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LeBron James delivers throwback Game 3 performance, choking on the court and melting down afterwards 05.22.17 at 10:40 am ET
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LeBron James was held scoreless in the final 16:31 of Game 3 Sunday. (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

LeBron James was held scoreless in the final 16:31 of Game 3 Sunday. (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals was a throwback performance for LeBron James. Earlier in his career, James was dogged with accusations of playoff choke jobs and off-court petulance. He’s shed those labels in recent years, winning three world championships while serving as one of the league’s great ambassadors. 

But on Sunday night, the best player in the game reverted to his old habits. 

Following an abysmal 11-point performance, his lowest postseason output since Game 5 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals against the Pacers, James blasted a reporter afterwards who had the audacity to ask him what happened. Kenny Roda of WHBC in Canton, Ohio wanted to know why James could never get into a rhythm. In response, The King put him down.  

“I was just pretty poor. What do you want me to say?” he said. “It seems you like you only ask questions when we lose, huh? It’s this weird thing with you, Kenny. You always come around when we lose. That’s fine. Yeah, OK.”

Roda defended himself on Twitter, saying he “asks questions win or lose.” 

Prior to his podium sniping, James got into it with a heckler in the stands. The fan was reportedly removed from the arena while shouting his college stats

Following a tough playoff loss, there are probably few things more irritating to deal with than jeers from unruly fans and negative questions from radio reporters. But that’s part of the expectation when it comes to playing in the NBA. At this stage in his decorated career, James should be above picking fights with them. 

Six months ago, James was campaigning in Ohio with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, encouraging people to vote in the crucial swing state. But on Sunday, he acted like he did six years ago, when he played a leading role in the infamous “Decision” special

It shows that even an all-time great can have a bad day. 

Read More: LeBron James,
LeBron James praises Celtics fans: ‘They’re born with pump’ 05.17.17 at 4:58 pm ET
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LeBron James has nothing but love for Celtics fans. (Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports)

LeBron James has nothing but love for Celtics fans. (Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports)

Cavaliers star LeBron James appears to have a lot of respect for Celtics fans. 

When asked to predict the atmosphere inside T.D. Garden when Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals begins Wednesday, James said he thinks it will be raucous –– like it always is. 

“I don’t think Boston fans need any more pumping up,” James said, via ESPN. “They’re born with ‘pump,’ if that makes any sense.”

This will be the sixth time James takes on the Celtics in a playoff series. The last postseason contest he played at T.D. Garden was Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, when he put up 45 points to lead the Heat to a blowout victory. In the waning moments of the fourth quarter, Celtics fans were heard cheering their team on

There have been a couple of memorable interactions between James and the Garden faithful in recent years. In 2015, he gave his sneakers to a special needs high school student after the fan was honored at halftime. 

Never afraid to talk about social issues, James also spoke kindly of Boston in the aftermath of the Adam Jones incident earlier this month. He said he’s never heard a racist taunt when playing in the city.  

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James,
Four years later, Celtics reaping biggest benefits of Danny Ainge’s brilliant Garnett-Pierce coup 05.17.17 at 10:16 am ET
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Danny Ainge remade the Celtics in the 2013 offseason.  (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Danny Ainge remade the Celtics in the 2013 offseason. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

It all seems silly now, but four years ago, it appeared as if Danny Ainge had repeated Red Auerbach’s mistake and held onto his aging nucleus for too long. A lethargic-looking team was bested by the lowly Knicks in the first round of the playoffs, with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett laboring up the court in all six excruciating games. 

The Celtics passed the mantle to the Heat the previous season, when Miami ousted them in a thrilling seven-game Eastern Conference Final. Faced with a 3-2 series deficit, LeBron James scored 45 points in Game 6 at T.D. Garden, asserting himself as the dominant force in the conference for years to come. 

But yet, Ainge elected to keep Pierce and Garnett around for one more run. Then Rajon Rondo tore his ACL in January, missing the remainder of the season and destroying the Celtics’ hopes at playoff advancement. 

That offseason, it seemed like it would be a tall task for Ainge to acquire value for his two old and depleted Hall of Famers. But then a Russian oligarch intervened. Desperate to win, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov surrendered four first-round picks and a boatload of other assets, including a trade exception, for Garnett and Pierce’s services. It may go down as the most lopsided deal in NBA history. 

The Celtics reaped the fruit of the Nets’ haste Monday night, when they won the draft lottery secured the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft for the first time in franchise history. There’s a star-studded crop of prospects on the board this year, including guards Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball. While James Young (No. 17 in 2014) is a project and Jaylen Brown (No. 3 in 2016) is a solid rotation player, the Celtics have a chance to bring in a bonafide star. They also own Brooklyn’s first-round pick in 2018. 

What makes this situation so unique, of course, is the fact that the Celtics are in the Eastern Conference Finals. Assuming they keep the selection, they’ll be adding the No. 1 overall pick to a team that’s on the edge of championship contention. 

