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Opinion: Is Danny Ainge the problem? 12.07.12 at 8:51 am ET
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Danny Ainge always will be invincible in his executive role for the Celtics, riding on the goodwill that he earned from serving as the architect of the 2007-08 championship team. Ainge is the man who effectively swapped Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak and three first-round draft picks for Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and a second-round pick that turned into Glen “Big Baby” Davis.

Ainge earned the NBA’s Executive of the Year award for the 2007-08 season, and looking back, his acquisitions look just as good as they did when he received that distinction more than four years ago.

Ainge hit on just about every transaction that offseason. First, he made the trade for Allen on draft day for Jeff Green, West and Szczerbiak. The throw-in to the trade was Seattle’s second-round pick, Davis, who arguably has had a better career than Green.

Ainge’s entire offseason followed the same trend. He pulled off the Garnett trade on July 31, nearly depleting the C’€™s roster with the goal of building a team around Garnett, Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. Ainge began filling out the roster with complementary pieces such as Eddie House and James Posey that offseason. During the season, he acquired P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell, rounding out a championship roster from top to bottom.

Four-plus years after the Celtics’ championship run, Ainge has failed in repeating that feat with nearly the same exact core. Dissecting the president of basketball operations’ track record over the last four seasons, it is fair to say Ainge has missed more than he’s hit since the Celtics hoisted the championship trophy.

Let’s review.

2008-09 season: Ainge kicked off the Celtics’ bid to repeat as champions by drafting J.R. Giddens with the 30th pick of the 2008 draft. Giddens played 38 games in his NBA career, only six for the Celtics. Of course, picking at the bottom of the first round is never an exact science for an NBA general manager. That being said, Giddens was the 30th pick. The 31st pick was Nikola Pekovic, who is averaging 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds for the Timberwolves this season. Picks 34 through 36 included Mario Chalmers by the Heat, DeAndre Jordan by the Clippers, and Omer Asik by the Trail Blazers. Chalmers was the starting point guard for the NBA champion Heat last season. Jordan is averaging 10.4 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in his career. Asik is averaging 10.9 points and 12.1 rebounds this season for the Rockets.

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Doc Rivers: ‘I have no idea’ if Rondo went to Mexico 12.06.12 at 11:49 am ET
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In addition to reminding everyone that Avery Bradley‘s “a ways away” from returning in his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Morning Show, Celtics coach Doc Rivers discussed Rajon Rondo at length.

On the Kris Humphries scuffle and ensuing suspension: “Rondo understands that we need him. I called it like I saw it … and Rondo almost said the same thing: He said, ‘€˜Coach, I didn’€™t go in there to have a fight. I went in there to push him off Kevin [Garnett] and the next thing you know he grabs my arm, and then I pushed back and it escalated.’ He said, ‘€˜I never intended to fight, that’€™s not what I did. I was just trying to push him off Kevin.’€™”

On whether Rondo really went to Mexico: ‘€œI have no idea. I really don’€™t. I don’€™t ever check. He’€™s a grown man, and he wasn’€™t in our locker room. I did say, ‘Go where you want, do what you want, just keep working out and watching us play.’ And he did those things.

“It may not have been a bad time, but it was an expensive time.’€

On the point guard’s public vs. private persona: ‘€œRondo with his teammates never shuts up. He’€™s loud, they laugh, they argue all the time — sports arguments are what you’€™d call it, debates where they are laughing — so he has a very good personality, and then he has the personality that you see as well. He has both of those.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, NBA, Rajon Rondo
Avery Bradley: ‘I feel like we’re a lot closer’ 12.05.12 at 8:03 pm ET
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Told prior to Wednesday’s game that injured guard Avery Bradley feels a week or two away from returning to practice, Celtics coach Doc Rivers knew better than to bite on any timetables before talking to trainer Ed Lacerte.

“Thanks for telling me,” joked Rivers, who remains in daily contact with Bradley and the training staff about the status of the 22-year-old’s ailing shoulders. “I didn’t know that.”

Even Bradley backed off the two-week timeframe in case he ruins an early Christmas surprise for the Celtics.

“No timeframe,” he said. “We did at first, but we kind of got away from the timeframes, because when we were doing the timeframes, they weren’€™t consistent. Sometimes we would meet the timeframe and sometimes I wouldn’€™t be prepared when it got around the time. So, we stopped doing timeframes.”

