|Destination Championship: Why Boston has become a hotspot for NBA vets||01.03.09 at 9:53 pm ET|
Come to Boston and win, that’s how the Celtics organization is seen by many around the NBA. It has become a paradise of victory, a hotspot for veterans who want a legitimate shot at a championship. But it is also a place where selfishness and egos are checked at the door. Personal accolades mean nothing unless the team wins.
So what makes the Celtics, who downplay individual achievements, so much more appealing to vets than other teams who celebrate superstardom? Why settle for blending in when you could stand out next to Kobe Bryant or LeBron James? For those who have made the sacrifices, the explanation is very simple.
“Coming here you get to fit in and be a cog in the wheel,” Ray Allen said. “It’s not about any one individual here on this team. We play together and we beat teams together. We lose together. Everything is together.”
Over the past few weeks the Celtics have been named as possible destinations for veterans Stephon Marbury, Robert Horry, and Dikembe Mutombo, among others. Even though they could have a legitimate shot of winning all with the Los Angeles Lakers or Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston has been a primary destination in the rumor mill.
“I think what’s appealing is that we play together. We have three stars and they actually play together and I think that shows more,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “But honestly I think they would play with Kobe as well and I think they would play with LeBron as well. We may be more aggressive in the market, let’s say, than some of those teams. And maybe we’re not. I think they would play for any of them. At least I would if I were the player.”
Eight-year vet Eddie House, who has signed two contracts in two years with the Celtics, can understand why these players would be interested in Boston. The journeyman had already played with plenty of big names before — Elton Brand, Steve Nash, and Jason Kidd, to name a few ‘ and was lured back by selflessness rather than headliners.
“When you’re playing with one guy then the ball’s dominated by one guy,” House explained. “Here, you’ve got a group of guys who like to share the basketball, who can take the load if they’re asked to take the load. They aren’t depended on the take the load, but if they are asked to take the load that night they will do it.
“But for the most part, it’s very unselfish and it’s not a ‘me’ attitude. With those guys (Bryant and James) it’s more so they have to dominate the ball and you have to play off of them. To where these guys will get you the ball and play with you, instead of you playing off of them.”
The Celtics are set apart from the rest of the league by more than just their trophy. The success of Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce sent the message that being the superstar doesn’t guarantee being the best. It was only when these vets took a step back that they won it all.
“The point of us coming together last year, we were at a point in our lives, in our careers where we were somewhat content with what we had done individually,” Allen said. “We could continue at that pace and finish our careers out that way being a great scorer on a team that never won. But if we didn’t [let go] of our egos and come together, we would have been doing that for the rest of our careers. That’s why, at that time, it seemed like it was a great moment for all of our careers. And I think there’s that progression for most athletes.”
Should the Celtics make any mid-season moves, they already know how to adapt to new additions. Last season veterans P.J. Brown emerged from semi-retirement and Sam Cassell accepted a buyout from the Los Angeles Clippers for the prospect of a ring. These acquisitions could have rattled the Celtics, but those already on the team didn’t see less playing time. They saw a better shot at the title.
“The late in the season addition when you’re already the number one team, you could have some grumbles about that and guys might not welcome guys in,” House said. “But everybody knew this is a business and not only is this a business, but we were on a mission to a hang a banner in the rafters. So we had to accept what was going on for the greater good.”
39-year-old Cassell re-signed with the Cs fully aware that he could be inactive the entire season. At this stage in his career, he doesn’t need 20 minutes per game to be happy.
“It’s about winning,” he said. “For me, I don’t know what [other veterans’] agendas are, but for me it was about winning. I just got a nice taste of winning so I just wanted to win. This was the best opportunity for me to win again.”
As long as the Celtics continue to win with their unselfish play, Boston will stay on the map for veterans who want to capture a championship without having to do it all on their own.
“We welcome the help,” Allen said. “Our egos, we’re pretty selfless here on this team when it comes to playing basketball. We just want to win.”
The door is open for eager vets, just as long as they leave their egos behind.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 108, Wizards 83||at 12:57 am ET|
The Celtics had just come off a rare stretch in which they not only lost three of four on the West Coast but didn’t play very well in the process. Well, nothing like the six-win Washington Wizards on your home court to serve as the perfect tonic. Friday night, Paul Pierce came out and made his first nine shots from the floor and the Celtics went from one-on-one basketball that cost them dearly in Portland to passing the ball around and sharing the wealth. Rajon Rondo had 14 of Boston’s 31 assists on the night and the big men help the Celtics outrebound the Wizards, 47-35, with Kendrick Perkins hauling in 10.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 110, 76ers 91||12.24.08 at 6:52 am ET|
The Celtics threw a Christmas party for family and friends in their locker room following their 110-91 win over the 76ers Tuesday night at TD Banknorth Garden. They certainly had plenty to celebrate. In addition to the festive time of season, the Celtics family and friends cheered the fact that they are now owners of the longest winning streak in team history at 19 games. They also raised a toast to the team’s 27-2 start, the best 29-game opening to a season in NBA history. Up next, an NBA Finals rematch with the Lakers in Los Angeles on Christmas Day. To get there, they took a red-eye cross-country flight but before that, they took time to reflct on the record and look ahead to what should be a classic game on Christmas at Staples Center.
