|‘You learn every day': Brad Stevens experiment nears end of first year with Celtics||02.26.14 at 11:34 am ET|
HANDS ON HIS KNEES, gasping for air, there stood a teenaged Danny Ainge. Covered in sweat, surrounded by members of the Portland Trail Blazers, Ainge looked up to see the greatest Blazer of all. With his shaggy beard and full head of red hair, there was a smiling Bill Walton.
“I’ve known Danny since I moved to Oregon 40 years ago,” said Walton. “He was just in high school in Eugene when we got there. Danny would come up and play with us when he was in high school, and he would do just fine. In fact, he was incredibly fun to play with.”
The young Ainge, still sharpening his teeth as a three-sport All-American at North Eugene High School, would impress his NBA teammates with a strong handle and perfect jumper. The piece of his game that most impressed these professional basketball players was one that still cannot be found on a stat sheet. Ainge’s intelligence put him on another level as a basketball player.
“Danny Ainge is brilliant,” said Walton. “Even at a young age, he was very motivated, dedicated and committed. He’s always been a visionary.”
Ainge has always embraced different ideas. Conventional wisdom is not a phrase you hear the 54-year-old utter to defend his thought process. Just as Ainge was dedicated to the idea of playing professional basketball, he’s now applied his drive to his role as a president of basketball operations for the Celtics. And, depending on who is speaking, his latest big idea may be his greatest.
THE BOSTON CELTICS are spitting in the face of history. Luring Brad Stevens away from Butler and flying him first-class to Boston is a daring move even for a team with a deep history of bold moves. The Celtics, after all, hired the first African-American head coach in the NBA. Amidst all sorts of race issues in the United States, this franchise started the first entirely black starting five. The team, led by the undaunted Red Auerbach, was never hesitant. The Celtics thought differently, courageously, unafraid — in 1950, one year before Oliver Brown and friends began their battle against the Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas — the Celtics used a second-round pick on Chuck Cooper, the first black player to be drafted by an NBA team and the second to appear in a game (one day after Washington Capitols forward Earl Lloyd). Trendsetting rarely has surfaced as an issue at 151 Merrimac Street. Yet with Ainge’s hiring of Stevens, the fabled Celtics franchise is following a trend with an extremely high failure rate. College coaches from the past two decades have not succeeded in the NBA. But here are the Celtics, hiring a 37-year-old coach who never played a second of pro basketball, reintroducing the league to a rather old concept. Not that Stevens will fail, but that the Celtics — led by Ainge — will reset the trend. The rest of the league, pawns outplayed by a dominating queen, will see the Celtics succeed with Stevens.
“Brad is smart, he has great integrity, his teams execute and play hard, and he’s a great communicator,” said Ainge. “Experience as a player can help as a coach, but it’s not mandatory. Experience as a coach in college can make a big difference as well. Coach Stevens has proven he’s a great coach. Coaching in the NBA is different, I understand, but in terms of coaching experience, there have been a lot of guys who have become really good coaches that weren’t NBA players.”
|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.’
|Milestone win: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce pass NBA legends in laugher over Raptors||03.13.13 at 9:53 pm ET|
Garnett scored 12 points and passed Jerry West for 15th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with a dunk with 6:30 left in the first half. Pierce scored 15 and passed Charles Barkley for 20th place on the same list with a pair of free throws midway through the third quarters.
Both Pierce and Garnett received a video tribute during separate timeouts and a standing ovation from the Garden crowd.
Riding a two-game losing streak, the Celtics (35-29) raced out to an early 18-12 lead but thanks to six first-quarter turnovers, allowed Toronto to go on a 10-4 run to end the quarter and trailed the Raptors, 22-21, after 12 minutes. Seven Celtics scored in double figures and Shav Randolph was the only Celtic not to score.
The Celtics took better care of the ball in the second quarter and raced out to a 49-40 lead at the half, as Jeff Green scored 12 points in the quarter. Green finished with a team-best 20 points while Jason Terry and Jordan Crawford had 12 each off the bench.
THe Celtics quickly built their lead to 13 in the opening minute of the third, 53-40, but the Raptors came back to close to within four, 60-56. The Celtics finally put the game away with a 21-6 run to end the third and head into the fourth with an 81-62 lead. Former Celtic Sebastian Telfair picked up his second technical foul in the third quarter intermission and was ejected.
The Celtics built their lead up to as many as 25 in garbage time, allowing Doc Rivers to take out Garnett with just under 10 minutes left. However, unlike the night before, Garnett was getting rest because of a blowout lead.
The win came one night after arguably Boston’s worst effort of the season in a 26-point loss to the lowly Bobcats in Charlotte. The Celtics have Thursday off and will practice Friday in advance of their rare Saturday night home game, a revenge contest against the Bobcats at the Garden.
The Celtics will conclude their three-game homestand with a Monday night game at the Garden with LeBron James and the Heat, who ran their win streak to 20 games with a narrow 98-94 win over the Sixers Wednesday night in Philadelphia. The Heat have road games against Milwaukee Friday and Toronto Sunday afternoon before taking on the Celtics in Boston Monday night.
For more from the team of Mike Petraglia and Ben Rohrbach from the Garden, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
|Celtics’ ‘legit chance of beating’ Heat, Jeff Green as NBA’s ‘most underrated player’ and other Charles Barkleyisms||10.24.12 at 10:28 am ET|
Round Mound of Sound Charles Barkley joined fellow NBA on TNT studio analysts Reggie Miller and Shaquille O’Neal on a conference call Tuesday afternoon relayed by both the Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and all three agreed the Celtics have “a legit chance of beating” the Heat this season.
