|Can the Celtics reel in Marcus Smart? Jae Crowder and Brad Stevens are working on it||11.29.16 at 8:15 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Jae Crowder could see and hear Miami coach Erik Spoestra trying an old trick Monday night to get under the skin of Marcus Smart.
Crowder and everybody else familiar with Smart knows the third-year guard came out of Oklahoma State with a reputation for letting his intensity turn into anger and frustration, eventually leading to technical fouls or worse.
“It’s funny because I was telling him [Monday] during the game, Spoelstra was saying, ‘He’s a hothead. He’s a hothead.’ So obviously that was part of the game plane to try to get under his skin a little bit,” Crowder said with a brotherly smile after practice Tuesday.
“A lot of teams know he wears his emotions on his sleeves so they’re going to do stuff like that. And you just have to be more cautious of it and know that it’s just a game they’re trying to play with him. I’m sure as the season goes on he’ll be more aware of it. And hopefully he gets better.”
Tired of getting hacked by Goran Dragic, Smart indeed took a technical foul when he complained about a double-foul with 2:26 left in the game. There’s clearly a fine line for Smart to walk and always has been since he came into the NBA in 2014.
“I was begging for Spoelstra to get a technical foul because he was saying a lot of stuff. He was everywhere last night, but that’s one of the things he did say. When they went to intentional foul Marcus it was obvious that what they were trying to do was more than just foul. They were trying to get under his skin and play a little physical, and knowing he wanted to retaliate for the most part. So it’s just part of the scouting report on I guess Marcus that he wears his emotions on his sleeve.”
Crowder got his wish when Spoelstra was finally T’d up with 2:11 left as the Celtics pulled away for the 112-104 win.
“It’s a very fine [line]. He as a person, as an individual, has to control it,” Crowder said. “We as teammates can keep being on him about it, but it’s about him and being able to control it. A lot of players and coaches in this league know he’s an emotional type of guy, so they’re going to try to do everything they can to get under his skin and in his head. But he has to want to put his pride aside and put his emotions aside for the team’s sake. And take care of business.”
Can Crowder see a maturity in Smart?
“Of course. He has not gone backwards in that regard,” Crowder said. “But he’s playing more minutes now than he was when he was a rookie. He’s playing a bigger role now, so we need him to be more locked in on that standpoint. You can’t just give away points at the free throw line on technicals and flagrants and stuff like that. So, we’ll keep pounding it in his head, and he keeps [telling] us he wants to change, so he’ll get better, hopefully.”
Brad Stevens is also keeping a close eye on Smart’s on-court intensity.
“I think toughness is such a critical component of a team and everybody brings their own levels of skill to the table and everything else but you have to have a competitiveness and an ability to figure out a way to win that possession,” Stevens said. “He’s able to do that on a lot of possessions.”
There’s an obvious irony to what happened Monday as it’s usually Smart and his intense defense that agitates and gets opposing players out of their game.
“Well, he plays physical. For the most part, a lot of guys don’t like to play physical,” Crowder said. “They want an easy-flowing game and Marcus don’t play like that. That alone just gets under guys’ skin, just him playing physical and him being a presence on the basketball court with his body and his stature. A lot of players don’t like it. [Hassan] Whiteside is one of those guys who doesn’t like to play that physical. He likes to play physical as long as guys don’t play physical back with him. So, he didn’t like the foul Marcus laid on him late in the first quarter.”
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|Brad Stevens has a lot of respect for ‘great job’ Erik Spoelstra has done in Miami||02.27.16 at 3:18 pm ET|
When Brad Stevens talks about Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, you can sense a great deal of respect and admiration. You can also sense that he wouldn’t mind having his track record some day. When Spoelstra took over for Pat Riley in 2008, he was just 37, the same age Stevens was when he took over the Celtics in 2013.
In his eighth season in Miami, Spoelstra has been to the NBA Finals four times, winning twice with LeBron James. After going just 37-45 last season, and missing the playoffs for the first time, Spoelstra has bounced back strong this year. His team is 32-25 and what’s more impressive is that he’s doing it short-handed.
“I don’t know him all that well,” Stevens said. “I’ve obviously met him in a couple of the coaches’ meetings and seen him at the summer leagues and those types of things real briefly but I haven’t spent a lot of time with him. I’m really impressed by him and have been since I got a chance to first watch his teams play. I didn’t know him when he was a video guy or an assistant in his earlier years either.”
