|David Blatt returns home to coach against Celtics, his childhood team||11.14.14 at 8:22 pm ET|
Oh, and LeBron James also decided to return home from Miami, swinging the balance of power in the Eastern Conference in the process.
However, David Blatt may be the newcomer that gets lost in the shuffle. He also happens to be the head coach.
Blatt has a lot to be happy about, considering the greatest played in the world fell into his lap just weeks after earning his first NBA coaching job. But Blatt, a native of Framingham, Mass., had a homecoming of his own on Friday night, along with a chance to face the team he grew up cheering for.
“You’ll have to excuse me, I’m looking for some familiar faces,” Blatt began his pregame press conference.
Blatt admits that the Celtics have held significant meaning to him since he was a young child growing up just 20 minutes away from the Boston Garden.
“I was a great follower of the Celtics. Bill Russell was my idol, and probably the Celtics‘ teams were the reason that I fell in love with basketball the way that I did,” Blatt proclaimed with a smile from ear to ear.
So what has it been like for someone with no NBA experience to be handed the job of coaching James? Well, Blatt went as far as to compare LeBron to one of his own childhood idols.
“Pleasurable,” the coach said, and with no signs of losing his grin. “Fabulous talent, great basketball IQ. A guy, who like Bill Russell, is about the right things. About winning, about making his teammates around him better, about taking responsibility, about being accountable. He’s a man who respects the game and badly, badly wants to win a championship for Cleveland. What’s not to like?”
Blatt joked with reporters briefly after his press conference was over, making it clear in the process that he was thrilled to be back in his hometown. The only problem?
“I was hoping someone would have brought me some clam chowder,” he quipped.
|Report: Celtics legend Bill Russell collapses||07.17.14 at 3:32 pm ET|
Celtics legend Bill Russell collapsed during a speaking engagement in Lake Tahoe, according to WCVB-TV’s Scott Isaacs. He is reportedly conscious and “doing OK.” Russell, 80, underwent open-heart surgery in 2012.
— Scott Isaacs (@ScottIsaacs) July 17, 2014
|On a milestone night, Rajon Rondo getting closer to where he wants to be||02.09.14 at 10:53 pm ET|
On his second of 12 assists of the night, Rajon Rondo became the 101st player in NBA history to amass 4,000 assists and just the sixth player in the storied history of the Celtics to reach the plateau. Bill Russell is next with 4,100. Bob Cousy is the all-time franchise leader with 6,945.
But that milestone was just one significant milestone for Rondo Sunday in a 102-91 loss to the Mavericks at TD Garden.
“It’s definitely an honor, especially to have so many in this organization,” Rondo said. “It’s right up there. It’s definitely an honor to get that many assists. I’ve played with a lot of great players. Give them credit. They have to make the basket.”
The Celtics point guard played a season-high 36 minutes and looked good doing so.
“I played 36 tonight and I’m a little sore but I’ll be fine,” Rondo said. “I try to listen to my body as much as possible.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the game that he spoke with Rondo and believes the time restrictions are all but gone after his return from ACL surgery.
‘Time limit’s off, yeah,” Stevens said after the game. “Not playing in the back-to-back. Probably will be cleared to play in back-to-backs again very soon. I asked the question right after we met prior to the game and it sounds like, again, that’s sooner rather than later but no time issues.’
Rondo clarified that position when he spoke post-game, about 45 minutes after Stevens made his initial proclamation.
“I wouldn’t say [limit] is completely off. I won’t be playing 40. When I’m out there and my adrenaline is going, I’m fine,” Rondo said.
Rondo will not be playing in Milwaukee on Monday night. Rondo would not say whether he would travel with the team or not on Sunday.
|Larry Bird at Indiana State statue dedication: ‘Boston has the best sports fans I’ve ever seen’||11.13.13 at 2:30 pm ET|
Larry Bird is quick to remind you he is only human. Incapable of any superpowers or magic, he promises, French Lick’s Larry Joe Bird’s talent is simply the product of a man who worked incredibly hard to become one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
‘I was always told I wasn’t big enough or strong enough to compete against the best,’ Bird said. ‘I heard it in high school, I heard it in college and I heard it in the pros, so I’d keep working harder. That’s what pays off. I guess things worked out pretty well.’
This past weekend, Indiana State University recognized Bird’s contributions to the game of basketball by unveiling his 15-foot bronze statue on campus outside ISU’s Hulman Center. While the day was tremendous for the Sycamores, the city of Terre Haute, and the basketball-crazed state of Indiana, Bird admitted that a big piece of his heart still belongs to Boston.
‘Boston has the best sports fans I’ve ever seen,’ Bird said. ‘They live it and breathe it. I was so honored to be able to put on a jersey and play at a place where they cared. One of the best lines I ever heard, I think it was in ‘86 against Houston, and we were going into Game 6 [of the NBA Finals]. The crowd was absolutely going berserk, and this was an hour before the game. Some of the guys were still shooting before they came back into the locker room. One of them said, ‘I’m telling you, them fans want blood out there and they don’t care whose it is. We lose, and it’s our blood!’ And man, was he right, the place was rocking that night.’
