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Celtics preparing to take on ‘a stud’ in Tony Allen and his short-handed Grizzlies 03.08.16 at 8:50 pm ET
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Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) dunks against Boston Celtics guard Evan Turner (11) in the second half at FedExForum on Jan. 10. (Justin Ford/USA Today Sports)

Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) dunks against Boston Celtics guard Evan Turner (11) in the second half at FedExForum on Jan. 10. (Justin Ford/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM – If ever a team needed a timely reminder that a wounded team is a dangerous team, the Celtics got one Monday night when they watched the short-handed Memphis Grizzlies take out the Eastern-leading Cavaliers in Cleveland.

The 38-25 Grizzlies, who currently stand in fifth place in the West and would face Doc Rivers’ LA Clippers in the opening round of the playoffs, took the court Monday night without the likes of Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Matt Barnes and Chris Anderson. All four of those players are regular starters in the lineup.

But it was Tony Allen, the fifth starter for Memphis who stepped in and stepped up his game. The 2004 first-round pick of the Celtics has become one of the most reliable players on the Grizzlies and a 34-year-old leader. Allen, along with Vince Carter and Lance Stephenson gave the Grizzlies enough Monday night to overcome LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

“You take any team for granted that has Tony Allen, Vince Carter, Chalmers, Zach Randolph, Matt Barnes down the line, you haven’t been watching basketball for a while,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after Tuesday’s final tune-up for Memphis Wednesday night at TD Garden. “We have to play well against these guys. They’re physical, long, big., They physically manhandled us the last game. They’re a team that’s won, regardless of who’s been on the floor, pretty much all year. It’s a credit top them. Dave’s done a great job with the team regardless of all the curveballs they’ve had to hit.

“You don’t respect the game you don’t win. We have to play well to win. We can’t be focused on all of the things we can’t control. We have to do it the right way, we have to share the ball, otherwise we’ll get beat. That’s the same across the league. Any time guys aren’t available, they’re usually being replaced by someone who is awfully hungry to play. That’s enough in this league with this level of talent.”

Certainly the Celtics respect Allen and the Grizzlies, who beat Boston, 101-98, at the FedEx Forum on Jan. 10. In that game, Allen had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds as Memphis overcame a 34-16 hole after the first quarter to come back and win.

When Allen was helping the 2008 Celtics win their 17th NBA title and the 2010 team reach Game 7 of the NBA finals, he was considered a defensive specialist and a role player off the bench behind Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. Allen said he felt somewhat “overshadowed” in Boston and signed a three-year, $9.7 million contract with Memphis.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart, Memphis Grizzlies, NBA
Isaiah Thomas wants a meeting with Tom Brady: ‘I need to pick his brain’ at 3:13 pm ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) celebrates against the New York Knicks during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) celebrates against the New York Knicks during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — Those who aspire to greatness always want to learn from other great ones.

That’s why Isaiah Thomas took to Twitter on Tuesday in a very public attempt to get a sit-down with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

I want to sit down and talk to Tom Brady… I need to pick his brain,” Thomas posted on Twitter Tuesday before practice. 

A day after Peyton Manning’s retirement, was there something that spurred the request of the other legendary quarterback?

“Not really. Sometimes I’m thinking on my drive to the facility, and just thinking about that,” Thomas said after practice Tuesday. “I mean, I’m in his backyard. It would be nice if somebody could make that happen to formally meet him, and like I said, just picking his brain about the road to winning a championship, like what it takes and how to focus in on being great.”

What was fascinating about Thomas’ discussion was his comparison with another current NBA star who is headed out the door like Manning.

“It would just probably be like sitting down with Kobe,” Thomas said. “I got the chance to talk to Kobe. I’m real good friends with Floyd Mayweather so I get to pick guys’ like that’s brain. I just would like to sit down and actually meet him and also just pick his brain about winning championships, and how he goes about his day, how he prepares. I like his preparation to everything. I like to pick guys’ brains, especially the best in the business, best in their field, and see what he has to say to me. Hopefully I can make it happen.”

Thomas was reminded that he is from the West and a Broncos fan. Wouldn’t that get in the way?

“He shouldn’t be mad at that,” said Thomas, a native of Tacoma, Washington and a product of the University of Washington. “I didn’t grow up here. It’s not like I grew up here and I’m not a Patriots fan. But I’m a fan of his. I like how he carries himself. He carries himself like he’s the best quarterback ever.”

Like Brady, Thomas was somewhat overlooked when he played for the Huskies in the Pac-10, becoming the NBA equivalent to the NFL’s Mr. Irrelevant in 2010 when he was the last pick of the NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings.

“No doubt. He was definitely not – coming into the NFL he wasn’t supposed to be a Pro Bowler, wasn’t supposed to be a franchise player, wasn’t supposed to win Super Bowls and be arguably the best quarterback ever,” Thomas said of Brady. “And I want to be on that path. I’m not saying I’m going to be the best player ever but…”

As for taking a leadership role on the Celtics, like taking Marcus Smart aside on Saturday and settling him down, Thomas says he’s enjoying the responsibility.