Instead, he’s approaching recovery “day-by-day” — running, shooting, lifting, swimming — in hopes of passing Lacerte’s daily resistance tests. “I feel a lot better,” added Bradley. “I’€™m doing pushups now. I try to do them every single day to see how my arms feel, and I feel a lot stronger. It’€™s like night and day how I feel from two weeks ago.”

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, NBA
Paul Pierce and Celtics get another chance to prove their toughness against Kevin Love 12.04.12 at 6:46 pm ET
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WALTHAM ‘€” All season, the Celtics have been looking for a chance to prove their toughness.

At 9-8, they get another chance Wednesday night when they host the most impressive rebounder in the NBA. Kevin Love isn’t among the league leaders with 15.3 rebounds per game since he’s played just six games due to a broken knuckle on his right hand. But he will be eventually.

“Kevin Love is one of the best rebounders of our era,” said C’s coach Doc Rivers. “I know that’s saying something early on in his career, but he really is.”

In addition to coaching against him, Rivers got an up close and personal look at Love at the Olympics in London. Love, as Rivers noted Tuesday, was there helping Team USA flex its muscle early on in the Games while Team USA was still finding itself.

“Two of those games early in the Olympics were kind of close in the first half, the U.S. would have been down by 20 but Kevin Love kept getting rebounds and you stare at it and watch it, it’s an art.”

“Our main objective is to try and slow him down,” Paul Pierce said. “He’s shown he can dominate the game with his offensive rebounding, and defensive rebounding. That’s definitely an emphasis.”

Rivers thought the Celtics cleared a mental hurdle against the Thunder and Kevin Durant. Then they barely beat the Magic two days later and were beat up by the Nets. Pierce knows the Celtics can’t afford a relapse, even if they handle Love and the Timberwolves Wednesday.

“Going up against a guy like that definitely is a chance but it’s something you want to see consistently,” Pierce said. “In order to build and in order to get better, you can’t just pick your moments because you get one of the more physical players in the NBA coming into our building. It has to be a something that’s a mindset that we have to be able to do every night, regardless of who we’re going against”

Love is also averaging 21.7 points and represents the ultimate toughness challenge for Pierce and the Celtics, because he can also step back and shoot the three, though he has shot just 19.4 percent from long range this season.

“Kevin Love is such a different kind of player,” Pierce said. “He’s a power forward but he can step out and shoot the three, but he’s an interior player when it comes to rebounding and doing all the dirty work.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Love, NBA
Doc Rivers: ‘We’ve got a long way to go but we’re getting better’ 12.01.12 at 1:48 am ET
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Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said his team showed signs of getting back on the right track in a 96-78 win over the Trail Blazers Friday night at TD Garden. Rivers called his team soft after Wednesday night’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Rivers said his team is showing signs of doing what it takes to turn things around.

‘€œIt was good,” Rivers said. “Obviously it’€™s one game and it was great. Our defense was fantastic. We did a couple things different, trapping, it was great. And then the ball movement was terrific as well in the first half. I thought, second half was, you know how that goes with the score, but overall I just like our focus and how we approached the game.’€

And the answer for no Rajon Rondo?

‘€œWe just basically played through the bigs,” Rivers said. “We took all the pressure off the guards; all they had to do is bring it up and then throw it to Kevin (Garnett) at the elbow or Jared (Sullinger) at the elbow and then cut and move. That way there’€™s no dribbling; it was easier for them that way. And that’€™s what I meant before the game when I said I told everybody he’€™s going to be the point guard. Basically what I was saying: our bigs were the point guards today.’€

Having Jeff Green lead the team with 19 points off the bench didn’t hurt either.

‘€œWe’€™ve just got to keep doing it,” Rivers said. “One game, it was great. What we’€™re trying to get him to see is when he’€™s at the three he’€™s a power player; when he’€™s at the four he’€™s a speed player. And that’€™s how he has to look at himself. And our guys did a good job of getting him the ball as well.’€

There was no need to call his team soft after Friday night’s game.

‘€œWell, I didn’€™t do anything,” Rivers said. “I mean, we went pretty hard yesterday for short and we actually went hard today for the shoot-around. Because we’€™ve got to get our culture right in that way. And we’€™ve got a long way to go, but we’€™re getting better. You can see it, for sure.’€

As for the defense, Rivers said they mixed things up slightly.