Before the statue unveiling on Saturday morning, Indiana State first honored Bird with a ‘Larry Legend’ scholarship dinner on Friday night. Hosted by Jackie MacMullan, the program was broken into four quarters focused on Bird’s career in high school, college and the NBA, and his time as a coach and an executive as team president of the currently undefeated Pacers.
Bird’s statue was unveiled a week after the city of Boston recognized Bill Russell with his own monument. As the two most famous Celtics of all time, Bird feels a connection to Russell, but he was quick to point out that, while both men wore the Celtics jersey for 13 seasons in their careers, only one earned 11 championship rings.
‘If anybody deserves a statue, it’s Bill Russell,’ Bird said. ‘We all looked up to him. He set the bar so high for all of us. He’s had such a great career and a lot of success. I’m really happy for Bill, not only for his statue, but for Bill the man. He’s a great man.’
The ceremony started with a look back at Bird’s roots with the game of basketball, a connection that now is more deeply intertwined than ever. Bird’s coach at Springs Valley High School, Jim Jones, served as a mentor, and Bird noted that lessons his coach taught him in 1970 still hold true today.
‘Coach Jones spent a lot time with us as young kids and showed us how to play the game the right way,’ Bird said. ‘He was telling us, no matter how long you stay out here or how many jump shots you shoot, there’s always somebody out there doing a little bit more. That guy in my life was Magic Johnson. Maybe that’s why he got the ring from the NCAA tournament back in 1979.’
|Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith grateful to be in Bill Russell’s inner circle||11.04.13 at 1:37 pm ET|
The city of Boston and the Celtics honored Bill Russell this past Friday, unveiling a 6-foot, 10-inch, 600-pound bronze statue of the 11-time NBA champion. Though the man has more championship rings than fingers, the ceremony detailed Russell’s work beyond basketball. For those in Russell’s inner circle — including Charles Barkley and Kenny “The Jet” Smith — the discussion was focused on Russell’s impact on society.
‘Most of us are too young to have seen him play,’ said Barkley. ‘But for guys like myself who got a chance to be around him, you see what a remarkable person he is. We know him more a man than a player.’
Barkley and Smith, who are teammates on TNT’s extraordinarily popular “Inside the NBA,” both consider themselves very fortunate to be friends with the legendary Russell.
‘He don’t talk to many people,’ said Barkley. ‘So if you get on the list, it’s pretty cool.’
Smith was drafted by the Kings in 1987 and played a half-season for Russell, who was in his final stint as a head coach.
‘I was his first-ever draft pick,’ said Smith. ‘I was overwhelmed meeting him. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know whether to call him ‘Coach Russell,’ ‘Bill,’ or ‘Mr. Russell,’ and then my assistant coach was Willis Reed. I was in heaven. He taught me what teamwork was all about, regardless of winning and losing.’
Smith, who emceed the ceremony, did not concentrate on Russell’s blocked shots or rebounds. He looks at him as a whole man, one who inspired people around the world and broke racial barriers. Smith thinks of the man who served as his mentor.
Russell’s greatest strength, in Smith’s words, is ‘his ability to take a basketball moment and relate it to a lifetime experience. Something that my teammates always thought was going to be a punishment for me — sitting next to coach Russell on the team bus — actually turned out to be the best moment of my life.’
Barkley laughed when recalling the story of Russell making Smith sit next to him on one of the Kings’ long bus rides. ‘Kenny said, ‘Why’ve I got to sit beside you?’ And Bill said, ‘Because that guy’s a loser, that guy’s a loser, that guy’s a loser, and I don’t want you sitting with them.’ ‘
Said Smith: ‘I sat next to him, on a bus ride or a plane ride, four hours a day. And if I went to sleep, he’d nudge me and go, ‘Sleep nights, young fella. Listen to what I’m saying.’ And I listened to all those stories. It’s a great feeling to know I was part of that. Not being Satch Sanders or Tommy Heinsohn or any other great players who played with him, I feel like I’m one of those.’
|The Bill Russell Legacy Project, in their words||11.03.13 at 5:33 pm ET|
My words couldn’t possibly do justice to the stories shared about one of our greatest Americans at Friday’s Bill Russell Legacy Project unveiling, so I’ll let theirs do the talking. A transcript of the video is provided below.
|A song for Bill Russell: ‘I Am My Father’s Son’||11.01.13 at 7:58 pm ET|
At the unveiling of the Bill Russell Legacy Project in Boston, Bill Withers wrote a song entitled, “I Am My Father’s Son,” that fellow Grammy Award-winning artist Johnny Mathis performed. It was amazing.
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