“I just want to grow. I want to grow,” Thomas said. “Not just being a basketball player but being a leader in all aspects, all facets of the game. And why not learn from the best. Especially, I think it’s better to learn from different guys in different sports in how they lead and how they get respect from their teammates.

“Like I said, I would love to pick his brain, ask him a few questions. I got to do it with Kobe. I got to do it with Floyd Mayweather, always do it with him and things like that. Manning’s retired so I can’t do it with him. So I’d love to do it with Brady.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Floyd Mayweather, Isaiah Thomas, NBA
Evan Turner on potential for Celtics in playoffs: ‘Sky is the limit’ 03.05.16 at 12:24 am ET
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There are certain plays that define every game. 

Friday night, with the Celtics making a run back from a 100-92 hole with under four minutes left, Evan Turner made one of those plays.

Turner raced after a ball he tipped and then raced for it before it went out of bounds while the Knicks were standing and watching. Turner flipped it to Jared Sullinger, who in one motion turned and fired to a wide open Jae Crowder racing down the court for a layup with 92 seconds left. The Celtics were suddenly down just one, 100-99 and the crowd exploded.

“At first, Lance Thomas threw it, I tipped it. I saw it bounce and nobody go for it,” Turner said. “I was just trying to hurry up and save it. I saw Sully kind of even with Lopez. I was hoping from our team grabbed when I threw it. I just heard cheers, and I heard even more cheers as I turned around and Crowder laid it up. [Sullinger is] great at being aware of what’s going on downcourt and putting a great pass into the running man.”

It was at that moment where victory for the Celtics seemed inevitable.  

“And on the very next play, we get a stop and he’s dribbling up the court and just makes a 15-foot pull-up,” Brad Stevens said. “He does a lot for us and he’s really played well. Obviously, we don’t win the game without him.” 

The Celtics did win, 105-104, thanks to Avery Bradley’s layup with 17.7 seconds left and Carmelo Anthony’s miss at the buzzer.

“We came back from worse deficits,” Turner said. “Tonight, we were just down eight with 3:44 left. We were down 15 a few times with five minutes left.”

But the bigger picture is about what this win means going into Cleveland, a place they won the last time they were there (Feb. 5), on an Avery Bradley jumper at the buzzer. 

“We’re just riding a wave,” Turner said. “Once again, this is a great team win, great comeback win and obviously we’re a confident group right now and we know [Saturday] we have to come out and compete. Today’s over with. We just have to come out and compete, play our type of game and play confident.”

How far can these Celtics go this spring?

“I think we can go as far as … Sky is the limit. At the end of the day, we always give ourselves to play the right game and win,” Turner added. ” I think when it comes down to a four-game series and all of us are healthy, I think we can give a lot of teams a lot of problems. And when it comes down to it, you have to weather a storm versus adversity, playing versus great players, playing versus tough calls and everything like that. I think we can go as far as we possibly can.”

That confidence should come in handy Saturday night in Cleveland against LeBron James and a Cavaliers team looking for revenge.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Evan Turner, NBA
Celtics hope Kelly Olynyk can ‘up his activity’ next week 03.02.16 at 9:17 pm ET
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Celtics center Kelly Olynyk (41) has been Boston's best 3-point shooter this season. (Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports)

Celtics center Kelly Olynyk has been Boston’s best 3-point shooter this season. (Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports)

The waiting game continues for Kelly Olynyk and the Celtics.

The 7-foot stretch forward/center who injured his right shoulder in the final game before the All-Star break against the Clippers is still in a holding pattern, as is the team, something coach Brad Stevens indicated before Wednesday’s game against the Blazers.

“Last that I’ve heard is we’ll be re-visiting that on Monday with a chance that he’ll up his activity Monday, whatever that means,” Stevens said.

Immediately after the trade deadline on Feb. 18, C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge indicated that tests on Olynyk’s shoulder revealed no serious damage and no need for surgery.

He suggested Olynyk, diagnosed with a bruised shoulder, would be out a minimum of two weeks.

With Olynyk, who traveled with the team on their 3-game road swing, not returning to basketball activities yet, that estimate appears to be overly optimistic.

The timing was very unfortunate for Olynyk and the Celtics. Before injuring the shoulder in the first half of the Feb. 10 game at the Garden, Olynyk had become a key part of the Celtics offense, pulling the opposing big out from the post with his 3-point shooting. Olynyk was leading the C’s in 3-point field goal percentage, hitting 41.3 percent of his attempts.

But the flip side of that, of course, is that it forced the Celtics to find other options in their offense, something they’ve done well since returning home from the 1-2 trip through Utah, Denver and Minnesota. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge, Kelly Olynyk
Isaiah Thomas ‘can’t wait’ to go up against good friend Damian Lillard 03.01.16 at 10:02 pm ET
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WALTHAM — For those who missed out on Steph Curry at the Garden on Dec. 11 there’s a chance to see another NBA star that’s being placed in his same class.

Damian Lillard and the red-hot Trail Blazers come calling Wednesday night at TD Garden. They are moving up the standings in the Western Conference and the man who was one of the most notable snubs in recent All-Star history is leading the way, averaging 25.4 points and seven assists a game. Lillard, in his fourth season out of Weber State, made news in January when he was somehow left off the Western Conference All-Star squad.

