|Pierce: ‘I’m a natural born scorer’||04.30.10 at 8:39 pm ET|
James, after all, has become just the 10th player in NBA history to win back-to-back regular season MVP awards and will be crowned King before Game 2 Monday night.
‘I think if you ask players, and ask players to be honest, just based on what he’s achieved individually and as a team, it should be unanimous,’ Pierce said.
But Pierce made a point to remind everyone on Friday before Game 1 that he still has confidence in his own ability to score from anywhere on the court.
“I think I’m comfortable doing anything,” Pierce said. “I don’t limit myself to just being a shooter, or just driving. I’m a natural born scorer. I think I can do it all over the court. If the shot is there, I’ll take it.”
Still, inquiring minds still wanted to know Friday just how Pierce – who figures to draw a good deal of the assignment of guarding James – plans to guard the newly-minted two-time NBA MVP.
‘We just have to be aware of him constantly. You can’t give him anything. You have to challenge his shot. He does everything so well. We all know that once he gets into a groove shooting, he can shoot the ball. We all know how he is attacking the basket.’
“Just going against the best, regardless if it’s LeBron,” Pierce said. “It’s just going against the best teams. I just look at it over the years, I get to play against the top teams, I always get to show my best on the big stage. Obviously, playing against the MVP brings out the best in the best players in the league.”
|Times set on Celtics-Cavs series||at 8:59 am ET|
Game 1 of the Celtics-Cavaliers series is set for 8 p.m., the league announced. The game will be broadcast on TNT, with radio coverage on WEEI. Times have been set for all of the games except Games 5 and 6.
Game 1: Saturday, May 1, Boston at Cleveland, 8 p.m. (TNT)
Game 2: Monday, May 3, Boston at Cleveland, 8 p.m. (TNT)
Game 3: Friday, May 7, Cleveland at Boston, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 4: Sunday, May 9, Cleveland at Boston, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
*Game 5: Tuesday, May 11, Boston at Cleveland, TBD (TNT)
*Game 6: Thursday, May 13, Cleveland at Boston, TBD (ESPN)
*Game 7: Sunday, May 16, Boston at Cleveland, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
* if necessary
|LeBron’s elbow just funny business to C’s||04.29.10 at 10:38 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Gamesmanship is as common this time of year in the NBA as game planning.
With that being said, no one will know for sure just how big a role the banged up right elbow of LeBron James will play in the Celtics-Cavs series.
But the Celtics have their own sense of the seriousness of the injury to King James.
“He’s fine,” coach Doc Rivers said with a big smile. “I tell you what, if he goes three or four games and shoots left-handed only, then I’ll believe that it’s hurting. We’re going to be ready for the LeBron we’ve seen all through the playoffs.”
Of course, James DID shoot a free throw with his left hand in the Game 5 clincher against Chicago on Tuesday night with 7.2 seconds remaining the Cavaliers up, 96-92.
Added Ray Allen, ‘I don’t even pay attention to it. If there’s something wrong with his elbow or any other part of his body, then he won’t play, and we all know that.”
|The Magic of LeBron||at 9:21 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Doc Rivers has seen that lightning-quick, cross-court pass that paralyzes a defense before leaving them powerless to prevent an easy, uncontested basket.
Magic Johnson did it seemingly at will in the 1980s and Rivers had an up close and personal view for it all.
It is precisely for this reason the Celtics coach is worried about LeBron James. Yes, No. 23 can take it to the rim. Yes, James can rebound and block shots. But what James can do to get others involved is the hardest aspect to prepare for in this series against the Cavaliers.
“He’s a bullet passer,” Rivers said on Thursday, two days before Game 1. “He’s the only guy I know of like Magic. The ‘steam’ bullet passes. He throws cross-court passes that are 100 miles an hour and it’s tough to react to.
“We showed the guys that on film and if you’re not down in your stance and you’re standing straight up on the weakside and he makes that pass, there’s no way you’re going to get out to that shooter.”
Rivers tried his best to get his team ready but admitted it’s next to impossible.
“We worked on that [Thursday] and there’s nobody on our team that can throw that pass so the work didn’t look as good. We kept getting out to the shooter and I said, ‘Yeah, we’re throwing softballs.’
“He’s a great passer. In some ways, I think he wants to pass sometimes.”