And the man who’s most responsible for that, Isaiah Thomas, can be tied back to the Garnett-Pierce blockbuster as well. 

The Celtics acquired Thomas from the Suns at the deadline in 2015 for the Cavaliers’ 2016 first-round selection and guard Marcus Thornton. The C’s scooped up that pick and Thornton along with starting center Tyler Zeller two summers ago in a three-team trade with the Cavaliers and Nets. They were able to facilitate the deal by using their aforementioned $10.4 million trade exception. (In the NBA, a trade is only OK’d if the salaries going both ways match up.)

So even before Fultz or Ball even come to Boston, the Celtics can already thank the Nets for helping them acquire a potential franchise cornerstone. And another one may be on the way in 2018. 

It’s the gift that keeps on giving. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Isaiah Thomas, Kevin Garnett
Celtics-Wizards Game 7 draws record TV rating in Boston 05.16.17 at 1:12 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 29 points Monday. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 29 points Monday. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

It looks like Boston is buying into the Celtics. 

According to Turner Sports, Game 7 between the Celtics and Wizards was the highest-rated TNT game ever in Boston, drawing a massive 18.1 number. The contest drew a 5.4 overnight rating for the network, the best for a non-conference finals game since 2012. 

The extraordinary viewership for Monday’s contest is a testament to the drama of the series and the apparent affinity Celtics fans feel for their team. There was a lot of animosity between Boston and Washington, which climaxed when members of the Celtics wore black prior to their Game 6 showdown in Washington –– copying a gimmick the Wizards used in the regular season. Game 7 came down to the wire, too, with the Celtics pulling away after massive fourth quarters from Isaiah Thomas and Kelly Olynyk. 

Though it’s unlikely the Celtics will push the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, they’ve now won two playoff series for the first time since 2012. With the draft lottery Tuesday, this has a chance to be a banner week for the franchise. People are paying attention. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards,
Anna Horford sounds off on Boston media: ‘I don’t know if they’re even watching’ 05.15.17 at 4:17 pm ET
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The Celtics are taking on the Wizards in Game 7 Monday.  (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Anna Horford is perhaps the Celtics’ most passionate fan. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Those who cross the Celtics can expect to face Anna Horford’s wrath. 

Al Horford’s sister seldom shies away from sharing her opinion, most recently ripping Warriors forward Draymond Green for calling Kelly Olynyk a dirty player. Her Twitter feed will likely be active during the Celtics’ Game 7 showdown against the Wizards Monday, serving as a stream of consciousness as she watches the game unfold. 

Though Horford isn’t afraid to lambast other players in the league, she saves some of her sharpest commentary for members of the Boston sports media, going after personalities who criticize her brother and his team. 

In a phone conversation with, Horford explained her critiques of the Boston sports media scene. She also offered some insight into the apparent animosity between the Celtics and Wizards. 

Alex Reimer: Why do you think there’s so much animosity between the Celtics and Wizards?

Anna Horford: “The Cavs have been king in the East and [the Celtics and Wizards] are fighting each other for who’s next in line. I think that’s where a lot of the animosity and competitiveness stems from. We’re just trying to battle it out and see who’s the better team. I think it’s Boston, obviously, but I think that’s where that comes from –– just trying to figure out who’s better.”

AR: What is the biggest thing a lot of talking heads miss when analyzing the Celtics?

AH: “I can just tell a lot of the media has been very clickbait, attention-grabbing. They just want the hot takes. I’m not sure if the hosts actually watch the games, or if they go purely based on the box score.

“As far as this series goes, I don’t know if they’re even watching. But if they are, they’re clearly not seeing the little things that are happening that are magical. We had a great Game 5 at home and we just played so well –– our offense flowed so well. We looked like a really well put together team and I think it’s the little things people miss when they’re just paying attention to points and rebounds. And then as well as looking at just the positives. So for example, comparing this season to previous seasons and postseasons, this team has had a tremendous amount of growth. A lot of our individual players have also had a lot of growth. I think that’s really impressive. So if you’re paying attention, you know that we’re on the right track and we’re only going to get better from here.”

AR: How does the media coverage in Boston compare to Atlanta?

AH: “In Atlanta, they were a little more laid back. The media that I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with, they all seemed very informed. They were all very kind, they all really like Al. I think that’s the difference. Atlanta knew Al, knew his character and knew his style of play. In Boston, you almost have to come in and kind of prove yourself to fans and radio hosts and the media. I think they’ve been a little harder on him, just because they don’t know him on a certain level. They will, eventually, but I think that’s a big difference.”

AR: It must be bizarre to hear strangers talk about your brother.

AH: “It’s definitely interesting. I don’t think any of these people would say these negative things to his face, or if they say bad things about Isaiah [Thomas], they’d never say that to his face. So it’s interesting how below [the belt] people are at certain times if they’re not face-to-face with the person they’re talking about, or even taken the time to get to know them.”

