|Celtics Pregame Notes: Can Amir Johnson help Celtics improve on the glass?||11.30.16 at 6:24 pm ET|
The Celtics will be back to full strength for Wednesday’s tilt against the Pistons, with Al Horford back in action following the birth of his second child.
Horford’s addition will be a much-needed addition to a Celtics team still very much attempting to find its touch on the glass. The Celtics have been out-rebounded five of the last six games, due in some aspects to mismatches and guys having to play bigger than they are.
That notwithstanding, the Celtics are heavily reliant on asking guards to grab boards, as the boxing out responsibilities rest on the bigs.
Said coach Brad Stevens, “We ask our bigs to block out. Sometimes when you’re blocking out and you’re the same size or bigger, you can get the ball. But sometimes when you’re blocking out and smaller you just have to keep the other guy from getting it.”
As has been standard since his acquisition prior to the 2015-16 season, Amir Johnson has been tasked with playing a key role in the paint. Standing at 6-foot-9 and occasionally having to run the five, a stat sheet — which currently has him averaging 4.2 boards per game — can be a misleading basis of judgement.
“We’re asking Amir Johnson to guard a lot of fives, so to judge Amir’s performance by his defensive rebound percentage probably isn’t fair, because there’s probably six rebounds a game that somebody else gets in large part because he’s doing his job,” Stevens said.
Jonas Jerebko has found himself in a nice stretch of late off the bench. In his past seven games, the 6-foot-10 forward has averaged 6.4 points per game while shooting 81.8 percent from the field.
Since late last season, the 29-year-old has shown a wide range of versatility as a solid defender, a shooter, and a player with finesse around the basket — as evidenced by his more and more frequent use of a hook shot from just outside the paint.
“[He’s] just trying to do what he’s good at, I think that’s the most important thing. He’s a spacer and he’s a guy that can guard multiple positions and he’s really, really good when he does those things,” Stevens said.
Part of the current run for Jerebko can be attributed to his synergy with Kelly Olynyk, with the two combining well off the bench in Olynyk’s 11 games so far this season. The pair play a similar style, and can pose a threat from both the paint and the perimeter.
“I think people are figuring out how to play and play together and anytime you can do that, that’s better. [Jerebko] and Kelly have been a good combination for a while now, and I think that they kind of play and feed off each other.”
Other Celtics Notes
— Jae Crowder won’t be confined to any minutes restrictions in the foreseeable future. Stevens noted he hasn’t heard about any sort of minutes restrictions since before Monday’s win over the Heat.
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|Can the Celtics reel in Marcus Smart? Jae Crowder and Brad Stevens are working on it||11.29.16 at 8:15 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Jae Crowder could see and hear Miami coach Erik Spoestra trying an old trick Monday night to get under the skin of Marcus Smart.
Crowder and everybody else familiar with Smart knows the third-year guard came out of Oklahoma State with a reputation for letting his intensity turn into anger and frustration, eventually leading to technical fouls or worse.
“It’s funny because I was telling him [Monday] during the game, Spoelstra was saying, ‘He’s a hothead. He’s a hothead.’ So obviously that was part of the game plane to try to get under his skin a little bit,” Crowder said with a brotherly smile after practice Tuesday.
“A lot of teams know he wears his emotions on his sleeves so they’re going to do stuff like that. And you just have to be more cautious of it and know that it’s just a game they’re trying to play with him. I’m sure as the season goes on he’ll be more aware of it. And hopefully he gets better.”
Tired of getting hacked by Goran Dragic, Smart indeed took a technical foul when he complained about a double-foul with 2:26 left in the game. There’s clearly a fine line for Smart to walk and always has been since he came into the NBA in 2014.
“I was begging for Spoelstra to get a technical foul because he was saying a lot of stuff. He was everywhere last night, but that’s one of the things he did say. When they went to intentional foul Marcus it was obvious that what they were trying to do was more than just foul. They were trying to get under his skin and play a little physical, and knowing he wanted to retaliate for the most part. So it’s just part of the scouting report on I guess Marcus that he wears his emotions on his sleeve.”
Crowder got his wish when Spoelstra was finally T’d up with 2:11 left as the Celtics pulled away for the 112-104 win.
“It’s a very fine [line]. He as a person, as an individual, has to control it,” Crowder said. “We as teammates can keep being on him about it, but it’s about him and being able to control it. A lot of players and coaches in this league know he’s an emotional type of guy, so they’re going to try to do everything they can to get under his skin and in his head. But he has to want to put his pride aside and put his emotions aside for the team’s sake. And take care of business.”
Can Crowder see a maturity in Smart?
