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Celtics notes: Doc Rivers announces, ‘If we can’t win with [KG] off the floor, we just won’t win’ 11.06.12 at 2:32 pm ET
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WALTHAM — It’s been a recurring theme of the first week of the season. The Celtics need more out of their bench — much more.

Doc Rivers underscored that after open practice for special guests and clients on Tuesday. Rivers has told his team he’s not going to lean on Kevin Garnett for more minutes when he’s already trying to conserve the big man for an 82-game season. Rivers hinted the same could be said for Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, though he feels he has some more wiggle room with them.

“No, no, I’m not going to let him do more. I’m going to play Kevin the same amount of minutes,” Rivers said. “With Paul, Rondo you can go anywhere but if we can’t win with him off the floor, we just won’t win. And I told our bench that. We’re going to play the minutes that I’m giving them. The bench will play the minutes they should get and if they’ve got to do something or we just won’t win. It’s that simple.”

Garnett is averaging a reasonable 29 minutes a game in the first three games. Pierce is at 35 minutes and Rondo is playing 41 minutes per contest. Rivers has not yet seen the consistent production he would like from Chris Wilcox, Brandon Bass and Jeff Green but he feels it will come.

“Not yet but when you take Kevin out, you’re not going to get Kevin,” Rivers added. “That’s why he’s on the bench. But I don’t think that’s been an issue. When he’s been off the floor, like last year, when he was off the floor, it had a dramatic [effect]. I don’t think that’s been the case so far this year at all. I think the guys that have come in have tried to do what they should do. I think the other guys with him have to do more.”

Tuesday’s practice featured detailed instruction from defensive guru Mike Longabardi, who was teaching trapping principles and defensive rules within the system, especially important to the newer players, like the three rookies and Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa.

“Today was just a practice,” Rivers said. “It’s easier here because it’s in your natural surroundings. It was a good practice.”

Rivers again preached patience when talking about the newer players picking up the defensive scheme.

“We’re getting it,” Rivers said. “It’s just going to take time. I thought we were a lot better today. We’re working a lot of principles and tendencies. Offensively, it’s just moving the ball. Defensively, just running the coverages and talking. It just takes time.

“There’s no date,” Rivers added when asked if there’s an expected time by which everyone should be on board. “Every group is different because if one guy doesn’t get it, it brings the whole team down. Every year, it’s a different group. There’s no expiration date on anybody. It’s just takes time.”

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Brandon Bass on his role: ‘You wake up and you don’t know what to expect’ 11.06.12 at 11:06 am ET
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WALTHAM — It wasn’t so much a complaint as it was a statement of fact.

Brandon Bass was asked after Monday’s practice how much of a challenge it will be for him to go from starting role to the bench and back.

“That’s life, man,” said Bass. “You wake up, you don’t know what to expect. Sometimes it’ll be like that. You’ve just got to make the best of it.”

Beginning with the game against the Cavaliers on Feb. 28, Bass started every game for the Celtics at power forward, including the last 34 in the regular season and all 20 in the postseason.

He started the first two games this season before being swapped out to the bench for rookie Jared Sullinger Saturday night in Washington.

It’s not like Bass didn’t see this coming as Rivers informed him that the Celtics would use at least three different starting lineups this season, based on matchups.

“You know what? We have so much going on,” Bass said. “If it’s going to be my role to come off the bench, then once when get the bench chemistry down, and put the ball in the right player’s hands, then I think it will benefit us as a unit and as a team.”

“It’s expected when you have a new group with a bunch of new guys.”

Bass also gave an indication of what Doc Rivers expects from him this season.

“For me to grow here, I have to be more active. We have a bunch of options. Doc said to me, it’s Rondo, Paul and Kevin and Jeff they’re going to go through so I have to be more active in everything on both ends of the ball.”

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Doc Rivers: Celtics are ‘probably behind’ where they need to be 11.05.12 at 5:43 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Doc Rivers can see what every Celtics fan sees. The team is 1-2 to start the season and not playing the basketball everyone envisioned when they brought back Kevin Garnett and added Jason Terry, Jeff Green, Leandro Barbosa and Jared Sullinger to a cast that lost to Miami in Game 7 of the Eastern finals last June.