“He’s definitely an All-Star. He should’ve been one,” Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas said after practice Tuesday. “But stuff happens. He’s probably been disappointed in a few things, and not just in his NBA career. He wasn’t even recruited by a bigger school. Whatever the circumstances might be, he’s a helluva a player. He knows he’s an All-Star. The league knows they messed up in that. He’s been playing well and been showing people, proving people wrong.

“I met him a few summers ago. We text every now and then. When I got the nod on the All-Star [team], he texted me, ‘Congratulations, you deserve it.’ He’s a Pacific Northwest guy since he’s in Portland now. He’s just a good dude. We know mutual people and we always text every now and then.”

Thomas (University of Washington) and Lillard (Weber State) know each other well from their roots in western college basketball and then in their Western Conference battles when Thomas was in Phoenix.

“It’s fun. I can’t wait,” Thomas said. “It’s what you play for, to play against the best guys in the world, go against the best guards. I’m all about competing. I know he will be ready and I will be, too. He’s an unbelievable shooter, and he can shoot off the dribble. A lot of people can’t shoot off the dribble. He makes tough shots look easy. And he’s just a guy that works. I know Dames. He’s a guy that continues to work. He uses everything as motivation, kind of like myself. He’s definitely similar to Steph Curry in his shooting ability and how effortless he can shoot from so far [out from basket].”

The Blazers beat up the Knicks Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, their third straight win to open a six-game Eastern swing. They have won 10 of 12 and are 33-28 on the season.
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Read More: Boston Celtics, Damian Lillard, Isaiah Thomas, NBA
Brad Stevens named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month at 4:57 pm ET
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Celtics coach Brad Stevens is so hot right now. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Celtics coach Brad Stevens is so hot right now. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens probably doesn’t even want the award, but the NBA gave it to him anyway.

The Celtics coach earned Eastern Conference Coach of the Month honors after his team finished the month of February with a conference-best 9-3 record, including victories against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers. Stevens also won Eastern Conference Coach of the Month honors in April 2015.

Stevens edged Charlotte’s Steve Clifford and Toronto’s Dwane Casey. The C’s coach isn’t much for awards, so long as they’re not the Larry O’Brien Trophy, and he probably has little use for one that honors the best coach in the shortest month of the year — made shorter still by a weeklong All-Star break. But, hey, it’s recognition for the tremendous job he’s done with these Celtics (36-25), who enter March with the conference’s third-best record.

Ironically, the NBA honored Stevens on the same day he revealed in an interview with Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that he was rejected by a Division III program when seeking a head coaching job in 2007.

“I actually applied for a Division III coaching job a week before (former Butler) coach (Todd) Lickliter left to go to Iowa, and I got a letter in the mail that said I wasn’t one of the finalists because I didn’t have my master’s degree,” said Stevens, who ultimately succeeded Lickliter as the head coach at Butler that year, “because I’d stopped going to school full-time, and they wanted people, obviously, with the ability to teach at the Division III level as well.”

For the record, Stevens’ Butler squad reached the NCAA championship game for the first time in his third season as head coach. This marks his third season as head coach of the Celtics. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, NBA,
Avery Bradley rejects Gordon Hayward’s game-winning attempt at 1:05 am ET
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Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) blocks the shot of Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (back) during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) blocks the shot of Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (back) during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

On a night when the Celtics blocked more shots than they had in seven years, it was only appropriate that one of the smallest players on the court came up with one of the most important rejections in a 100-95 win over the Jazz at TD Garden.

With the Celtics clinging to a 96-95 lead, the bigger Gordon Hayward trying to back the 6-foot-2 Avery Bradley down into the post for a turnaround. But Bradley came off the seal and played it perfectly. He timed his jump perfectly and blocked Hayward with 20.9 seconds left and the Celtics closed out the game with the final four points.

“It was good,” coach Brad Stevens said of the Bradley block. “He had been guarding [Rodney] Hood most of the game and had done a great job on Hood and you knew they were going to one of those two guys and it just felt like he would be our best bet on Gordon late because Gordon had tried to drive it a few times there recently, at the end. And he made a really good play. He guessed right on his turnaround and blocked the shot, came up with the loose ball, and then Amir [Johnson] came up with the loose ball, and I thought that was really a well-played game by both teams, for the most part.

“And it was a heck of a game; it was a heck of an execution game late. They were making plays, we were making plays, and we were just fortunate enough to get those two loose balls off of the block and then off the free throw to kind of seal it.”

Bradley took advantage of his familiarity with Hayward to time his jump.

“I was just trying to play great defense,” Bradley said. “I know Gordon, I knew they were going to go to him and I just wanted to make it hard on him and not foul him, and that’s what I did and I was able to get the block, read the play. I tried to force him in to it, tried to force him into the middle so I could be right hand to right hand and I was able to get the block.”

Hayward’s reaction?

“He timed it really well,” Hayward said. “It was a good play.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Gordon Hayward, NBA
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