|Irish Coffee: Kobe Bryant’s Ray Allen praise wasn’t easy||02.17.11 at 12:11 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
For the first half of this month, Boston was the hub of the NBA universe, as the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics welcomed four other championship contenders to the TD Garden — the Mavericks, Magic, Lakers and Heat — in a span of nine days. Sports Illustrated writer Ian Thomsen followed the C’s every step of the way for a cover story in the magazine’s issue that hits stores this week.
From each game, Thomsen uncovered some pretty juicy anecdotes. Here are the highlights …
Mavericks 101, Celtics 97
- Paul Pierce didn’t know Mavericks guard J.J. Barea spent his college days in Boston: “I’m an NBA player, I’m a Celtic! I came from Kansas! What would I be doing watching Northeastern play?”
- Mavericks center Tyson Chandler idolized Kevin Garnett: “What I try to do for my team is what he’s done his entire career. I respect what he’s accomplished, so I’m just trying to mirror that.”
- Like many players, Barea thinks Garnett isn’t always nice: “He likes to pick on little guys, I think.”
Celtics 91, Magic 80
- Magic swingman Quentin Richardson joined the anti-Garnett club: “Garnett is a great player, he’ll be a Hall of Famer, and his rÃ©sumÃ© speaks for itself. But at the same time you may not have a lot of respect for some of the things he’ll do. He picks fights with [the Raptors’ 6’3” Jose] Calderon or with Barea. Come on, man, that’s not showing that you’re big or bad. You’re trying to fight point guards.”
- And Celtics coach Doc Rivers once again came to Garnett’s defense: “This guy should be the model. He is as pure a team player as I’ve ever been around. Does he say things the wrong way at times? Clearly Kevin has used the ‘F’ word as a noun, adjective and verb, and it’s mean-spirited if you’re not on his team. With his teammates he talks the same way, but it’s all about help, it’s all about team. The players who don’t like him are usually the players who aren’t winning, and maybe they should be more like him instead of talking about him.”
- Pierce didn’t enjoy 25-year-old Magic center Dwight Howard‘s imitation of Garnett’s chest-thumping pregame regimen: “I don’t know if they’ve won a game when he’s mocked anybody. I think he’s got to stop it. I saw LeBron [James] go for 51 [in a Feb. 3 win at Orlando] when he mocked him.”
- When Celtics 26-year-old center Kendrick Perkins baited Howard into a technical foul, that showed maturity on Perkins’ part, according to Rivers: “First time in his life — he fouled Dwight, holds him and holds him, Dwight hits him with an elbow, hits him with another one, and Perk just stands there. At halftime I said to the team, ‘That is toughness. Toughness is somebody hitting you in the freaking face, and you’re looking at him and laughing and walking away. That’s a tough mother.'”
- Magic coach Stan Van Gundy doesn’t believe his team can contend with the Celtics: “Not even in the same ballpark as these guys. We can be, but we’re not right now.”
|Sasha Vujacic: Celtics ‘trying to act up’||02.16.11 at 11:53 pm ET|
Nets forward Kris Humprhies got into a jawing match with Celtics forward Kevin Garnett in the first half, while New Jersey guard Sasha Vujacic and C’s center Kendrick Perkins exchanged words in the second half. On the court, the C’s got the last word in a 94-80 victory. Off the court? Vujacic explained the chippiness.
“I think we started a little bit too soft in the game,” said Vujacic. “They’re a team that plays very well, and they’re trying to act up most of the time, so that’s how they are and how they play. We just can’t back down from that. We’ve got to deliver the first punch and not let them get us on our heels.”
Asked about the Celtics’ trash talk, Nets point guard Devin Harris added, ‘Nothing surprises me.’
Surprisingly, Vujacic wasn’t overly critical of the Celtics’ style of play; in fact, he credited their experience and ability to play together as a team.
‘We played in their home, so everything’s going to be on their side,” added Vujacic. “But let’s face it, they’re one of the teams that are chasing the championship, and they are one of the favorites. They know each other. They know where everybody’s going to be.’
Vujacic and Nets teammate Jordan Farmar both played on another contender to finish last season, as the former was traded from the Lakers to New Jersey for Joe Smith in mid-December and the latter signed with the Nets in the offseason. Told that the Lakers (38-19) lost to the last-place Cavaliers (10-46) on Wednesday night, both guys did a double take.
‘Cleveland beat the Lakers?” asked Vujacic. “You’re kidding, right? I guess miracles do happen.’