“Probably behind,” Rivers said after Monday’s practice. “We have a great first half in Washington, that is what we needed to see. But I didn’t think we sustained it. I just think everyone is starting to figure out that, to be a good team, you have to actually work at it. And it’s hard work. You just don’t show up because you have good names on a piece of paper and become good. You have to work at it, and you have to work hard at it. And it’s exhausting.”

Is conditioning all that’s missing from the team’s trademark D?

“Yeah, but I think we’re in good enough condition to be a good defensive team. I think that’s more of the buy-in and the trust and the communication.”

The Celtics finished Monday’s two-hour practice with conditioning drills in 5-on-5 sets. Rivers is clearly concerned with his team’s ability to finish games defensively, after the Wizards erased two double-digit deficits in the fourth quarter only to have Paul Pierce save the game with a 3-point shot with under three minutes left.

The first half, when the Celtics raced to leads of 17-2 and 26-10, was a different story – one that after watching on film – made Rivers think the team is close.

“I thought we played defense, we got into the ball, there was ball pressure, there was talking,” Rivers said. “The first seven or eight minutes, [Washington] struggled to get a shot off, let alone score a basket. Then as the game went on, you can see us slowly moving away from it. I don’t know if that’s breaking old habits from other places, or if that’s conditioning. When you watch it on film, you think it’s a little bit of both.”

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Doc Rivers doesn’t want Rajon Rondo ‘pacing himself’ 11.05.12 at 2:18 pm ET
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WALTHAM – Sometimes, too much of a good thing is not healthy for a basketball team.

Such is the case for the Celtics and the minutes of Rajon Rondo.

As Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and, when he was here, Ray Allen, approached their mid-30s, much was made of limiting their minutes to preserve them through the season.

Well, take a look at Rondo’s minutes and what the Celtics expect from him and you could make the argument they should be just as concerned.

In the first three games, Rondo has played 44, 41 and 41 minutes, averaging 41.5 minutes per contest, nine minutes over his career average per game. Yes, it’s just a three-game sample so far and yes, that average includes a season of 23.5 minutes in his rookie year in 2006-07 and 29.9 the next, when he led the Celtics to an NBA title running the point. But still, one look at Rondo’s lean body and you see the need to preserve the Rolls Royce of the Celtics engine for all 82 games.

But Rivers took it a step further after practice Monday when he said it’s not the number of minutes but how Rondo is playing on the court that he has to watch closely. Rivers wants to be the one pacing Rondo from the bench, not Rondo himself.

“I’m concerned but not as far as him getting tired but I don’t want him to save himself on the floor,” Rivers said. “There’s a minutes number for him. We don’t know what it is yet. We’ll figure it out where he can play his minutes at full pace instead of knowing he’s going to be on the floor too long and then he starts pacing himself. We need him to be a fast, quick, aggressive player.”

And the number?

“I think it’s 39, 38 but it’s not much lower than 40 but it’s in that area,” Rivers added.

Rivers has said in years past just what a physical drain it is for a guard like Rondo to not only run the offense but play top-end defense that is a staple in the Celtics scheme.

The answers right now off the bench are Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa, with the latter coming to Boston in late October as Danny Ainge realized the need for ball-handling depth on the roster. Courtney Lee can also help lighten the load, switching from his starting role as shooting guard to the point.

But the biggest help of all will come when Avery Bradley comes back with two healthy shoulders – likely in December – to take a big defensive burden off Rondo.

Until then, Rivers will be watching Rondo very closely.

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Rajon Rondo: ‘I’ve got to do a better job on the ball’ 11.03.12 at 1:48 am ET
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Rajon Rondo pointed to himself as one reason for the Celtics 0-2 start to the season. Rondo finished with 14 points and 11 assists but couldn’t get his teammates into any consistent offensive rhythm for a second straight game as the Celtics lost their home opener, 99-88, to the Bucks Friday night at TD Garden.

“Just trust one another defensively,” Rondo said when asked what’s missing in the Celtics’ game right now. “It starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job on the ball and go from there.”