‘€œWe trapped pick-and-rolls, which we don’€™t do much anymore,” he said. “We’€™re bringing it back, because I think it’€™s coming back. So we did that and our guys stayed with it. Usually we show and get out. We just decided, you know, (Damian) Lillard is terrific but he’€™s a rookie and young, and probably hadn’€™t seen a lot of traps that stayed with the ball. And basically that’€™s what we did.’€

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Courtney Lee: Doc Rivers ‘can continue to call us soft … if it wakes us up’ at 1:29 am ET
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Courtney Lee

Jeff Green might have scored 19 points and Jason Terry might have had 17 in 31 minutes but it was Courtney Lee who was the key player in Boston’s 96-78 win over the Trail Blazers Friday night at TD Garden, as the Celtics played the first of two straight games without the suspended Rajon Rondo.

Lee said the team responded well to Doc Rivers calling them soft after a loss to the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night at home.

“He can continue to call us soft,” Lee said afterward. “If we’re going to respond like this and play, I guess we need to be told that for us to wake up.”

What really hit home with Lee was when Rivers rolled the film of Wednesday’s game, showing the team how many easy baskets they were giving up.

“We got called soft the other day and we didn’t like that,” Lee said. “When you watch the tape, you see those guys [Nets] coming down, running their offense, setting hard screens, getting layups and dunks and wide open shots. We took that personally.”

No shock that the turnaround began on the defensive end, where the Celtics held the Blazers to 23 percent shooting in the first half.

‘€œYeah, definitely after that loss last game, we wanted to come out and just focus on the defensive end make sure we got stops,” Lee said. “Make sure we didn’€™t give up any easy buckets and so I think we started off and threw the first punch.’€

Rivers gave Lee credit for stepping up and showing his play-making ability in the absence of Rondo.

‘€œCourtney was great,” Rivers said. “You could see Courtney is getting better and better at what we’€™re asking him to do. He’€™s bought in completely, which you can see that. His shots will fall. I feel like him, with Avery (Avery Bradley) last year, where I kept telling you guys ‘€˜Avery can shoot’€™ and you guys were looking at me like I was a Martian. And then he started making them. And Courtney is proving he can. He’€™s getting wide open ones, and eventually they’€™ll fall.’€

“I mean that’€™s what you gotta do,” Lee said of his ball-handling skills. “Rondo is a great playmaker, the guy’€™s gonna rack up a lot of assists, so we just have to play within the offense, move the ball around, and you see the assists were spread out throughout the whole team. Without him we had to move the ball a lot more.

‘€œI mean it shows good character for our team. We got beat bad on our own court then we went to practice, had a real tough practice. Doc was on us the whole time so we wanted to come in and protect home court, because we cant keep letting teams come in and beat us on our home court. We wanted to bounce back and we did that today.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Courtney Lee, Doc Rivers, Jason Terry
Kevin Garnett doesn’t like to be called soft 11.30.12 at 11:11 pm ET
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After Wednesday’s Rajon Rondo-Kris Humphries fiasco and the ensuing 95-83 loss to the Nets on their homecourt, Celtics coach Doc Rivers called his team soft.

‘€œIf I’€™m Brooklyn and the league, you’€™ve got to think we’€™re pretty soft the way we’€™re playing,’€ Rivers said in Wednesday’s aftermath. ‘€œWe’€™re a soft team right now; we have no toughness.’€

Apparently, Kevin Garnett doesn’t like to be called soft. Who knew?

‘€œI don’€™t know any man who likes to be called soft; maybe some women,” he said after dropping a 10-5-4 in 23 efficient minutes of Friday’s 96-78 blowout of the Blazers. “Where I’€™m from, not most men like that. I think collectively he’€™s talking about our style. ‘€¦ I don’€™t think he’€™s coming at us as men, but he’€™s definitely talking about our style as a whole. Collectively, we all have to do that together; the onus falls on each and every last one of us, not just one or two guys. But, yeah, that was disturbing. Who likes to be called soft in anything, if you’€™re a man?’€

Count Courtney Lee among those men KG knows who don’t like being called soft. He amassed 10 points, 7 rebounds, five assists and three steals in 37 minutes, starting in place of the suspended Rondo.

“He can continue to call us soft,” said Lee following what might have been his best game of the season. “If we’re going to respond like this and play, I guess we need to be told that for us to wake up. … We got called soft the other day, and we didn’t like that. When you watch the tape, you see those guys [Nets] coming down, running their offense, setting hard screens, getting layups and dunks and wide open shots. We took that personally.”

Rivers got the results he was looking for on Friday, but he hopes he lingers beyond just the one game.

“Well, I didn’t do anything,” the coach said postgame. “I mean, we went pretty hard [Thursday in practice] for short, and we actually went hard [Friday] for the shootaround, because we’ve got to get our culture right in that way. And we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re getting better. You can see it, for sure.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Courtney Lee, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
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