James is also the leading triple-double threat in the league. But Rivers said, like with Dwyane Wade, the Celtics can live with the points but not the rebounds and assists.
“Well, the 10 [points] and the 10 [rebounds] we can’t have,” Rivers said. “The 30 and the 40 [points] we don’t want and, if he has it, we want him to have it our way, not his way. That’s what upset us a little about Wade in a couple of the games. He got to 46 his way. The big game the last night [Game 5], he got it our way. We kept everyone else out of it so that was good.”
|Time is now for Celtics||at 5:37 pm ET|
WALTHAM — You can tell just by the media crush at the Celtics training facility 12 miles west of Boston on Route 128 that there is a big series about to begin involving the Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The quotes from the participants provide another good clue.
The two teams, as any basketball fan will recall, met in an epic seven-game series in the 2008 playoffs. The series wasn’t decided until the final 30 seconds of Game 7 at the Garden when Paul Pierce and the Celtics outlasted LeBron James and the Cavs.
Before that series, fans and experts hoped for a great series. This time, it’s almost expected. But that’s about where the comparisons end as far as the Celtics are concerned.
‘Two years ago was two years ago,” Pierce said. “They have new players, we have new players. This is a whole new team. This is a different type of team. They’ve got a lot of the same players, we have a lot of the same players but it’s just like you grow up. Things change, you become better. You can’t go off what you did in the past. There’s nothing to that last series.’
Kevin Garnett agreed.
‘They have better players,” Garnett said. “They have Shaq, they have guys that have been there. They have experienced players who were there two years ago. Delonte [West] is better. [Antawn] Jamison is there, has been through the grind. They have better players, more experienced people.’
When the Celtics open their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Cavaliers on Saturday night in Cleveland, it will be the first time in the era of the new ‘Big 3′ they’re opening a playoff series on the road. It will also mark the second time in three seasons the two teams are meeting in the second round.
But whether opening at home or on the road – as will be the case this year – Ray Allen doesn’t believe Boston’s series triumph in 2008 will have much of an impact this time around.
‘I don’t really think it makes a difference,” Allen said following Thursday’s practice. “That was yesterday. Now we’re trying to do this all over again. I’m sure that they remember. Playoffs in their building is tough and we remember Game 7 [in Boston] very vividly but it’s a new series. Even if we did play them last year, it wouldn’t have made a difference then, either. They’re geared up against trying to get past us going to the conference finals. The ground has to give one way or another and we look forward to taking more ground.’
The Celtics were also asked to make another comparison – Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Cleveland’s James – and how beating the former might help them with the latter this series.
‘They’re not close at all, truthfully,” Pierce said. “They have better supporting players. LeBron is playing two or three other guys who have been in the All-Star Game. I can’t say that about Wade. The only similarity is they have one of the top scorers in the league. That’s it. You’re talking about two different players. They’re definitely focal points but other guys, you definitely have to worry about them. There are most consistent players in Cleveland and those guys can beat you also.’
‘LeBron’s a different beast,” added Garnett. “He’s obviously with a better cast than D-Wade. I think D-Wade is one of the best one-on-one players in our game. That’s true with LeBron but I think LeBron defers more to his teammates a little bit, with his supporting cast than D-Wade. He can turn around and he has 35, eight boards and nine assists. That means he’s all-around, not even mentioning the steals and blocks. He affects the game in so many different dimensions.’
Celtics coach Doc Rivers made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to talk about the C’s second-round playoff series against the Cavaliers, set to start Saturday. Rivers said he does not believe LeBron James‘ elbow injury will slow down the superstar. “I don’t think it will have any effect on him,” Rivers said. “I think he’ll be fine. If he shoots Games 1, 2, 3, 4 left-handed, then I would say something’s wrong. Other than that, he’ll be fine.”
Rivers said even if LeBron James is slowed due to his sore elbow, the Cavaliers have enough other weapons to pick up the slack. “They’re a very deep basketball team. They have a lot of different guys,” Rivers said. “We have to guard the 3-point line against these guys. LeBron does what he does. But when all those guys — [Anthony] Parker, Mo Williams, Delonte West, Jamario Moon, [Antawn] Jamison — when they’re standing behind that line making 3’s, then they become unbeatable. That’s the part of the game that we have to take away from them — at least try.”