“Of course. He has not gone backwards in that regard,” Crowder said. “But he’s playing more minutes now than he was when he was a rookie. He’s playing a bigger role now, so we need him to be more locked in on that standpoint. You can’t just give away points at the free throw line on technicals and flagrants and stuff like that. So, we’ll keep pounding it in his head, and he keeps [telling] us he wants to change, so he’ll get better, hopefully.”
Brad Stevens is also keeping a close eye on Smart’s on-court intensity.
“I think toughness is such a critical component of a team and everybody brings their own levels of skill to the table and everything else but you have to have a competitiveness and an ability to figure out a way to win that possession,” Stevens said. “He’s able to do that on a lot of possessions.”
There’s an obvious irony to what happened Monday as it’s usually Smart and his intense defense that agitates and gets opposing players out of their game.
“Well, he plays physical. For the most part, a lot of guys don’t like to play physical,” Crowder said. “They want an easy-flowing game and Marcus don’t play like that. That alone just gets under guys’ skin, just him playing physical and him being a presence on the basketball court with his body and his stature. A lot of players don’t like it. [Hassan] Whiteside is one of those guys who doesn’t like to play that physical. He likes to play physical as long as guys don’t play physical back with him. So, he didn’t like the foul Marcus laid on him late in the first quarter.”
|Al Horford’s sister uses Twitter, Kirk & Callahan to fire back at brother’s critics||11.29.16 at 7:56 pm ET|
Al Horford’s sister has the Celtics’ star’s back. One perusal of Anna Horford’s Twitter account and that becomes clear.
After Horford received criticism from Mike Felger on Comcast SportsNet New England over the forward’s decision to skip the Celtics’ game in Miami Monday night to be present for the birth of his daughter, Anna fired back.
The first salvo came in the form of an obscenity-laced tweet, which was followed by a series of retweets supporting her defense of Al. (To read all the tweets, click here.)
And, of course, there was this clarification when it came to her relation to the subject of the controversy …
For any new followers or just people who are late to the game: Al is my BROTHER. I did not have a child this weekend, I was getting drunk.
— Anna Horford (@AnnaHorford) November 28, 2016
And, finally, her plans for truly clarifying the defense of Al.
If you want to hear how annoying my voice is, tune in to @KirkAndCallahan tomorrow morning 😉✌🏽️☘️
— Anna Horford (@AnnaHorford) November 30, 2016
To read more about the Horford controversy, read John Tomase’s column by clicking here.
|Celtics notes: Al Horford doesn’t ‘really read into’ criticism over paternal leave, Brad Stevens has his back||11.29.16 at 4:24 pm ET|
WALTHAM — There were some who criticized Celtics star center Al Horford for taking a one-game leave of absence Monday to be with his wife for the birth of their second child, Alia. Horford clearly wasn’t bothered and had his priorities in line.
“I don’t really read into anything. I don’t read Twitter and stuff, and the radio and all that,” Horford said after rejoining the team for practice Tuesday. “I just kind of focus on the court, on my job here, and then off the court on my family.
“Everybody has their opinion. I respect anything that anybody has to say. I care a lot about the group and our guys. For my family’s sake, it was important for me to be there for them. Just with our transition and everything. So that’s that. Now I can put that behind me and get focused again on [Wednesday] night.”
The Celtics, the team paying Horford $113 million over four seasons, made it clear Tuesday, the day after Horford missed Boston’s 112-104 win in Miami, that they had no such issues with the one-game leave.
“I don’t know from a culture standpoint as much as it is just I think our greatest responsibilities are as sons, husbands, fathers. I think that’s your No. 1 job,” coach Brad Stevens said. “We’re thrilled for the Horfords and we’re thrilled to have Al back at practice today and be ready to go tomorrow. Obviously, family is really really important.”
Horford and former Miss Universe (2003), Amelia Vega married in 2011 and had their first child, a son named Ean Horford Vega in Feb. 2015.
“It means a lot. My family’s very important to me,” Horford said. “For me. I’m in more of a unique situation because this is our first year hear and my wife, we all moved in the middle of the pregnancy. And just a lot going on. So I just felt like it was important for me to really be there, supporting her. And we have a son as well. So for her, it’s been a lot thrown at her these past few months. So I know that it meant a lot for me to be there with her, and knowing our schedule ahead and everything. So I’m just very happy that the Celtics really take the time and they consider us not only as players but as people. And people that have families.”
And how is baby Alia?
“Everybody’s healthy. That was the most important thing,” Horford said. “And she’s been great so far. Her and my wife, today she got released so she’s home and resting. The guys were supportive. It was hard for me but I felt like it was the right thing for me to be next to my wife. And they supported me throughout. That’s always helpful. Just excited. Everybody was happy to have me back. And I’m happy to be back here, and we can put everything behind and get looking forward ahead to [Wednesday’s] game.”
