys. So I think it’ll be huge.”
Whether it’s Allen or Pierce or even coach Doc Rivers, everyone around Garnett is well aware of his dislike for being on the bench during games.
And don’t think for a second that Allen doesn’t feel for his fallen teammate who will be reduced to cheerleader.
“I’m devastated for him,” Allen said. “This is the time of year we all wait for. The excitement is in the air. This is where players are made, teams are made and legacies are cemented and for him not to be a part of this, I hurt for him.”
|04.16.09 at 2:28 pm ET|
WALTHAM – While the news on Kevin Garnett was gloomy on Thursday afternoon, there was one ray of hope as Celtics coach Doc Rivers said there’s a 50-50 chance Brian Scalabrine could return by Game 3 of the series with Chicago.
“Scal is a positive sign,” Rivers said. “He gets to do 2-on-2 (drills) and things like that today. He’s definitely out for the first two games. There’s a 50 percent chance that he can play by Game 3 but that’s if everything goes perfect.”
Scalabrine suffered a pair of concussions days apart in late February and hasn’t played since while recovering from post-concussion syndrome. He missed the final 24 games of the regular season.
|04.16.09 at 1:50 pm ET|
WALTHAM – Furthering his comments made first to WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan this morning, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before his team’s practice today that Kevin Garnett is all but out for the playoffs.
“It’s not official if he’s out for the entire playoffs but it’s official as far as I’m concerned,” Rivers said. “He looked better last week than he did today. I was convinced there wasn’t going to be a minute limitation but there’s no way, just no way.”