AR: Has Al talked to you about your tweeting?

AH: “He knows the kind of person I am. I’m very fierce when it comes to my family and my friends. We’ve talked about it –– we laugh about it. But at the same time, he’s not paying attention to social media anyway or anyone’s opinion. He just kind of goes out there and does the best he can. He just kind of goes based on how he’s feeling personally based on how other people feel about him.”

AR: Do you tweet as a stream of consciousness, or just blurt things out?

AH: “My most popular tweets are the ones that I just blurt out. Sometime I do that without thinking, sometimes I do think to myself that I could’ve worded it a little bit better, or maybe not used as many F-bombs. But that’s how I’m feeling in the moment, and I think people appreciate that sincerity and that truth.” 

Some answers have been edited for brevity.

Read More: Al Horford, Anna Horford, Boston Celtics,
Isaiah Thomas leaned on Kobe Bryant for advice after sister’s death 05.10.17 at 8:08 am ET
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Isaiah Thomas often calls Kobe Bryant for advice. (Peter Llewelly/-USA TODAY Sports)

Isaiah Thomas often calls Kobe Bryant for advice. (Peter Llewelly/-USA TODAY Sports)

While Kobe Bryant may be retired, he continues to watch film on a daily basis and chat with a number of NBA stars. One of his disciples this season has been Isaiah Thomas, who leaned on the Lakers great for advice in the aftermath of his sister’s passing. 

In a feature story on ESPN, Jackie MacMullan chronicles the budding relationship between Thomas and Bryant. Though they didn’t know each other well until Dec. 30, 2015 –– when Thomas had a long conversation with Bryant during his final game as a Laker in Boston –– they communicate on a regular basis. When Bryant heard Thomas’ sister, Chyna, died in a car accident before Game 1 of the Celtics’ series against the Bulls, he reached out to express his condolences. 

Thomas responded by asking the five-time champion whether he should take the court.

“I told him, ‘Listen, I don’t know whether you should decide to play or not play. Obviously none of us can begin to fathom what you are going through right now,'” Bryant said. “But then I told him, ‘The one bit of advice I would give you is, if you are going to play, then you gotta play. Maybe you can find some peace in moments out there.'”

Thomas heeded Bryant’s advice, scoring 33 points in Game 1 of the series. Nearly two weeks later, just one day after delivering a eulogy at his sister’s funeral, Thomas notched 33 points in Boston’s Game 1 victory over the Wizards in their semi-finals matchup. 

Thomas also called Bryant when the Celtics fell down 2-0 to the eighth-seed Bulls. Bryant says he went over a “conceptional lesson” of how to watch film with the point guard. Boston won six consecutive contests –– four against the Bulls, two against the Wizards –– after that. 

“I was happy to help him. He had the courage to ask. I did the same thing with Michael Jorsan when I was a young player,” Bryant said.

During his playing career, Bryant tormented the Celtics on the court. But now, in his post-playing days, he might be one of the reasons for their success. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Kobe Bryant,
Isaiah Thomas lambasts Draymond Green for calling Kelly Olynyk ‘dirty’ 05.09.17 at 5:10 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas says Kelly Olynyk isn't dirty. (Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports)

Isaiah Thomas says Kelly Olynyk isn’t dirty. (Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports)

Al Horford’s sister isn’t the only member of the Celtics family who’s taking Warriors forward Draymond Green to task for calling Kelly Olynyk a dirty player.

On an episode of the “Uninterrupted” podcast, Green called out Olynyk when discussing his skirmish in Game 3 with Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. “He’s dirty. Dirty player,” Green said. “Man, I don’t respect guys like that. I know he’s not like the greatest basketball player of all-time so maybe he feel like he’s gotta do like that. Just dirty. I don’t respect that, man. He’s dirty.”

It’s beyond ironic for Green to make that comment, considering he kicked both Thunder center Steven Adams and LeBron James in the testicles last postseason. Isaiah Thomas seemed to recognize that when he spoke to reporters Tuesday. 

“I don’t know how he can call anybody dirty,” Thomas said, via ESPN. “It’s a joke that [Green] said that. The playoffs, everything somebody says is blown out of proportion. Everything somebody does is blown out of proportion as well. We can’t worry about what others are saying or doing.”

Olynyk also came under fire in 2015, when Cavaliers forward Kevin Love separated his shoulder while the two players were chasing down a rebound. Olynyk held Love’s arm in order to keep him back. 

When asked about Olynyk’s apparent reputation, Thomas downplayed the question. 

“No, he’s nowhere near dirty. A couple of occasions, wrong time, wrong place. Things happen in basketball, especially physical playoff basketball. He’s definitely not dirty.”

Read More: Draymond Green, Isaiah Thomas, Kelly Olynyk,
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