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Doc Rivers: Rajon Rondo lower assist totals ‘just one of those stretches’ 01.14.13 at 8:08 pm ET
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Celtics head coach Doc Rivers says he is not overly concerned about the lower assist totals of point guard Rajon Rondo in the last three weeks. Entering Monday’s game, Rondo averaged 8.3 assists over his last 12 games. He recorded double-digit assist totals in just four of those games.

“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll call [assistant GM, team counsel and stat guru] Mike Zarren and figure it out,” Rivers laughed. “Honestly, bench is playing really well and his minutes are down over the stretch as well. Ball movement is better and maybe it’s a by-product of that, but we can do that and he can still have high assist games as well. It’s just one of those stretches.”

Rivers also spoke about not taking the 9-27 Bobcats lightly. Charlotte started out the season 7-5 before losing 22 of their last 24 coming into Monday’s game in Boston. Rivers also confirmed that big-man Chris Wilcox (thumb) is getting closer to returning, and would dress but not play in Monday’s game as the Celtics need to dress 12 players for the game.

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Irish Coffee: 10 things I heard about Celtics at 3:50 pm ET
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As the Celtics prepare to extend their season-long winning streak to six against the Bobcats at the Garden on Monday night, here are 10 C’s links of interest we discovered over the weekend.

10. Plenty was made of Celtics superstar Kevin Garnett‘s reported Honey Nut Cheerios remarks about Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony‘s wife, which Celtics coach Doc Rivers vehemently denied on Thursday, but the best take came, naturally, from Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert.

“Oh, snap, crackle and pop, you just got Apple Jacked,” said Colbert. “Kevin’s saying he had your wife, reality star La La Vazquez, as part of this complete breakfast. Folks, this brings me to a tip of my hat to Kevin Garnett for forging a bold new path in product placement. This isn’t just trash talk. It’s Hefty brand trash talk. Forget gym shoes or Sprite, from now on all NBA games should be filled with athletes incorporating national brands into their taunting. Yo mama’s so fat, she should switch to Chobani non-fat Greek yogurt now with active probiotics.”

Apparently, La La agrees, because she wants some free cereal out of the deal.

9. Two of Garnett’s most influential mentors, former Timberwolves coach Kevin McHale and longtime Minnesota teammate Sam Mitchell, also came to his defense. All things Kevin Garnett tend to be fascinating, and neither Mitchell nor McHale disappointed in separate stellar stories by The Globe’s Gary Washburn.

Mitchell: “Kevin has always taken the attitude that he’s not good enough. The great players feel that way. After 18 years playing in the NBA, why does he play so hard? Not the money. It’s the love of it and the fact that he’s still proving to himself that he deserves to be in this league and he has to go out and earn it and prove it every night.”

McHale: “We spent a lot of time in the gym together when I was not as gray and moved a little bit better. Great kid. Great work ethic. Turned himself into a fantastic player for years and years and years. With his energy level, what he’s still able to accomplish in the NBA, not so much his age, but look at the amount of minutes he’s played. It’s just phenomenal. I’m happy for him.”

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Doc Rivers on Kevin Garnett and Kevin McHale: ‘They are the exact opposite’ 01.11.13 at 8:49 pm ET
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The last time Kevin McHale and Kevin Garnett saw each other they shared a heartfelt embrace after a Rockets win. Before Friday’s game, they shared a crowded hallway between the Celtics and Rockets locker rooms and talked about their unique relationship that included a controversial trade in the summer of 2007.

“We spent a lot of time in the gym together,” McHale reminisced. “Great kid, great work ethic; turned himself into a fantastic player for years and years and years. His energy level, what he’s been able to accomplish still in the NBA, it’s not so much his age, it’s the minutes he’s played. Look at the amount of minutes he’s played, it’s just phenomenal. And I’m happy for him. But not tonight.

“We worked on stuff. But he had such a unique skill set. We worked on fadeaways, worked on some post stuff. Especially when teams were more physical, he really learned how to post and get his spot. We worked a lot on positioning. With him, he had such a different skill set, that turnaround fadeaway, and that became kinda his go-to move. But he was such a good player from the elbow, such a good player from all over, that just putting him in the low post, that really was a disservice to KG.

