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Weekly NBA Draft Watch: March Madness could reveal sleeper pick for Celtics 03.20.14 at 9:23 am ET
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Finally, it’€™s time to watch some meaningful basketball, Celtics fans! Well, in the NCAA tournament, that is.

Jabari Parker could be slipping right to the Celtics. (AP)

Jabari Parker is a known commodity, but there could be some less-heralded players who emerge in the NCAA tournament. (AP)

The C’€™s had an exciting win against the LeBron James-less Heat on Wednesday night. Sure, it was fun to see Rajon Rondo lead the charge against a quality team, but what does it really mean? This season is already lost, so what it means is a five-game losing streak has been halted, dropping Boston two spots to the sixth lottery spot. The win lowered the C’s current chance at a top-three pick by 16 percent. You never know how the season is going to end, but all signs point to a tight lottery race. Was the thrill of Wednesday worth it if the Celtics finish one win ahead of the Lakers?

Enter the beginning of March Madness, the greatest four-day stretch in sports.

We know that there will be ample buzzer-beaters and upsets, there always are. Brackets will be ripped to shreds (as mine always is), others will turn into lottery tickets (just not the kind Danny Ainge is chasing). No bets are safe come March Madness, but feel free to learn the hard way if you must. Nobody needs any extra incentive to enjoy the most entertaining tournament we have as sports fans. However, this year Celtics fans will have one extra reason to pay attention — draft picks.

Don’€™t forget that outside of Boston’€™s hyped first-rounder, Ainge also will own Brooklyn or Atlanta’€™s pick, which could end up being a player who breaks out in the tournament. We already know the talent players like Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and even Marcus Smart posses. A bad tournament will not lower their draft stock, but a breakout tournament could boost their NBA stock even higher. There is no clear cut No. 1 overall pick, but Celtics fans obviously would love to see any top-tier talent arrive in Boston.

The immediate franchise changers will be determined by the ping-pong balls, the hunt for the rest of the stars begins with the later picks. Once the premier talent is off the board, a lot of the next prospects to be taken in the draft are players that raised their stock in March. I didn’€™t even know who Kenneth Faried was until Morehead State upset Louisville in 2011. After watching him play one game, I had no doubt he was a lottery talent in that year’s draft. Kind of an extreme example, but March matters.

Who is 2014′€™s Faried? Can Ainge get his hands on him? And most importantly, can he develop a better nickname than ‘€œThe Manamal’€ in the NBA? Time will tell.

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Fast Break: Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley too cool for LeBron James-less Heat 03.19.14 at 9:51 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo scored just nine points, but he was the best player on the floor all night, taking over the fourth quarter in a 101-96 victory against the two-time defending NBA champion Heat. Of course, it didn’t hurt that LeBron James (back spasms) was relegated to the Miami bench, but still — this was Rondo’s night.

The Celtics point guard finished one point shy of a triple-double (15 assists, 10 rebounds), ending a five-game losing streak. Avery Bradley‘s 23 points, including a career-high six 3-pointers, led the scoring effort, and four other Celtics reached double figures: Brandon Bass (18 points), Jared Sullinger (14 points), Jeff Green (13 points) and Kelly Olynyk (10 points). And the Celtics needed all of it from each of them.

The Celtics improved to 23-46, moving one win ahead of the Lakers and Suns for the NBA’s seventh-worst record.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Bradley’s back: After making just six of his 25 attempts from outside of 10 feet in his first three games back from an ankle injury, Bradley found the stroke that made him so successful early this season. The soon-to-be free agent knocked down three of his six first-half 3-point attempts and added a long jumper to enter the break with 11 points. In all, the C’s shot 50 percent (9-18) from distance over the first two quarters and stayed within 56-53 after two.

Charmed third: Working inside and out, Bradley and Brandon Bass shot a combined 8-of-8 from the field to score 21 of the C’s 27 third-quarter points. Rondo was on the feeding end of four of those buckets, finishing with six assists in the frame. As a result, the Celtics took an 80-78 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Bench press: The C’s bench situation isn’t pretty. It’s comprised of four guys who weren’t on the team to start the season, two rookies and another player with 45 NBA games under his belt entering the year. Yet, they received valuable contributions from three of those seven players, as Sullinger, Olynyk and Jerryd Bayless (7 points, 5 assists) combined for 28 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Worst first: The opening quarter couldn’t have gone much worse for the Celtics defense. While the NBA’s two-time defending MVP sat on the bench, the Heat still scored 34 points on 70 percent shooting to take a 12-point lead in the game’s initial 12 minutes. It wasn’t Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh who victimized the C’s, but Udonis Haslem. The Miami veteran scored 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first quarter.