Added Farmar, ‘They’re going to be pissed. That’s three straight.’
|Fast Break: Paul Pierce, Celtics take down Nets||at 10:10 pm ET|
In a game that was a lot closer than the final score indicated, the Celtics survived a scare from the Nets in their final game before the All-Star break Wednesday, capturing a 94-80 home victory. The win helped the C’s (40-14) keep first place in the Eastern Conference ahead of the Heat (41-15).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
At least they got the win: The Celtics didn’t play well against the Nets by any stretch of the imagination, but they earned home win No. 25 in just their 29th game at the Garden this season. The C’s were 24-17 all of last year at home, and games like they played on Wednesday night usually ended up in the loss column. If you’ll recall, the C’s lost to an even worse Nets team by eight on Feb. 27, 2010.
Paul Pierce started off on the right foot: Before most fans finished their first beer, the Celtics started on an 8-0 run and stretched that lead to 25-10. Through the first 9:50, Pierce played the Nets to a standstill at 10 points apiece — squashing any doubts about his lingering foot problem. He finished with 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting, attacking the basket with no signs of an injury.
Praise be to Gody: In desperate need of contributions from big bodies off the bench, Luke Harangody gave the Celtics just what Doc Rivers ordered. The rookie out of Notre Dame scored eight points in just eight minutes off the bench in the first half. While he didn’t score for the remainder of the night, the gave the C’s 15 productive minutes.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Falling asleep at the wheel: After the start the Celtics enjoyed, there’s just no way it should’ve been a tie game at halftime. But it was, 46-46, thanks to Rivers’ understandable reliance on the bench for 35 combined minutes. The offensive efficiency that the Celtics have demonstrated for much of this season just wasn’t there for a long stretch from late in the first quarter until the break. Rajon Rondo‘s presence almost assures the C’s of leading their opponents (especially the Nets) in assists, but New Jersey won that battle, 19-18. That’s what Rivers often refers to as “hero ball,” and it gets them in trouble against the better teams in the league.
No immediate halftime adjustment: As well as the Celtics played in the opening few minutes of the game, they played equally as bad to start the second half, allowing the Nets to go on an 8-0 run of their own and take a 54-46 lead before many fans had taken their seats again. That translated into more taxing minutes for the C’s as they played from behind well into the third quarter.
Nothing but three Nets: Really, only a few guys gave the Celtics problems on Wednesday night: Lopez as well as guards Devin Harris and Anthony Morrow. The three combined for 48 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. And Lopez’s ability to score in the post forced Rivers and assistant coach Lawrence Frank to furiously figure out a way to stop him in the third quarter. As a result, New Jersey also won the battle in the paint, 34-28.
|Kevin Garnett on Bill Russell||02.15.11 at 2:46 pm ET|
Celtics legend Bill Russell was among 15 people awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama on Tuesday, the highest honor the president can bestow on a civilian. Kevin Garnett was asked about Russell and his impact.
“Not only did he transcend on the court, but off the court,” Garnett said. “Being righteous for what he believed in, and speaking up and standing up for that right. Different times back in the day, man. I respect a lot of the OG’s just because they went through in order for us to be here today. Bill Russell is everything and I just want to say congratulations.”
Garnett was then asked why players don’t speak as forcibly as Russell once did. He cited the media culture and also noted that players are more cautious.
“I don’t think people are as opinionated out loud just because of the uproar they can start,” Garnett said. “These days when you bring out issues that cause attention to not only yourself, but your team, it can be labeled a distraction.”
Garnett had one further thought on Russell and what today’s players can take from him, as well as the great players of the past.
“I don’t think we go to the extreme to prove a point or go to the extreme to really remember that this is our league,” Garnett said. “I think those days are over. I think the commissioner has a lot of say on how this league is run. The only way you can sustain a solid league is to carry things over. That’s all going to be up to the players.”
Rivers said the Celtics are searching outside the organization for help as injuries have left the team shorthanded.
“We’re looking. I can tell you that,” he said. “We’re not going to do anything, obviously, that just takes away from our team. But we’re looking pretty hard. Obviously, there’s not a lot out there right now. But as the deadline gets closer, we’re hoping some things open up.”
As for the team’s biggest need, he said: “Depending on what happens with Marquis [Daniels], I would say that’s our biggest need right now, the backup 3.”
Following are highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Based on the fact that your main concern for your basketball team going into the second half is your health and your freshness and those things that you need for them to play with energy when it comes to the playoffs ‘¦ wouldn’t it be better for Paul Pierce to stay home on All-Star weekend, catch his breath and regroup for the second half of the season?
It depends on how serious it is. I don’t think it’s as serious as it’s made out to be. He was concerned more just because it was hurting, but it’s not even as close to as bad as we thought it could be. I think we’re overreacting a little bit on this one.
You’re going to keep an eye on their minutes, right?
I’m going to keep an eye on all of their minutes. I think [Rajon] Rondo will probably play the most, him or Ray [Allen], because Ray loves playing. He is perfect in those games, obviously. Other than that, I’m going to play LeBron [James] and Dwyane [Wade] probably 47-48 minutes, in that area.