And be sure to read and hear what Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala said about the Celtics, their streak, trash-talking and a certain reference to a perfect regular season in the NFL that didn’t end in a title.
|Sounds of the Game… Celtics 126, Bulls 108||12.20.08 at 10:32 am ET|
What makes a great team is when it can constantly find way to get better even when things are already going so well. Doc Rivers and staff worked with center Kendrick Perkins to work on setting better screens and picks, convincing him that this would lead to better seals under the basket and eventually more scoring opportunities for him. The result? Perk scored a career high 25 points on Friday night, second only to Ray Allen’s 27 as the C’s (yawn-yawn) dispatched of the Chicago Bulls 126-108 at TD Banknorth Garden. Now, the Celtics can match the team’s all-time winning streak mark of 18 on Sunday night against Quentin Richardson and the Knicks at home. If victorious against New York, the chance to break it comes on Tuesday against another arch-rival, the Philadelphia 76ers.
|Sounds of the Game… Celtics 94, Hornets 82||12.13.08 at 8:53 am ET|
Yet another sign on Friday night that these Celtics may be even better and more focused than last year’s 66-win, NBA-champion group. The C’s came in after an 8 p.m. game the night before in Washington and had to battle the talented New Orleans Hornets, with James Posey making his return and collecting his ring. After circling at midcourt and doing Ubuntu one more time with the man Doc Rivers said understood it as well as anyone, the Celtics went out and won their 14th straight, matching their longest since March-April 1986. Rajon Rondo didn’t have his finest game but Paul Pierce more than picked up the slack with 28 points. Even Pose had to concede that this team may be even better than last year’s group.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 93, Trail Blazers 78||12.06.08 at 11:44 am ET|
Last season, in their run to their 17th NBA title, the Celtics went from potential to prolific, winning 66 games in the regular season. This season, they are going from hype to historic, as in no team in NBA history has ever followed up an 18-2 start one season with a 19-2 opening the next… until now. What’s scary about the Green Machine’s is they honestly believe they have yet to play a complete game. Friday night, the best offensive rebounding team in the NBA came to town with a 16-4 mark and a six-game winning streak. They hadn’t lost to an Eastern Conference team. They had lost just twice in 16 games when holding their opponent under 100 points. Still not enough to overcome the Celtics, who overwhelmed them with a 21-0 run. The Celtics are all on the same page, preaching the same message, we’re playing well but there’s a lot of season remaining and a lot to play for. Just take a listen.
|Checking In with J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker||12.05.08 at 12:09 am ET|
Last month Boston Celtics rookies J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker were assigned to the NBA Development League affiliate Utah Flash. Minutes are hard to come by with the defending world champions and the pair was headed down a road of DNPs. In just a few weeks, though, Giddens and Walker have gone from benchwarmers in Beantown to standouts in Provo. They caught up with WEEI.com in a telephone interview to explain why the grass is still pretty green in Utah.
Some players would rather forgo playing time to stay in the NBA, but you seemed to embrace the D-League. What was your reaction when you found out you were assigned to the Utah Flash?
JG: Well I was excited because I had an idea that I was going down there. My brother and some of my closest people talked about it, how it was going to be a good opportunity to go down there and get into game shape and just gain confidence and become better every day. So whenever I do get the chance from the Celtics to play, then I’ll be in the best shape possible and I’ll be able to take a good swing at it.
BW: I was excited to have a chance to be able to play again, so I was excited about going. J.R. was already down there and I just welcomed it.
After flying from a major city like Boston to Provo, what was your first impression of Utah?
BW: I just looked at the mountains and I was like, ‘Oh I’m not in Boston any more.’ I had fell asleep on the plane so that was the first thing I’d seen.
JG: I played in the Mountain West Conference so I had traveled out to this part of Utah before. I was just trying to soak up the culture. I was just trying to get a feel for it and just soak up the atmosphere out here and just enjoy the experience out here in Utah.
J.R. was assigned to the Flash a week before Bill. How excited were you to be playing together again?