No LeBron: The Heat announced James would miss his first game in a month shortly before tipoff. It remains to be seen whether he’ll return Friday in Miami, but regardless of how they feel about him, Boston fans missed a player worth the price of admission. Perhaps a motivated Celtics team took it as a sign of disrespect, too.

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Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett from enemy’s perspective 01.25.14 at 1:53 am ET
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KG

As the Celtics prepare to welcome Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett back to Boston on Sunday, one member of the new-look franchise knows the two legends of the game all too well from the opposite side of the ball. Joel Anthony endured three straight playoff meetings against the Celtics from 2010-12 as a member of the Heat.

“More than anything, you just wanted to beat them,” said Anthony, who entered the league the same year Garnett came to Boston. “You really, really wanted to beat them. They made you want to be like that because of how they played and how they competed. It’€™s really the beauty of the game, the beauty of basketball — the whole competition aspect and what you love about the game –€“ to be able to have those type of moments, those battles, those types of feelings and emotions. That’€™s what it’€™s all about — to be able to have those battles with that team was special.”

Particularly after a brutal loss to an undermanned Thunder team, Anthony’s reminiscence of those series — a five-game Celtics win before LeBron James‘ arrival during the magical 2010 run, the five-game Heat victory when Rondo dislocated his elbow in 2011 and the epic seven-game Eastern Conference finals in 2012 — will make any basketball fan long for one more matchup between those grit and balls C’s and King James ascending to his throne.

“You respected who they were, what type of team they were and how good of a team that they were,” Anthony said. “Those were the games that guys really got up for, because we knew we were going to be in a battle with those guys every single night and every single minute on the floor. That was just the biggest thing, knowing that they were such competitors — that team was such a tough team to play against every single night.”

As Pierce and Garnett’s arrival in Nets uniforms will attest on Sunday, those days of meaningful Celtics-Lakers and Celtics-Heat playoff meetings are long gone — a chapter in NBA history that will be remembered the same way Larry Bird‘s Celtics and Magic Johnson‘s Lakers ultimately made way for Michael Jordan‘s Bulls.

There were a lot of tough battles for LeBron when he was in Cleveland and with us in Miami, a lot of pain from losing to that team,” added Anthony. “They were an extremely good basketball team, and so to be able to win those games was big, because it was really a huge step for us to be able to get that monkey off our back in terms of surpassing a team that you struggled against and that you respected, but that you wanted to beat more than anything.”

Was it really mutual respect, or was there more to it than that? Because it sure seemed like there was more to it than that. “I think there was some dislike in there,” said Anthony. “Yeah, there was some dislike in there.”

Regardless, Anthony remembers Pierce and Garnett the way most everyone does.

“KG’€™s intensity and demeanor,” he said. “Defensively, especially, he changed how that team was. They kind of took on his identity. And, in terms of Paul, his ability to hit those big shots. They’€™d find a way to keep it close, and Paul would end up getting the ball in some kind of iso and find a way to always make big shots.”

Yup, that’s Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in a nutshell. Even Rajon Rondo, who called their homecoming “just another game,” knows deep down Sunday will be special. There are too many memories for it not to be.

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LeBron James, Kevin Durant headline NBA All-Star Game starters 01.23.14 at 9:44 pm ET
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The NBA announced the starters for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game, and naturally leading MVP candidates LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the leading vote-getters for the Eastern and Western conferences, respectively.

The roster includes no Celtics, who are in danger of failing to produce an All-Star for the first time since 2007, when Paul Pierce suffered through an injury-plagued season, and only the 10th time in the game’s 63-year history.

Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green are the C’s only hopes for a spot when the voting from coaches reveals the final seven Eastern Conference All-Stars on Jan. 30, but neither is expected the make the roster (unless Rondo receives the sympathy vote for his fifth selection). Each received more than 100,000 fan votes  – well shy of a starting spot.

Old friends Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett edged out Rondo and Green in the fan voting for backcourt and frontcourt players, respectively, although Green received 26,006 more votes than Pierce. Here are your 2014 starters:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

LeBron James (1,416,419 votes)
Paul George (1,211,318)
Carmelo Anthony (935,702)
Dwyane Wade (929,542)
Kyrie Irving (860,221)

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Kevin Durant (1,396,294 votes)
Stephen Curry
(1,047,281)
Kobe Bryant (988,884)
Blake Griffin (688,466)
Kevin Love (661,246)

Bryant, who received his 16th All-Star bid despite participating in just six games this season, will likely be replaced in the starting West backcourt by Chris Paul (804,309 votes) due to the Lakers star’s knee injury.

