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Rajon Rondo messes with reporters, admits time away from Celtics ‘was difficult’ 12.04.12 at 3:58 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Rajon Rondo said he really got away during his league-imposed two-game suspension for his role in the brawl last Wednesday with the Nets.

“I went to Mexico for a couple of days and watched the games,” said Rondo, who was immediately asked if he was being serious. “It was cool.”

Rondo, who practiced with the team on Monday and Tuesday, said he just wanted to give his body a chance to rest. Team officials had no knowledge of Rondo traveling outside the country, leading to the conclusion that Rondo was simply joking with reporters.

“Why not? Had days off, allow my body to get a chance to rest,” Rondo said, insisting again that he went south of the border. “I wanted to be out there with my teammates but obviously a two-game suspension, and I was glued in front of the TV.

“Hopefully, I don’t feel too winded [Wedensday]. I’ve been off for about a week. We’ll see [Wednesday].”

The Celtics return to action on Wednesday night at 7:30, when they host Kevin Love and the Timberwolves at TD Garden. The Celtics went 1-1 without Rondo, beating Portland Friday easily before blowing a 17-point lead Saturday and losing in Milwaukee.

“We moved the ball very well without me,” Rondo said. “Guys played great, guys stepped up. Courtney [Lee] played well. We got off to a great start in Milwaukee but our defense slipped in terms of our blitz pick-and-roll defense. Other than that, the guys did a great job.”

Rondo said there was no lesson learned from the suspension. Read the rest of this entry »

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Paul Pierce: ‘When we set the tone defensively, that’s the Celtics I know’ 12.01.12 at 5:19 pm ET
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Paul Pierce knows what the bread and butter is of a successful Celtics team.

It’s great defense that will lead the way out of the dark and uncertain times the team is experiencing right now.

When the team plays defense like it did Friday night, holding Portland to 23 percent shooting in the first half, easy offense will follow, and so will rhythm. That was particularly important with Rajon Rondo not available this weekend.

“It made things easier on our offense to come out and play the way we did and cause turnovers,” Pierce said of the Celtics D, which forced 22 turnovers on Friday. “Then we were able to get out in transition. Guys ran…got easy opportunities. When we come out and set the tone defensively like we did tonight, that’s the kind of team that we are and that’s the Celtics I know.”

Before Friday’s game, Doc Rivers said the combination of Courtney Lee and Jason Terry would have to pick up the ball-handling slack in the backcourt. But as it turned out, the offense wound up running through the bigs starting with Pierce – a style the Celtics have employed in the past when they haven’t had Rondo available.

“It’s a combination of guys, so Doc wanted us to be aggressive,” Pierce said. “He wanted us to move the ball and make the extra passes and I thought we did a good job of that most of the night. We could’ve toned down our turnovers, but I think we will be better tomorrow. It’s tough, we’re used to playing with Rondo and he makes a lot of our plays. We’ll get better and better.”

“Courtney he really ran the floor well. Defensively he did a good job on his man, He’s out there getting 4 or 5 assists tonight, he just shows you flashes of what he’s capable of. Jeff [Green] is running the break, getting easy opportunities for himself. He’s one of the fastest guys out there…when he’s able to use that length.”

As for the motivation of Rivers calling the Celtics “soft” after Wednesday’s loss, Pierce just shrugged his shoulders and generally discounted it.

“You know, I’m always a true believer that you just just be motivated to go out and play, regardless,” Pierce said. “As an NBA competitor, you shouldn’t need anybody else to go out and motivate you. Maybe some guys took it as motivation. I’m motivated for the opportunity to come out here night in and night out. Whatever is going to get guys going, hopefully they can build on on that, if that what it was, and continue to do it throughout the season.”

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Doc Rivers: ‘We’ve got a long way to go but we’re getting better’ 12.01.12 at 1:48 am ET
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Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said his team showed signs of getting back on the right track in a 96-78 win over the Trail Blazers Friday night at TD Garden. Rivers called his team soft after Wednesday night’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Rivers said his team is showing signs of doing what it takes to turn things around.