While both were wunderkinds when hired for their first NBA head coaching gigs, Spoelstra and Stevens are from very different backgrounds.
Spoelstra was hired by then-Heat GM Dave Wohl and personnel director Roya Vaziri in 1995 as a video coordinator at the age of 25. He worked his way up, eventually impressing Riley with his work ethic as a video coordinator and eventually a scouting director in 2001. He’s been a Heat lifer. As for Stevens, everyone knows the story how he wowed the basketball world by taking Butler to the NCAA finals in 2010 and ’11, in the process becoming the youngest coach ever (34 years old) to reach the Final Four twice. Stevens didn’t shoot out of the gate and make the playoffs in his first season like Spoelstra but he is commanding the respect of stars young and old around the league. Even Rajon Rondo was impressed with Stevens the first time they met.
But what impresses someone like Stevens is how even-tempered someone like Spoelstra can be, even when things seem to be falling apart around him.
Last week, the Heat’s leading scorer, Chris Bosh, was sidelined with a blood clot in his calf. That was just the latest in a long line of injuries to significant players. Beno Udrih had surgery Friday on his foot and is out three months. Tyler Johnson is out with a shoulder injury. Udonis Haslem had an allergic reaction this week but made the trip to Boston for his short-handed teammates.
|Ray Allen at Heat introductory press conference: ‘It’s a sad thing for me and my family’ to leave Celtics||07.11.12 at 1:58 pm ET|
New Heat guard Ray Allen downplayed reports of friction between himself and Rajon Rondo at his introductory press conference Wednesday afternoon in Miami. While Allen acknowledged “there’s differences” and noted that he has been in contact with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett but not Rondo this offseason, he insisted his move to Miami was not sparked by the Celtics‘ enigmatic point guard.
“I haven’t spoken with him at all,” Allen said when asked about his relationship with Rondo. “I know when I came down here I texted Paul and Kevin. Those are the guys that I talked quite a bit with over the years. We shared a lot of similar philosophies. Those are the guys, when we came into Boston together, a lot was put on our shoulders as to whether or not we were going to win. So, I look back at all our time spent in Boston. We’ve had a lot of disappointments, but we’ve shared a lot of thrills. And a lot of that’s off the court.
“So, it is sad to me, knowing that I’m not going to be with those guys anymore. But I’m looking forward to what we can do here in this organization, being a teammate of LeBron [James], being a teammate of Dwyane [Wade], Chris Bosh I just met, Joel Anthony, those guys are all excited to have me here.”
When asked again about Rondo, Allen said: “I can’t say it affected my decision. I think as teammates we were brothers. I’m around them more than I’m around my own family. There’s differences. We all have differences. Paul, he eats Corn Flakes, I might not like Corn Flakes. That’s just part of who we are as individuals. At the end of the day we have to buy into what the coach believes is best for us. As players we have to put our differences aside.”
Allen talked in more detail about the difficulty he had in making the decision and how it affected his former teammates.
“When I was knew I was leaning toward Miami, I actually sent a text out to Kevin, just to let him know,” Allen said. “I just remember this process in ’08 when [James] Posey left us. He left and we just really wanted him back. He went to New Orleans and we didn’t get a chance to try to get Danny to give him a little something extra, or whatever it was. I didn’t want that to be the case with me in this situation.
“So, I texted Kevin, I told him, I said, ‘Hey, I’m leaning this way. I just want you to know,’ without getting into the finite details of the deal. He said, ‘Well, Danny [Ainge] will step up to the plate and do whatever you need him to do.’ I was like, ‘Well, we’ll see.’ That was somewhat of the small discussion that we had.
“I just wanted those guys to know that I appreciate everything they’ve done for me, and it was a joy and a pleasure to play with them.”
|Doc Rivers: ‘Riley is inside [Spoelstra]’ and other Celtics-Heat Game 7 shootaround notes||06.09.12 at 1:08 pm ET|
But before Miami, and after winning four titles with the Showtime Lakers, Riley coached the New York Knicks to the 1994 NBA finals. He had a point guard on that team by the name of Glenn “Doc” Rivers.
Doc Rivers speaks often about how much influence Riley had on his coaching career. In the hours before Game 7 with the Heat, the subject came up again.
“If you play for Riley or work around Riley, he’s going to be a part of you for the rest of your life,” Rivers said. “That’s just how it is, even if you have no contact with him, or you do. Riley was Riley for a reason. He gets inside of you, and you can see that with Erik. Riley is inside of him.”