As was the case against the Heat, the Celtics were again beaten in transition throughout the game.

“I don’t know [if we trust each other defensively],” said Rondo. “I mean, we can say we do, but on the court it shows, we’re not pulling in weak side. But it’s a lot of things. We’ve got to start from somewhere. The good thing about it is we could start [Saturday].”

The Celtics play the Wizards on Saturday night in Washington.

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Doc Rivers: ‘I don’t see the urgency yet’ 11.03.12 at 1:39 am ET
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Doc Rivers admitted a couple of things Friday night after his team lost in stunning fashion to the Bucks, 99-88, in their home opener at TD Garden.

The Celtics coach doesn’t think his team has played with any urgency this season. And on Friday, he had to – for the first time in his recent memory – remind his team to actually pass the basketball.

Those are two developments no one could have foreseen with this particular veteran Celtics group after two games and two losses.

On Friday night, the Celtics didn’t allow 100 points like the 120 Tuesday night in Miami. But they still allowed the Bucks to get out in transition easily and they were having all sorts of problems consistently defending the low post as they were outscored 52-36 in the paint.

“I don’t know if I’m upset, concerned – I’m all those, probably,” Rivers said. “We just – I don’t see the urgency yet. At times think we thought we would show up, because we have a lot of players on the team, and that would mean we would win. And when you make this many changes, I think our guys have to understand you have to invest, invest into the team to become a team. And I don’t think we’ve done that yet. I think we will. I think guys are, their minds – their spirit is right; we’ve got to get the minds right too.

“But I thought offense was bad too. I thought we fumbled, I thought we had no rhythm. And we haven’t graduated to the point where you can play bad offense and stay defensively. You know what I mean? So I thought it was both; I thought our defense was bad all night. But I thought our offense – you know, that thing where you start struggling on offense, you get down, and then you start not playing defense – I thought that was a lot of it. I thought early on we got open shots, then I thought we pressed, I thought we little ‘every man for himself,’ and then selfishly I thought every guy was trying to win the game for us. But I thought there was very little ball movement, extra passes. I thought each guy, when he tried to make the play, I thought that was out of frustration. I really thought they were pressing.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Paul Pierce: ‘Our goal is to keep our home court clean’ 11.02.12 at 11:29 am ET
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WALTHAM — In the labor-shortened 2011-12 NBA season, the Celtics were 24-9 at home on the parquet. They were 8-2 at the Garden in the playoffs.

But the sour taste from the last game they played before the home crowd remains. With a chance to eliminate the Heat on their home court, they came up flat, losing, 98-79, to LeBron James and company.

Everyone in attendance remembers the fans at the end of the game chanting “Let’s Go Celtics” and the players haven’t forgotten either, as they take the same court for the first time in a meaningful game since then tonight when they host the Bucks in the home opener.

“We’re excited,” Paul Pierce said. “We’re excited to be at home, especially after taking a loss in the first game so hopefully, we can come back home and establish ourselves. That’s going to be the emphasis this year – establish ourselves at home. No team should be able to come in here and get any wins. Our goal is to keep our home court clean so it can be an intimidating factor when they come to the Garden.”

“We had a tough year last year,” Rajon Rondo said. “Other than that, I think years in the past the Garden has been a tough place to play in.”

The team that will be trying to spoil the Celtics home opening party tonight is the Milwaukee Bucks, led by the dynamic duo backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. The Bucks will be playing their regular season opener tonight.

“I know they’ve got two explosive guards in the backcourt and I think a lot of things start with them,” Pierce said. “I’m very familiar with Ilyasova [Ersan Ilyasova] and that’s pretty much that core. They have good role players in Dunleavy [Mike Dunleavy] and more than capable guys like Drew Gooden so they pose a threat for us. They gave us trouble last year from what I remember so they have a good, talented team. This is their first game so they’ll be hungry to get out to a good start.”

“They’re a scrappy team,” Rondo added. “They play with a lot of intensity on defense. Jennings and Monta is their backcourt. That’s their firepower. Courtney [Courtney Lee] and I will have our hands full but it will be a team effort to win the game.”

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