JG: Well Bill’s my partner in crime so it’s like I was excited to have him down here. Just having somebody that you’re familiar with and you’re friends with playing with you makes it a lot easier … He’s made this transition a lot easier for me and I hope that I’ve done the same for him.
BW: It was fun. He told me all the things the team has been up to and helped me with the plays and everything. So he helped me out with that …You always want to go into something like this with somebody you know because it’s a totally different experience if you’re by yourself.
Bill, you mentioned before that you enjoyed rooming with Michael Beasley at Kansas State last season. Now you’re sharing an apartment with J.R. in Utah. How is having a new roommate?
BW: I wouldn’t say I miss living with Mike (laughs). He was just real funny though. Him and J.R. are kind of similar in the effect that they’re very funny guys.
Aside from keeping in touch with your teammates, what kind of feedback have you received from (Celtics President) Danny Ainge or (head coach) Doc Rivers?
JG: They just give me words of encouragement … It means a lot because obviously Doc Rivers, that’s my coach, so he’s pretty high on my priority list. So I’m just happy that he’s thinking of me and knows that I’m down here working to help the Celtics out.
You were part of two Opening Nights this season ‘ one with the Celtics in October and another with the Flash in late November. How did the two compare?
BW: The Garden is definitely a different experience from anything I’ve ever seen, so I don’t think anything is going to be able to top that.
JG: One opening night was a ring ceremony and the other opening night was just kind of introducing the basketball season. There was a lot more tradition in opening night with the Celtics, but the Flash had a great turnout and the fans supported us and you couldn’t ask for a better turnout.
It took no time for you to become the leading scorers on the Flash. What kind of improvements have you seen in your game already?
JG: I’m just trying to be efficient and attacking the basket and finding teammates who are open and using my size to rebound and doing just more of whatever I can, whether it’s enhance or defense or make somebody better by running the court. Just doing whatever I can to help the team win.
BW: Just trying to cut down on my turnovers right now, pass out of double teams, so that’s the only difference. Just learning how to play in a 48 minute game, learning how to play hard but still pace yourself where you have enough to finish the game out.
You went from playing major minutes in college to hardly any in the NBA. What are the challenges in transitioning back to 35, 40, 45 minutes a night?
BW: You get a time where you’re on a break and you’re body is getting beat up that much because you’re not getting any minutes and then all of a sudden you’re thrown in there. It doesn’t matter how much cardio you do. Until you play in the games, that’s the only way you can really, really get into top shape.
JG: When you go from not playing to playing, I’d say the transition’s more fun than hard. It’s obviously difficult because you’re not in game shape and you’re trying to catch your rhythm, which you could be frustrated with your game or conditioning at times. But that’s just part of the game and you’ve got to stay patient. I’m just really excited to come back out on the court because, like I said, I’d rather play than not play.
Out of the two of you J.R. was the long-range player, but so far it seems like role reversal. Bill, a power player on the Cs, has actually taken more shots from behind the arc. What sparked your recent 5-for-9 performance?
BW: I’ve just had more opportunities to shoot the ball down here. With the Celtics you really just play off of the other guys, you’re really not a creator. That’s probably the biggest difference, just the mentality change.
J.R., you used to compete in three-point shooting contests with Ray Allen after Celtics practice. So far you’ve shot 2-for-7 from long range. How does your three-point shot feel?
JG: I wouldn’t say I’m struggling. We’ve only played three games and I’ve taken about six shots, probably less than ten. Now if I had shot like 100 and didn’t make that many then I’d say I’m struggling, but no, the three-pointer feels good. It just hasn’t been sinking but I feel confident and I know I’ll hit a high percentage.
After being away from the team, what do you miss the most about playing with the Boston Celtics?
BW: A lot. Probably being around the guys every day. Just watching KG and those guys play every day because it seems like one of them does something good every game. (Rajon) Rondo just had a triple-double so I missed out on stuff like that.
JG: Just learning everything from being around those guys, seeing how they are every day, and just being in the NBA. It’s been my dream and every experience, good and bad, you’ve just got to take it and just love it.
When you get called back up to the Celtics, which versions of Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens can we expect?
JG: I know I’ll be a lot more confident and feel more fluid with my movements on the court and I’ll feel like I’m in better shape. Being an athlete I feel like being in games in crucial because you use a certain amount of energy when you’re playing. When you’re not in game shape you’re not as quick and you’re not as on point as you normally would be.
BW: Probably a more confident Bill Walker. Just having some game experience on this level and knowing what I can do and what I can’t do, so I’m learning the ropes.
Through the first three games of the D-League season, Giddens is averaging a team-high 23.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and shooting 54% FG. Walker is posting 22 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and is shooting 46% FG. To keep up with their progress, visit www.utahflash.com.
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