Erik is Erik Spoelstra, the current coach of the Heat, a coach who has – at times in this series – come under intense pressure and criticism for possibly losing to a Celtics team much older that was considered heavy underdogs against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Rivers said he can see a lot of Riley in Spoelstra’s approach.
“I don’t know about the game part of it,” Rivers said. “I think Spo does his own thing there. But definitely, the mental part of it, just listening to how he talks and prepares the team, that’s a Riley [characteristic]. Fingerprints are all over that part.”
Rivers is getting his team ready for the seventh Game 7 in the “Big Three” era but just the second on the road as the Celtics take on the Heat at American Airlines Arena, with the winner capturing the Eastern Conference title and advancing to play the Thunder in Oklahoma City next Tuesday night in Game 1 of the NBA finals.
“We’ll find that out later,” Rivers said when asked what he expects of his team in Game 7, after missing a chance to clinch Thursday night at home. “I’ve been to a lot of shootarounds where I’ve left as a coach [and said] we’re in trouble or we look great and the game comes, and it’s different. So, I don’t think you really get a sense for your team. I know they’ll be ready. How they perform and all that stuff, we’ll have a lot to do with that and the other team will have a lot to do with that as well.”
The Celtics are 4-2 in Game 7s since 2008, losing their only previous Game 7 on the road in 2010 when they lost the NBA finals to the Lakers. Most recently, they beat the Sixers two weeks ago, 95-85, in another Saturday night Game 7, in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“There’s always something to say,” Rivers said. “But really they’ve been in this situation but they’ve never been in this situation against this team. So, every Game 7 is different, every game is different, honestly. You just have to prepare your best. You have to try and figure how much information to give them and how much is too much, and walk the right line.
“It’s always nicer to have it at home, clearly. But let’s be honest, if you had told me before the playoffs started you could have a Game 7 to decide to go to the finals, we’d have taken it and wouldn’t have cared where you played it. In a lot of ways, we love being here.”
All players were accounted for at the open portion of Saturday morning’s shootaround except for Paul Pierce. But Rivers said that Pierce – playing with a sprained MCL in his left knee – and the entire team is ready and will play in Game 7 against the Heat. Pierce eventually showed up at shootaround and participated, before leaving with the team on the bus back to the hotel just after noontime.
“Everybody’s good, everybody’s healthy,” Rivers said.
After the Celtics dropped Game 6 in front of an energetic crowd at “The Jungle,” fans and writers nationally wondered what happened to Boston’s heart, and noted LeBron James‘ very clutch, 45-point performance.
The loss prompted NBA’s Shaun Powell to question if the Celtics can mount a performance energetic enough to win Game 7.
“Given a chance to win on their home floor, the Celtics folded like a paper airplane, raising suspicion that their best game could be behind them,” Powell wrote.
Some fans responded by calling out the Celtics for not showing up to play, while others praised James’ performance. Most fans said they weren’t surprised by the game’s outcome and a few added it will be hard to predict the winner of Game 7.
“The way I see it, the playoffs is all about adjustments,” one fan wrote. “Boston won game 5, Miami made adjustments and came back to win game 6. Boston is in the better position right now, because they can only adjust to what they did wrong in the last game. The Heat do not have the grace of hindsight on their side right now because they are coming off of a win. Barring an amazing game by LeBron AND [Dwyane] Wade (yes they both will have to step up for this one), the Celtics determination and coaching staff will see them to the Finals. Don’t think that LeBron’s game was all about him, [coach Erik] Spoeltsra put him in better situations to score the ball judging on what wasn’t working in Game 5.”
On fan expressed disappointment with Boston’s effort on FoxSports’ recap.
“I was shocked at the lack of effort from the Celt’s last night,” the fan wrote. “It looked like none of them wanted to be there. Maybe [NBA commissioner David] Stern promised them a blockbuster trade next year if they would lose.”
USA Today’s Adi Joseph responded to Boston’s loss by saying the Celtics need to be fixed because “nothing worked” for the team.
ESPN’s Skip Bayless was one media personalty who admitted Boston’s loss, and James’ stunning performance, didn’t surprise him.
Lower expectations, Heat as “underdogs,” most ppl thinking Boston big – LeBron goes off. Predictable. But NOW the pressure returns, Bayless tweeted.