“He was a great high-post passer, elbow passer. He passed out of the post. I’ve said this before, he’s one of the most unique players because he’s going to get 25,000 points before it’s over with and he’s a pass-first player. Which is amazing. Most pass-first players score 8,000 points. He’s going to have numbers that shoot-first guys don’t get. That just goes to show how talented — he’s been a first-pass, he’d much rather just make the play whatever it is than shoot the ball. That just goes to show how gifted he is.”

The biggest difference between the two power forwards? McHale was shoot first while KG is one of the all-time best big-man passers in NBA history.

“I told him pass was a bad word. It was a four-letter word.”

Celtics coach Doc Rivers could relate, as he did before Friday’s game.

“They are the exact opposite,” Rivers said. “Other than that, they are both great players. It’s funny, our Kevin kills you with intensity; that Kevin, we laugh about it now, some of the stuff he said on the floor, he joked around half the time and ended up with 30 points and 20 rebounds or whatever.

“We were laughing, he would always ask me on the first free throw: ‘When are you trapping me? Because I know you are.’ And he would say, ‘I just want to know so I can shoot it quicker when I have to shoot. I’m going to shoot it, I just want to know when.’ He was a fun-loving, great player. Still, I think him and [Hakeem Olajuwon], I don’t know a third, as far as footwork, those two guys were as good as we ever see.”

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Jared Sullinger: ‘We’re the Underground Railroads’ 01.10.13 at 12:57 am ET
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Jared Sullinger just graduated Kevin Garnett 101. Under the tutelage of his veteran mentor, the Celtics rookie has thrived on the court. Now it’s time for a new lesson: The Art of the Metaphor.

Over the years, we’ve been treated to KG’s lectures on everything from zoology to culinary arts to technology, so there’s no telling how he’ll grade this attempt at an historical metaphor from Sullinger.

“It’s a lot of hard work,” Sullinger said after recording the second double-double of his career (12 points, 16 rebounds) in an 87-79 win over the Suns, “but the train doesn’t stop here. We’ve got to keep going. We’ve got to make it to the next stop, after that the next stop, after that the next stop, so we’re the Underground Railroads.”

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Jeff Green: ‘Just glad to be here, glad to be alive, glad to be playing basketball’ 01.09.13 at 11:51 pm ET
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Just one year ago Wednesday, Jeff Green went under the knife to repair the aortic valve in his heart. Doc Rivers thought his career was over and Green had to lay in a certain way on his hospital bed to make sure he healed correctly.

One year to the day later, he had three spectacular dunks and led a potent Boston bench with 14 points as the Celtics beat the Suns, 87-79, at TD Garden.

“It felt good. (long pause) I can’t put it into words,” Green said. “I mean it’s a wonderful day, I had a good game, I’m just glad to be here man. You know, I reflect a lot about what I’ve been through and it’s just a blessing and I’m glad to be here.”

The Celtics couldn’t have done it without Green and Jared Sullinger leading the way.

“We’re just playing together. Things are starting to click, were just playing hard. Our main focus is defense. Defense defense defense.” KG’s been playing unbelievable with this energy, Countney, myself and Jet, everyone is playing unbelievable.

“I don’t cry, but, it was. A year ago I had heart surgery. When I think about laying in the bed when I woke up from it, and to where I am now…it’s a big deal to me. Like I said, I’m just glad to be here, glad to be alive, glad to be playing basketball.”

Rivers wasn’t tearing up either but he was clearly happy for Green.

“It’s a good night,” Rivers said. “He got some dunks and looked good. And who would’ve thought it a year ago? So it’s really a – I mean, the doctors, and all that – but it’s really a testament to Jeff in general. The fact that he worked himself into the condition that he did; there had to be some kind of fear somewhere, because to work yourself into condition you have to use that muscle. So it’s just really cool that he’s playing, and he’s playing well of us.

