|‘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.”
|Doug Collins: ‘We have to meet the challenge of’ Rajon Rondo||05.18.12 at 8:01 am ET|
PHILADELPHIA — A lot of coaches say they want to make life difficult on Rajon Rondo.
But Doug Collins said Thursday that if his Sixers don’t do a better job of putting up a fight against the superstar point guard in Game 4, his team essentially has no shot.
“We never got Rondo stopped all night long,” Collins said of Rondo. “He took the ball wherever he wanted to take it on the floor. We have to take that challenge. We have to take on the challenge that he’s the guy that going to push on the [fast] break, he’s going to get the ball up the floor, he’s going to make the passes, he’s going to be the guy who’s initiating most of their stuff. We have to take the challenge of doing a better job on him.”
Rondo got to the basket time after time, made 9-of-16 shots and finished with 23 points and 14 assists and help the Celtics rediscover their swagger in Game 3. Even when the Sixers led by five after one quarter, Collins was worried.
“We just weren’t sharp from the start,” he said. “A lot of our defensive coverages, and all the things we do. Even in that first quarter, we were up, 33-28, we missed about six layups, six shots in the paint. We never had a grip on the game, defensively. When we went cold a little bit in the second quarter, I told the guys we had 33 points at the quarter and we had six points in the first five or six minutes of the second quarter. Normally, when your defense has to carry you through those moments, [Wednesday] it didn’t.
“I just think the competitiveness. So much is made of Xs and Os. They made a little bit of change on their screen-roll coverage so we talked about that. They did some things differently on screen-rolls. But it’s not a lot of Xs and Os. It’s toughness, competitiveness. The first two games came down to one possession. We have to do a better job when Kevin Garnett is off the floor. He’s plus-47 when on the floor. We have to do a better job. We can’t let them go to their bench and build a lead and then let him come back at the end of the half fresh and then let them finish the half strong. That’s what’s been happening.”
Indeed, when Garnett re-enters the game, he’s been huge before halftime. The Celtics have been outscoring the Sixers in the final minutes of the second quarter and the opening moments of the third quarter, 44-15, in the first three games.
“He rests after about six minutes, they bring him back, and then they play him and he looks fresh at the end of the half. We’re minus-29 points ending the second quarter and starting the third in all three games.”
But what alarmed Collins from the start Wednesday was the lack of team defense from the jump.
“I never take away from a team playing well offensively,” Collins said in giving the Celtics credit. “I just didn’t think we put up a lot of resistance.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Kevin Garnett may have ‘no life at all’ but he sure has plenty of game||05.13.12 at 1:06 am ET|
Kevin Garnett isn’t doing much partying these days.
When you’re 35 (36 on May 19) and supposedly on your final legs and teammates like Paul Pierce say their going to ride you till “the wheels fall off,” there’s nothing much to do but get your body rested and ready to wreak havoc on the opposition in the playoffs.
‘I have no life at this point,” Garnett said after Saturday’s 92-91 win over Philadelphia in Game 1 Saturday night. “I go home, get treatment, come back in here, study tape, film. No life at all. This is what it is.’
That treatment is the typical stuff plus keeping that achy hip flexor loose so it doesn’t tighten up in close games like Game 1 against Philadelphia.
KG did it again in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, going for 29 points and 11 rebounds in 38 minutes, including all 12 in the fourth quarter as the Celtics came back from the dead three times in the win Saturday night at TD Garden.
‘You guys gotta understand that were playing a very good team, very young,” Garnett said of the Sixers, whom he beat up just like he did the Hawks in Round 1. “I thought for the most part those guys hit us in the mouth in the first quarter, I’m not gunna lie. But as the game went on it went good, second half was more of a defensive mind. At the same time, still punching back if you will. We put some stops together and closed the game.”
Did Garnett feel fortunate that the Celtics were down just five in the first half, when he scored 14 of Boston’s 42 points?
‘To be honest I didn’t even know what we were down I don’t even look at the score,” Garnett said. “No disrespect for the game or anything like that, I go off the crowd, I go off the adrenaline, the emotion. For the most part I like the feel of the game. I really feel like we have better basketball in us. I’m sure as the series goes on we will have no other choice but to get better. Whatever is asked of me is what I am going to do. I don’t really pay attention to the minutes.’
Garnett was the monster and feeding him was Rajon Rondo, especially late when Garnett hit a key three-point play to help the Celtics to an 86-84 lead with 2:52 left, a lead they would not relinquish.
‘Swag was aggressive, man,” Garnett said. “I thought second half he did a lot better job looking for his shot. He has a lot of confidence. Hes been really really working on his game. He did a good job of balancing out trying to get Paul one, trying to get myself one.”
Sixers coach Doug Collins said his team did what they could against Garnett.
“I don’t know what else we could have done,” Collins said. “He made a lot of tough shots. He hits those long jump shots. We are not going to run out at him or get a hand in his face but ya know all of a sudden you start running around and doing al that you free up Paul Pierce and all these other guys. I mean you have to pick your poison.
“Kevin is playing great. I mean he is playing great. He’s hitting all these shots. He’s fading shots off the glass. I mean he’s playing as well as I’ve ever seen him play. My hat’s off to him. But I don’t think there was anything we did poorly with him. I just think that some times you get trumped.”
Just 35 seconds after his three-point play, his jumper put the Celtics up, 88-84. Garnett showed he still has plenty of game even if he has no life.
‘When we win I’m having a lot of fun,” Garnett said. “When we lose it’s a tough day.’
|Message or not, Doug Collins was certainly impressed with the Celtics||04.06.11 at 12:00 pm ET|
It took nearly 20 minutes after the final buzzer of the Celtics‘ 99-82 win over the Sixers Tuesday night for Doc Rivers to show up for his postgame news conference in the small media room at TD Garden.
Turns out, he was being showered with praise by Sixers coach Doug Collins.
‘We ran up against a team that played probably as well as they’ve played in a long time,” Collins said. “I talked to Doc after the game, 29 assists, they executed brilliantly, they had two or three really great defensive spurts. To start the third quarter, we fought to get back in, and we cut it to four again, and then they had another defensive spurt.”
Then came the really sugar-coated stuff.
“I told our guys how that’s really what championship teams do, they might not play it for 48 minutes, but they’re going to lock you down for stretches, and win those what I call five minute skirmishes. And I thought they won two five-minute skirmishes in the second half which I really thought gave them separation.”
As for the message sent and received business that was in vogue after the game should this be a playoff preview, Rivers said he was really only concerned about the final score, nothing less, nothing more.
‘No. No. Not at all,” Rivers said, downplaying the mere suggestion. “I just think we won today, and they lost today, and they’re going to watch film and we’re going to watch film. But it’s good to win.’
That doesn’t mean everyone was buying it. Rondo admitted he thought the Celtics made a ‘little statement’ about just how hard it’s going to be for the Sixers to knock off the Celtics in a seven-game series.
But back to Collins. Without mentioning him by name, the Sixers coach also had praise for the way C’s GM Danny Ainge has rebuilt the depth of the bench to support his starting guards.
“Delonte West really helps them, Jeff Green has played very well against us, and they played a very very good game,” Collins said. “Rondo once again leading their team, Ray Allen shooting a high percentage. So when they play like that, it should make Doc smile because they’re one of the best teams in the league.’
Collins has been around long enough to know that trash-talking a superior opponent, especially one you might see in the first round of the playoffs in 10 days, almost never does any good.