The focus may have stayed on the Celtics if James lashed at critics by recording 45 points on the night. His clutch performance directed most reaction from the game his way, and most praised James’, even those surprised by his performance. Read the rest of this entry »
|Dan Le Batard on M&M: ‘It’s been real hard to have trust’ in LeBron James||06.07.12 at 12:46 pm ET|
Miami Herald writer and ESPN personality Dan Le Batard joined the Mut & Merloni show Thursday to discuss the Heat’s issues late in games, Miami’s future and Erik Spoelstra. To hear the interview go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
The Heat have had immense pressure on them since the beginning of last season, but Le Batard said Game 6 is different.
“Game 5 you feel like you’ve still got a cushion. There is no safety net now. Now the safety net is absolutely gone, Le Batard said. “There is no, ‘Hey, maybe America won’t be able to laugh at us. Maybe we can come back in the next game and stop the laughter with one good game.’ This is different kind of pressure from any other kind of pressure.”
Le Batard noted that there are a number of factors contributing to Miami’s issues.
“You have got a lot of things in play that makes this a very difficult game for the Miami Heat and create that doubt,” he said. “One, you don’t know what you’re going to get from one of your All-Stars. Chris Bosh has been hurt. Two, Dwyane Wade has not been himself, he’s a little banged up. He’s the only one with a proven track record. And three, you’ve got LeBron James, who, while he’s been great this postseason and been great this season, the last time he was in this particular spot, lose and you die, lose and your season is over, he’s not been good in those spots. It’s been real hard to have trust [in him].”
Le Batard was uncertain of the Heat’s future, but he offered up an interesting trading piece if the Heat were to break up their Big Three.
“While that’s the noise that surrounds the franchise, Pat Riley prides himself on loyalty, and really that would be an extraordinary cold thing to do,” Le Batard said. “The piece you would trade is the older piece whose has the redundant skill set to LeBron James’. So you’d basically be trading Dwyane Wade, who put this whole thing together. I’m not sure how fair that is to Dwyane Wade when he put the whole thing together and two years after putting it together he’s playing in Golden State. I don’t know whether Pat Riley is capable of that.”
When asked about Spoelstra’s job status if the Heat lose, Le Batard minimized NBA coaches’ effect on games.
Said Le Batard: “I don’t believe that while Boston does have a coaching advantage in this series, I don’t believe a coaching advantage usually matters very much in this sport. … The way I’d ask you guys the question is this: Did Erik Spoelstra outcoach Doc [Rivers] last year in the playoffs? I don’t think he did. I think Boston just lost in five games because [Rajon] Rondo was hurt. And Erik Spoelstra is not afforded the same thing when I say Miami will lose in six or seven because Bosh was hurt.”
|Irish Coffee: The Celtics, Heat and the duality of team||06.06.12 at 1:26 pm ET|
There’s a duality of team happening in this series. Not good vs. evil, but heart vs. spinelessness. As Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Celtics, “They have championship DNA. They have what we’re trying to get.”
The lasting images of Game 5: 1) A blank-faced LeBron James retreating into the tunnel of AmericanAirlines Arena after another devastating postseason defeat as one young Miami fan repeated behind him, “Good job! Good effort!” And 2) A grinning Paul Pierce returning to a timeout huddle, his puffed chest being pounded by teammates after he delivered another playoff victory that forced most Heat fans to funnel for the exits.
Throughout Tuesday night, constant dueling reminders arose of why these Heat are these Heat and these Celtics are these Celtics. Let’s revisit four of them from the C’s pivotal Eastern Conference finals victory.
- LeBron James in a halftime interview with ESPN’s Doris Burke, moments after his Heat coughed up a 13-point lead: “I’m pleased with my individual performance.”
- Paul Pierce overheard in a timeout, shortly after burying the dagger 3 in LeBron’s face with 52 seconds remaining: “I’m cold-blooded.”
Through the first 40 minutes, James made 10-of-21 shots, netted 28 points and grabbed 12 boards. Over the final eight minutes, he finished 1-of-4 from the field, scored just two points and snatched only one rebound.
Conversely, in the first 42 minutes, Pierce tallied 14 points on 5-of-18 shooting while amassing two rebounds and two assists. In the last six minutes of the game, he recorded five points — making his lone shot attempt (the dagger) — to go along with two assists and two boards. One rose to the occasion; the other ran from it.
Read the rest of this entry »
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