Horford did watch Monday’s game, in which Tyler Zeller started in place of Horford.
“I was able to watch it and I was just very proud with our guys, how they responded,” Horford said. “I feel like in our short season already we haven’t been fully available, all of us, through all the games. It’s just impressive to see a guy like Isaiah not making any excuses. And the list goes on. Not only Isaiah. All the other guys, but everybody just making sure they go in and they put in the work. And they don’t make excuses.
“I’m looking forward for us to keep getting better as a group. The encouraging thing is that there’s a lot of room for growth with our group. Now we have some tough tests ahead, and I’m just looking forward to get it rolling. I waited long enough throughout the summer. Now that I’m here, now we can finally really get focused on that.”
|Fast Break: Celtics use balanced attack to turn away Heat||11.28.16 at 10:08 pm ET|
Although the Heat are one of the weaker teams in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics had to be a little concerned when center Al Horford stayed in Boston for the birth of his second child. After all, one of the Heat’s strengths is Hassan Whiteside, who came in leading the league in rebounds (14.9) and second in blocks (2.5) per game.
It turns out the C’s had nothing to worry about.
Despite an off shooting night from Isaiah Thomas, Boston used a big second quarter to pull away early and kept a safe distance from Miami the rest of the way in a 112-104 victory, its fourth in five games and its fourth straight road win.
The C’s led by two points after one period, then outscored the hosts 27-12 in the second quarter. Miami stayed within striking distance the rest of the night but never was able to make a serious challenge for the lead.
“I never felt really good about getting a stop in the second half, which isn’t good, but we scored enough to win,” C’s coach Brad Stevens told reporters in his postgame press conference.
Thomas rallied to finish with 25 points on 7-of-23 shooting (just 2-of-10 treys) and 9-of-9 free throws. He also had eight assists.
Boston had six players in double figures. Jae Crowder had an efficient game with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Avery Bradley scored 18 points. Kelly Olynyk netted 14 (more on his strong all-around effort below). Marcus Smart (12) and Tyler Zeller (10) were the other double-figure scorers.
Tempers flared in a chippy fourth quarter, with Smart (no surprise) in the middle of things. After Whiteside grabbed a rebound with 3:17 remaining and cleared some space as he prepared to finish, Smart raced in and knocked over Whiteside, earning a flagrant-1. Later, the Heat repeatedly intentionally fouled Smart (a 55 percent free throw shooter), and he took exception and pushed Goran Dragic, earning a technical foul.
|Celtics Podcast: Mike Petraglia, Josue Pavon explain how Celtics turn a corner with Al Horford back||11.28.16 at 7:52 pm ET|
WEEI’s Mike Petraglia talks with WEEI colleague and blogger Josue Pavon about how the Celtics are looking better with Al Horford back on the court and the overall toughness of this team.
|Full Court Press: Brad Stevens, Gregg Popovich, Bill Belichick and link 3 share, Isaiah Thomas ‘a tricky little dude’ and nasty David Lee||11.26.16 at 6:36 am ET|
In Philadelphia, they “trust the process.” In Boston, where they are light years ahead in the NBA galaxy, it’s not the process but the system that matters.
And Brad Stevens has two mentors that have set the standard in two professional sports.
This past spring, Belichick was the guest of the Celtics and Stevens courtside at the end of the regular season and in the three home playoff games against Atlanta.
In the fall, Belichick invited Stevens to speak at his foundation’s event and said it was actually the 39-year-old Celtics coach who provided “a lot of insight” into coaching. Stevens said Belichick was very supportive and offered advice.
On Friday, one of the people Belichick respects the most in the coaching ranks, Gregg Popovich, was in town. The two have had lengthy conversations in the past about coaching and what it is to manage modern-day pro athletes. Belichick and Popovich are the two undisputed kings of coaching in their respective sports and Brad Stevens has a relationship with both.
Popovich has five rings and six NBA finals appearances with the Spurs, and Belichick has four rings and six Super Bowl appearances with the Patriots.
Now that Stevens — in his fourth NBA season — is the coach of a team with expectations to make a run into the NBA stratosphere that includes perennial power San Antonio, Friday provided a good chance for Stevens to measure up to what Popovich has built over the last 20 years in San Antonio.
“I talk to him occasionally,” Stevens said before Friday’s matinee. “But I’ve said this before, he’s always been very kind, open and helpful whenever I’ve called or needed something. Couldn’t respect a coach or a person more.
“I just think they have a clear way of doing things with regard to every detail matters, every possession matters on both sides of the ball. They’ve always had an emphasis on skilled players, but sometimes those guys come in different positions. And they’re just outstanding at what they do.”
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