“I was more concerned about Jeff’s health; I wasn’t thinking about basketball at all, I can tell you that. I didn’t, honestly, at that time I didn’t think he’d ever play. So the basketball part wasn’t even a concern. You know, the two things that bugged me the most, obviously, was his condition, was number one, and then the contract that was voided, because it had to be, legally. And I was thinking, ‘Man, this kid’s worked his whole life to make a living,’ and now he’s signing the biggest deal of his life at that point and it’s gone. You know? And so now he’s back playing, doing well in all those areas, and I’m very happy for him. He deserves it.”

What did Green think Wednesday looking back 12 months?

“First time I stood up from surgery, the first time I walked, it was painful, but I had to make progress and take steps to get back on the court,” Green said. “Those are memories that Ill never forget. Anything between now and that first step, you know, it was a wonderful journey for myself and an unbelievable process that I went through.”

Does it push him every day?

“Oh, most definitely, because I never want to be back at that point, the way I felt when I woke up, I never want to feel that way again, taking 10 steps and getting tired…I never want to feel that way again,” he said. “I’m gonna push myself to the limits and never be out of shape.”

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Avery Bradley: ‘It’s hard to beat us when we’re playing this way’ 01.05.13 at 9:31 am ET
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This was the lineup and the effort Doc Rivers had been waiting for. But more to the point, this was the effort everyone had been expecting from the Celtics.

Avery Bradley at the ’2′ providing smothering defense with a cast of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo around him. Brandon Bass was even inserted back into the starting lineup Friday, giving the Celtics the lineup they had when they made their run at the end of last season.

The result was a 94-75 win over the Pacers in which defense was the main attraction and Bradley, according to Rivers, was the MVP.

“Avery was 3-for-11 and he may have been the most valuable player tonight because his defensive pressure, just on the ball, it made them take so much time to get into their sets and when they got in their sets it wasn’t the right spot,” Rivers said. “They had to go in places they didn’t want to, and it allowed our entire defense to be dominant. And so Rondo was part of it as well. Where I was real happy with Rondo was in the second and third especially. His speed he played on offense, where he attacked the basket and made things happen, that’s a good sign for us.”

The Celtics held the Pacers to 27-of-85 shooting (31.8 percent). They held Indiana to 75 points, the fewest they’ve allowed all season. Bradley was in the face of Lance Stephenson all night, holding him to 1-for-6 from the floor.

“That’s what I try to bring every night,” Bradley said. “I try to bring that intensity on the defensive end but that’s my role, to be the energy when I come into the game. I just try to make it hard on the opponent every single night, and that’s all I did tonight. It means nothing to me, it just means that I’m taking steps forward, and next game I gotta continue to get better and better.

“We’ve been making steps forward on that defensive end and offensive end and everything’s starting to come together as a team and we just gotta continue to keep taking steps forward and we’ll be the team that we want to be from the beginning of the year” Read the rest of this entry »

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Avery Bradley’s philosophy: ‘Defense is just effort’ 01.03.13 at 9:38 am ET
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Even if his jump shot isn’t back yet, the Celtics really need Avery Bradley‘s attitude.

“Defense is just effort,” he said after his return from double shoulder surgery. “If you give effort, you can never have a bad defensive game. That’s how I think of it. You play as hard as you can. That’s all you have to do.”

Outside of Kevin Garnett and possibly Jason Collins, it’s hard to say there’s anybody else on the Celtics who offers a consistent effort on the defensive end every night. Just ask Tony Allen. Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce often conserve themselves for the offensive end, Courtney Lee hasn’t come as advertised defensively and nobody else on the C’s roster has developed much of a defensive reputation, unless you include Fab Melo, who started the season falling into a folding chair and currently suffers from a concussion after walking into a doorway.

In addition to being the NBA’s worst rebounding team, the Celtics rank in the middle of the pack in almost every defensive statistical category after ranking among the top five teams in defensive rating every season since 2008.

“Every team has its up and downs,” said Bradley, who scored four points on six shots during Wednesday night’s loss to the Grizzlies. “The best teams are the ones that can go through the adversity and overcome it. With the veteran leadership we have, I feel like we’re going to overcome it. We’ve just got to keep improving.”

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