- Barkley: “LeBron [James] covers up a lot of weaknesses because he’s so physically amazing, but Boston to me has a legit chance of beating them.”
- Miller: “I love what Boston has done. They are 1-2 in the Eastern Conference. … This is a team that is primed. I would not be surprised to see those two teams in the conference finals again.”
- O’Neal: “Miami is the team to beat. However, if Boston is healthy … they have a shot.”
Given that both teams met in an Eastern Conference finals that lasted seven games before Miami ultimately captured the NBA championship last season and the Celtics made significant upgrades to their roster, none of these remarks are all that surprising. But this one from Barkley is somewhat startling.
“I think the most underrated player in the NBA is Jeff Green,” said Barkley, who also proclaimed himself “a big Jeff Green fan” last season. “I know he didn’t play last year. I loved him in Oklahoma City. When he got to Boston, he went late into the year, so he really never got comfortable. I think he is going to be fantastic.”
Barkley also made some classic Barkley statements about the C’s Atlantic Division rivals.
“The Celtics got an older Kevin Garnett and a Paul Pierce,” he said. “They brought in all these younger guys to bring in energy and take the load off of Garnett and Paul Pierce, and the Knicks brought in a bunch of old geezers. Listen, I’m a big Marcus Camby fan and Jason Kidd is one of my favorite players, but they’re not going to be able to keep up in a seven-game series with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or playing against the Celtics in a seven-game series. Not even the 76ers — and I love what the 76ers have done — or the Brooklyn Nets. Those old guys are not gonna be able to compete with those young guys when those games come every other day.”
|Irish Coffee: NBA’s (David) Stern warning||10.22.10 at 10:36 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
What if your boss came up to you and said, “Um, yeah, I’m gonna need you guys to go ahead and cut your salaries by $800 million”? I know I wouldn’t like if WEEI slashed my salary by $800 million, and NBA players aren’t going to like it, either.
But that’s exactly what NBA commissioner David Stern is proposing on his side of the collective bargaining agreement to make his league profitable again. Owners claimed $380 million in losses last season and project $350 million in losses this season.
“Even though we reported we have record season ticket sales over the summer and otherwise very robust revenue generation because of the built-in cost of the system,” deputy commissioner Adam Silver told reporters, “it’s virtually impossible for us to move the needle in terms of our losses.”
The NBA player’s association contested those numbers, and I am, too. You’re telling me that the league is losing that much money when season-ticket sales are at an all-time high and they’re just four months removed from a seven-game finals series between the league’s two biggest rivals? Didn’t 8.4 million people tune in just to watch the league’s biggest star announce where he was going to take his talents?
Slashing salaries by 36 percent is going to be a hard sell to the players, especially in a year that the league itself projected attendance to rank in the top five seasons ever.
“They’re saying lockout,” Clippers center Chris Kaman told the Los Angeles Times. “You just never know. You’ve just got to be ready and prepare yourself for that, moneywise. I’ve been saving a lot — looking out.”
If this is truly how the NBA owners are expecting to negotiate the collective bargaining agreement, don’t expect the season to start on time next year. The Celtics‘ starting five would have to give up $40 million next year alone to meet Stern’s demands. I’m not naive enough to believe that’s possible.
CELTICS WILL LOSE: SCOUTS’ HONOR
Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen released his annual survey of NBA advance and personnel scouts, and they don’t expect the Celtics to reach the finals. The highlights:
- The Miami Heat and Orlando Magic are expected to finish with higher seeds than the Celtics in the East.
- Three of the six scouts believe the Heat will take down the Celtics in the conference finals. Two scouts predict the C’s won’t even make it that far, and only one has Boston returning to the NBA finals.
- That lone scout has the Celtics beating the Lakers in the finals. Three of them have the Lakers beating Miami, one has those two finishing vice versa and the sixth scout has the San Antonio Spurs as champs.
“When we were at the Hall of Fame, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and myself said we would not have went to Miami. That’s just a basketball situation. That has nothing to do with anything. We just said we wanted to beat the other guy. That’s not a criticism; that was just giving our opinion. My criticism, and the only criticism I’ve really heard about LeBron, is how he handled the situation.”
While many people are arguing MJ ripped Kobe and Barkley dissed LeBron, that’s not really the case. Jordan called Kobe one of the top-10 guards of all-time, and Barkley called LeBron the best player in the NBA. Those hardly sound like fighting words.
Now, the real controversy should be over this statement from Oscar Robertson to ESPN: “LeBron James is in a class by himself,” even compared to Jordan. Really? I think Jordan’s six NBA titles and LeBron’s zero beg to differ.
A LAYUP DRILL
In the bad news department, former Celtic Charles Smith was shot twice in the chest in a Washington D.C. home yesterday afternoon, according to the local NBC affiliate. Smith reportedly remains in critical-but-stable condition following surgery.
After capturing 1998-89 Big East Player of the Year honors, Smith played 60 games for the 1989-90 Celtics that reached the playoffs. Continue to cheer for him. …
According to The Washington Post, the Wizards waived Adam Morrison yesterday. Back in July, the Celtics were one of four teams scouting Morrison’s Las Vegas workout. Any chance the C’s could bring him in for a look? …
Former Celtic Dominique Wilkins met with 30 kids from Maine who suffer from Type I diabetes to share his own experiences with the disease, The Portland Press Herald reported. Add that to his highlight film. …
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)