“It was good,” Rivers said. “Obviously it’s one game and it was great. Our defense was fantastic. We did a couple things different, trapping, it was great. And then the ball movement was terrific as well in the first half. I thought, second half was, you know how that goes with the score, but overall I just like our focus and how we approached the game.”

And the answer for no Rajon Rondo?

“We just basically played through the bigs,” Rivers said. “We took all the pressure off the guards; all they had to do is bring it up and then throw it to Kevin (Garnett) at the elbow or Jared (Sullinger) at the elbow and then cut and move. That way there’s no dribbling; it was easier for them that way. And that’s what I meant before the game when I said I told everybody he’s going to be the point guard. Basically what I was saying: our bigs were the point guards today.”

Having Jeff Green lead the team with 19 points off the bench didn’t hurt either.

“We’ve just got to keep doing it,” Rivers said. “One game, it was great. What we’re trying to get him to see is when he’s at the three he’s a power player; when he’s at the four he’s a speed player. And that’s how he has to look at himself. And our guys did a good job of getting him the ball as well.”

There was no need to call his team soft after Friday night’s game.

“Well, I didn’t do anything,” Rivers said. “I mean, we went pretty hard yesterday for short and we actually went hard today for the shoot-around. Because we’ve got to get our culture right in that way. And we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re getting better. You can see it, for sure.”

As for the defense, Rivers said they mixed things up slightly.

“We trapped pick-and-rolls, which we don’t do much anymore,” he said. “We’re bringing it back, because I think it’s coming back. So we did that and our guys stayed with it. Usually we show and get out. We just decided, you know, (Damian) Lillard is terrific but he’s a rookie and young, and probably hadn’t seen a lot of traps that stayed with the ball. And basically that’s what we did.”

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Courtney Lee: Doc Rivers ‘can continue to call us soft … if it wakes us up’ 12.01.12 at 1:29 am ET
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Courtney Lee

Jeff Green might have scored 19 points and Jason Terry might have had 17 in 31 minutes but it was Courtney Lee who was the key player in Boston’s 96-78 win over the Trail Blazers Friday night at TD Garden, as the Celtics played the first of two straight games without the suspended Rajon Rondo.

Lee said the team responded well to Doc Rivers calling them soft after a loss to the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night at home.

“He can continue to call us soft,” Lee said afterward. “If we’re going to respond like this and play, I guess we need to be told that for us to wake up.”

What really hit home with Lee was when Rivers rolled the film of Wednesday’s game, showing the team how many easy baskets they were giving up.

“We got called soft the other day and we didn’t like that,” Lee said. “When you watch the tape, you see those guys [Nets] coming down, running their offense, setting hard screens, getting layups and dunks and wide open shots. We took that personally.”

No shock that the turnaround began on the defensive end, where the Celtics held the Blazers to 23 percent shooting in the first half.

“Yeah, definitely after that loss last game, we wanted to come out and just focus on the defensive end make sure we got stops,” Lee said. “Make sure we didn’t give up any easy buckets and so I think we started off and threw the first punch.”

Rivers gave Lee credit for stepping up and showing his play-making ability in the absence of Rondo.

“Courtney was great,” Rivers said. “You could see Courtney is getting better and better at what we’re asking him to do. He’s bought in completely, which you can see that. His shots will fall. I feel like him, with Avery (Avery Bradley) last year, where I kept telling you guys ‘Avery can shoot’ and you guys were looking at me like I was a Martian. And then he started making them. And Courtney is proving he can. He’s getting wide open ones, and eventually they’ll fall.”

“I mean that’s what you gotta do,” Lee said of his ball-handling skills. “Rondo is a great playmaker, the guy’s gonna rack up a lot of assists, so we just have to play within the offense, move the ball around, and you see the assists were spread out throughout the whole team. Without him we had to move the ball a lot more.

“I mean it shows good character for our team. We got beat bad on our own court then we went to practice, had a real tough practice. Doc was on us the whole time so we wanted to come in and protect home court, because we cant keep letting teams come in and beat us on our home court. We wanted to bounce back and we did that today.”