Rivers gave some insight into how the C’s and other teams attempt to limit James’ impact. “One is if you can force him to his left, you’d like to do that, even though he goes both ways pretty well,” Rivers said. “Two is give him a cushion. And three is if you can force him into being a jump shooter. That’s so much easier said than done. He understands that what teams are trying to do, and he won’t have it for the most part. He’ll still put the ball on the floor.
“As far as guarding him, you can just name [the C’s defenders]. Marquis [Daniels] will get a chance, Tony [Allen] will get a chance, Paul [Pierce] will get a chance, Hopefully, no more than those three.”
Asked what he would like to see from Rasheed Wallace in this series, Rivers said: “Three things: He has to be better defensively for us, especially vs. the pick and roll. Offensively he has to be a low-post presence. And then he does have to knock down a couple of shots, because that will spread their defense.”
Asked about the history of problems between the teams, Rivers implied that his club will focus more on the basketball and less on the extracurricular stuff this time around, although the C’s won’t back down. “We’re just going to come and play,” he said. “We’ll be ready. If it becomes a physical series, we’ll be ready for that as well.”
Rivers said the Celtics’ victory over the Cavaliers two years ago en route to a title won’t mean much now. “[Cavs general manager] Danny Ferry has done an amazing job with them,” Rivers said. “He’s added talent. When you think about their team when we beat them two years ago to their team now, it doesn’t even resemble the same team. They just keep adding talent and skileld players around LeBron. And that’s what they had to do, and they’ve done it.”
Rivers commented on Patriots draft pick Brandon Spikes, who is dating Rivers’ daughter, Callie (they were University of Florida classmates). “My boys got a lot of pleasure out of that the first time Brandon came over to the house, because I’m always intimidating my daughter’s boyfriends but I was saying, ‘Yes, sir,’ to him,” Rivers joked.
To hear the interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
|Ainge on The Big Show: ‘We need the Big Four to play well’||04.28.10 at 5:19 pm ET|
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge joined The Big Show on Wednesday and talked about his team’s playoff hopes. The Celtics looked strong in a first-round win over the Heat after struggling for much of the regular season. “I think that the inconsistency is more a state of mind,” Ainge said. “Everyone said we’re going to turn the button on and off. I don’t think we did that except in the course of each game. It was like we came out to play all the big games of the year and many others. And then it would just be like we got disinterested in the fourth quarter, or late in the third. We were one of the worst third-quarter teams in the season, and now we’re one of the best third-quarter teams in the playoffs. To me, it’s all a frame of mind and your approach to the game.”
Ainge said that in order for the Celtics to beat LeBron James‘ Cavaliers, the C’s need Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo to be at the top of their games each time out. “Because we don’t have LeBron, we need a lot of guys to step up and carry us,” Ainge said. “We need the Big Four to play well. It comes down to that. We’re going to get inconsistent performances out of guys off the bench because that’s who they’ve been all year and kind of who’ve they have been in their careers. But we need consistent effort out of our Big Four.”
Asked about the future of his coach, Ainge said, “I’ve wondered about Doc because I know how much of a family man he is. I know how hard it is to coach in this business. I know the emotional toll it takes to be a coach in this league. I think this has been an extraordinarily difficult year for Doc, a challenging year,” Ainge said, adding. “I think Doc will be back next year. He hasn’t told me that, and it’s something that we really don’t talk about. I did talk with Doc earlier in the year about the possibility of doing a contract extension, and he didn’t want to do it [not] because he wasn’t sure he wanted to come back, he didn’t want to do it because he doesn’t want a distraction.” Added Ainge: “I think that Doc does like it here. I think he understands the unique opportunity he has coaching here. And I think that once the season gets over and once he has the chance to settle back, I think he will want to come back.”
Ainge was asked if the Celtics had any chance of being a player with one of the marquee free agents this summer and said it would be doubtful but not out of the question. “The only way it would be possible would be a sign and trade, and that’s very unlikely. The only way we would be able to do it is if a player said, ‘I want to play in Boston, and I’m only going to play in Boston under any circumstances.’ … That team would have to believe that [the player was willing to sign for a mid-level exception] and work out some sort of sign and trade to get that player more money.” Additionally, Ainge confirmed that the Celtics likely would have to entice the other team with a package of a player such as Ray Allen, with his huge contract, and a promising young player.
To hear the interview, click on The Big Show audio on demand page.
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