Likewise, should Wade’s knee injury keep him from participating in his 10th All-Star Game, John Wall (393,129) would be the second starting guard alongside Irving in the East. Among the remaining healthy Eastern Conference guards, only Allen received more votes than Rondo, but his fate lies in the coaches’ hands now.

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LeBron James doesn’t get free agency vs. trades 10.17.13 at 1:12 pm ET
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LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are confused again. (AP)

Apparently, LeBron James thinks leaving for free agency is the same as being traded, since he’s equating Ray Allen‘s defection to Miami to the trade that shipped Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn.

“There were a couple guys who basically [expletive] on Ray for leaving, and now they’re leaving,” the four-time NBA MVP told ESPN.com. “That’s the nature of our business, man. I don’t know what Boston was going through at the end of the day. I know Ray had to make the best decision for him and his family and his career. Doc [Rivers], KG and Paul did that as well. You can’t criticize someone who does something that’s best for their family.”

Dwyane Wade said something similar, albeit more confusing. “People say things about people when they do something when they themselves would do the same thing. It’s about putting yourself in the best situation, and at the end of the day we all do that. You can’t really say anything about someone that does it for themselves.”

This whole things stems from Pierce’s failure to forgive Allen and KG’s “I don’t have Ray’s number anymore” comments. Rivers also chastised Allen for leaving, so I understand calling him out for wanting out of Boston, but given their druthers Pierce and Garnett would still be playing for the Celtics. The former wanted to retire a Celtic, and the latter wanted to retire if he wasn’t going to be a Celtic. They reluctantly accepted a trade to the Nets.

That’s different than choosing the Heat in free agency. Allen made a conscious decision to leave Pierce and Garnett last season. Pierce and Garnett were going to be separated against their will this year. But I don’t expect LeBron to understand that, since he’s basically still defending himself taking an expletive on Cleveland.

Next thing you’re going to tell me Dwight Howard wanted the Magic to retire his number.

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Podcast: LeBron’s legacy and a Celtics circus 06.21.13 at 11:32 am ET
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Former WEEI.com Celtics beat writer and current SB Nation NBA columnist Paul Flannery joined Ben Rohrbach on the Green Street podcast to discuss the legacies of LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Ray Allen and Boston’s latest Big 3 era — all amidst a legendary NBA Finals and a C’s circus involving Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers.

To listen to the podcast, check out WEEI’s audio on demand page here or download it on iTunes here.

Also, don’t miss Flannery’s fantastic Game 7 column from Thursday night and follow him on Twitter @Pflanns.

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Irish Coffee: 10 Things I Heard About Celtics 06.05.13 at 6:34 pm ET
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This is the worst. An aging Big Three stands in the way of LeBron James and a second straight NBA title — only it’s the Spurs, not the Celtics. Instead, Boston basketball fans are inundated with all sorts of ridiculous rumors. I think Kevin Garnett‘s uncle’s cousin’s brother’s sister-in-law just claimed KG’s coming back. That’s why, on another slow C’s news day in June, we’re revealing the latest edition of 10 Things I Heard About Celtics.

10. Heated rivalry: Speaking of LeBron, he went One on Two with Ahmad Rashad and Ahmad Rashad’s earring before taking on San Antonio. Asked if he considered Kobe Bryant his greatest rival, James waxed unpoetically about Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, ultimately landing on Paul Pierce as the closest thing to a rival (h/t @MrTrpleDouble10). Somewhere, a pajama clad Kevin Durant stoically cleans gutters.

“I would say that I don’t really have an individual rivalry. I think the closest would be Paul Pierce,” said the four-time NBA MVP. “I would say Boston is a rival of mine, because I’ve met them so many times in the postseason. I’ve been able to advance against them, they’ve sent me home fishing a few times, so I would say Boston and Paul Pierce would kind of be that guy if I had to name just one guy.”

9. Trading faces of franchises: “Healthy” and “Pierce” haven’t been mentioned in the same sentence too often over the last couple years, except when Boston Herald beat writer Steve Bulpett recently wrote, “there is reportedly healthy interest in Pierce out on the market.” Now, we don’t know who considers what healthy, but I’m guessing the offers are more of the Kris Humphries ilk than the Eric Gordon variety.

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