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Doc Rivers really feels for Gregg Popovich and the $250,000 fine 11.30.12 at 7:06 pm ET
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Doc Rivers admitted before Friday’s game with the Blazers that he didn’t like the $250,000 fine handed down by NBA Commissioner David Stern Friday night against the Spurs for sitting four of their stars and sending them home for Thursday night’s game against the Heat in Miami.

Gregg Popovich, a close friend of Rivers, did not dress Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green for the game on national TV Thurday night, sending them home on a Southwest Airlines flight. Popovich said he did what he needed to in the best interest of his team, which was playing a brutal stretch of four road games in five nights and finishing up a road trip.

Stern said in a statement announcing the fine that the Spurs did a “disservice to the league and its fans.”

Rivers said he understood but sympathized more with Popovich.

“I don’t like it,” Rivers said. “I do get the other side of it, but it’s a tough one. You’ve got to coach your team to win in the long run.”

Rivers said Stern and the league made a big deal of it when it happened right away, when the league issued a statement Thursday night.

“I apologize to all NBA fans,” Stern said in his statement Thursday. “This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.”

Rivers thought that was a bad move.

“I think it was an action and a reaction personally, and I think the reaction was probably overdone [Thursday], and then all of a sudden you have to have an action,” Rivers said.

Rivers was asked if he’d consider a similar move to rest veterans like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

“We’ll do it when we want to do it and we should be able to do it,” Rivers said.

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Doc Rivers: ‘We’re in no rush’ to change the roster 11.29.12 at 10:24 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Yes, things are not great right now. Yes, there are big questions about the Celtics’ ability to rebound and handle themselves in the paint. And yes, they just got manhandled by the Nets on the parquet.

But Doc RIvers said Thursday that he and Celtics basketball operations chief Danny Ainge aren’t about to give up on this group quite yet, though if a player or two is out there that can help they’d consider everything and anything.

“If there somebody out there, we’re obviously going to bring them in,” Rivers said. “But we’re in no rush. We’re not going to overreact to the way we’re playing. We’re not playing well. Let’s not overreact to it by trading the team, or trading guys. Let’s see if we can get it right first.”

The name that comes to mind is 34-year-old free agent Kenyon Martin, the 6-foot-9 power forward who played most recently for the Clippers last spring, helping them make a run in the playoffs.

Still, Rivers believes what he has right now can work.

“I’ve seen it,” Rivers said. “I saw it in the Oklahoma game. It’s in us but what I don’t know about our team are we one of those teams that we can’t be consistent. If we are one of those teams, then we do have to make changes because we have to be consistent.”

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Doc Rivers: ‘I don’t know if I want to rally around my 6-foot guard’ 11.29.12 at 9:46 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Doc Rivers touched on it in the wake of Wednesday’s 95-83 loss to the Nets at TD Garden. He said the Nets and other teams in the NBA can see the Celtics are “soft.”

On Thursday, after practice, he expanded upon those thoughts and clarified himself.

“We don’t work on toughness, we work on smartness,” Rivers said. “We work on being prepared and playing with a force. Listen, the toughness stuff is so overblown. You can’t be tough anyway. I don’t know who is tough anymore. Having said that, we have to be better. I have to prepare them better. They have to come ready. They have to come with the right intentions, the right focus. So, there’s a lot of things we can improve to improve our team.

“It’s a long season to do it. But you can’t wait to do it. You have to do it now.”

“We’re getting mauled on the rebounds every night. So, if I’m another coach, I have to tell my team, ‘Guys, they’re not very physical. they’re not blocking out, they’re not putting bodies on anybody. You can attack this team.’ Until we stop the attack, they’re going to keep doing it.”

Rivers, who played for the Hawks, Knicks and Spurs, made it clear he doesn’t need or want Rajon Rondo to be an enforcer to show the Celtics are the right kind of tough.

“I don’t know if I want to rally around my 6-foot guard being the enforcer. That’s nice but at the end of the day, if that’s the threat you’re sending, the other team has to feel [good]. Listen, the message should’ve been sent by the scoreboard and the offensive rebounds and all the talking the other team was doing. That should’ve been the message. If that’s got to be the message, then we’ve got real problems.

“I was a leader on some teams, I wasn’t on other teams. I didn’t need anybody to tell me to do things right. At some point, you have to do it yourself.”

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