How will they get along? Clearly Rondo got under their skin Sunday, you guys as a team got under their skin and maybe in their heads a little bit. Is that all forgotten Sunday in LA?
It usually is. I don’t know if they got under their skin or not, but they pestered them, especially Rondo, but that’s just in that single game. Athletes have a great way of kind of getting over it and moving on.
|Irish Coffee: Why Celtics should earn No. 1 seed||02.14.11 at 1:21 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Rest up, Celtics, because it doesn’t get any easier than this. The C’s are midway through their most relaxing regular-season stretch of the New Big Three Era in terms of travel.
And never have they needed it more. Seven members of the team’s 15-man roster are battling known injuries as the All-Star break looms, and that doesn’t include Glen Davis‘ bruised noggin, Kevin Garnett‘s rehabbed knee or Rajon Rondo‘s feet.
The good news: The Celtics are in the midst of a 15-day stretch between road games. They played in Charlotte on Feb. 7 and travel to Oakland on Feb. 22. In between, they’ll have played just three home games, all three days apart. Sure, there’s an All-Star Game in between (in Los Angeles) but that’s hardly heavy lifting for Garnett, Rondo, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce (depending on Pierce’s MRI results), especially since Doc Rivers is manning their minutes.
In the previous three seasons, the Celtics’ longest stretch between road games around the All-Star break was seven days. And in the last two seasons, the NBA has sandwiched a pair of road games for the C’s around the All-Star Game — hardly the mini vacation players desire.
The bad news: Since 2007, the Celtics have had three stretches of 15 days or more between road games. This current span is one. The other two have come at an even more ideal time — days before season’s end. Two years ago, the C’ss played five straight home games from March 27 to April 12. Last season, they had six consecutive home contests from March 22 to April 6.
This season, they’ll have no such luck. Starting with a four-game West Coast road trip after the All-Star Game, the Celtics play 17 of their final 28 games on the road, including 10-of-16 to close out the season. However, only 10 of those 28 games come against teams above .500.
With a half-game lead for first place, the Celtics are battling the Heat — and perhaps the Bulls — for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. In all likelihood, nobody will catch the Spurs (45-9) for the league’s best overall record, so we’ll only include the Lakers out West as we take a look at how many of these teams’ post-All-Star break games are against teams above .500:
|Danny Ainge on Big Show: Trades being discussed, coaches ‘wish’ their players were like Kevin Garnett||02.10.11 at 6:14 pm ET|
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made his weekly appearance on The Big Show Thursday, discussing the team’s potential activity in the the trade market, Ray Allen‘s forthcoming record, and Kendrick Perkins‘ future with the team.
With Marquis Daniels having gone down with a bruised spinal cord in Sunday’s game after a collision with Gilbert Arenas, Ainge admitted that the team is more likely to make calls than simply field them.
“We’re having conversations,” Ainge said. “I think the Marquis incident makes us a little bit more proactive rather than just receiving calls and seeing what else might be a possibility to back up Paul [Pierce] or Ray [Allen] in the playoffs.”
With recent focus being placed on whether Kevin Garnett is a dirty player, Ainge suggested that teams and players throughout the league ‘ including the ones Garnett has robbed the right way ‘ would be happy to have him.
“Alvin Gentry wishes that Channing Frye played like Kevin Garnett, would give anything if Channing Frye played with the passion and the heart and the intensity and the work ethic of Kevin Garnett,” Ainge said.
Ainge said his words aren’t a shot at the players, but more a statement regarding what Garnett brings to a team.
“I’m not dissing on Charlie for any other the players,” Ainge noted. “I’m saying that Kevin Garnett is one of the most coachable, hard-woking players that I’ve ever been around in the NBA, especially as a star.”
Ainge cited more of attention being paid on the part of the media as a reason as to why many have questioned Garnett this year.
“Everything’s blown out of proportion,” Ainge said. “Kevin Garnett’s a great player on a great team. He talks and he plays hard. There’s nothing else to it than that.”
Allen could break Reggie Miller‘s record of 2,560 career 3-pointers with a pair of treys Thursday against the Lakers.
“I think this record of Ray’s is significant because I think it will last a long, long time,” Ainge said.
“I think he’s going to set a record of over 3,000 3-pointers and I think that’s just unbelievable.”
Perkins has told media outlets recently that he has declined a contract extension offered to him by the team. Ainge shed light on the situation.
“Perk was offered a contract that we can offer,” Ainge said. “Under the collective bargaining agreement there’s only a certain about of money we can offer Perk, and we offered him that contract. Understandably, Perk’s not interested in that contract.
Ainge noted that the team “can’t offer him a nickel more than we’ve offered him” and that the situation has “been explained to him” by both Ainge and Perkins’ agent.
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