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Sad turn for NBA prospect Isaiah Austin an important lesson for all athletes 06.25.14 at 11:05 am ET
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Isaiah Austin was forced to abandon his dream of playing in the NBA due to a medical condition. (AP)

Isaiah Austin was forced to abandon his dream of playing in the NBA due to a medical condition. (AP)

Draft prospect Isaiah Austin was just days away from seeing his dream of playing in the NBA come true. Instead he becomes another sad but true reminder why all college student-athletes should prepare for life after sports. And it’s another reason why colleges should do more to help prepare these young men for what lies ahead.

In a terrible turn of events, the 20-year-old, 7-foot-1 center from Baylor was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a career-ending condition “caused by a genetic mutation that leads to problems in connective tissues throughout the body.” Marfan.org states that “about 1-in-5,000 people have the condition that can affect the heart, blood vessels, bones or joints.”

I know the pain of having your life’s dream come to an abrupt end at an early age. I will never forget being a 24-year-old rookie sitting in then-Heat coach Pat Riley‘s office and having my career come to an end due to an ankle injury.

Riley shared his experience as a former player and talked about how he felt after his body could no longer withstand the pounding in the NBA. “Huck, I have to let you go,” are the words that I’ll never forget. For a 24-year-old who had just signed an NBA contract, it was like dying. I was blessed enough to be able to play for a paycheck in the NBA and Europe, but like so many I had never thought about what I would do when basketball ended.

I’ve heard about some of the quirky questions general managers ask draft prospects in the NFL and NBA (Michigan’s Nik Stauskas said he got a Justin Bieber question). But I wonder if they ask every draft prospect how prepared they are to go out into the general workforce (non-sports-related field) and obtain a job?

I make it a point now to talk to every player I interview while doing games for ESPN about preparing for life after sports. There is nothing wrong with chasing a dream of playing professionally, but it is bad business to not have a succession plan of what you will do afterward.

Unfortunately, Isaiah Austin, like myself, had his career come to an abrupt end. Hopefully he can go back to Baylor, finish his education and share his story with other student-athletes about the importance of a backup plan.

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Read More: Aaron Gordon, Isaiah Austin, Malcolm Huckaby, Pat Riley
Pat Riley to Danny Ainge: ‘Shut the F— up and manage’ the Celtics 03.29.13 at 7:11 pm ET
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Miami Heat president Pat Riley didn’t take kindly to what his counterpart in Boston told WEEI on Thursday.

Danny Ainge told WEEI’s Salk & Holley he thought it bordered on embarrassing that LeBron James would complain about foul calls in Miami’s 27-game streak-ending loss to the Bulls Wednesday night.

Palm Beach Post columnist Ethan J. Skolnick was among the first to tweet Riley’s official reaction, delivered to the media by a team official: “Danny Ainge needs to shut the f— up and manage his own team. He was the biggest whiner going when he was playing and I know that because I coached against him.”

James was far more mild-mannered.

“I’m not surprised about anything that comes from Boston,” Skolnick tweeted.

Ainge delivered his response to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

“We’re both right,” Ainge said. “LeBron should stop complaining and I should manage my own team.”

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has his own unique perspective. He played for Pat Riley with the Knicks at the end of his career. He tells stories of how tough Riley was on his own players and their conditioning. Rivers also played against Ainge in the prime of his career, when Ainge was on the Celtics and Rivers was on the Celtics.

“Yeah, I think it’s funny,” Rivers said. “I think it’s very interesting. I can relate. It’s cool. I think they should duke it out.”

Does Friday’s exchange add anything to the Celtics-Heat rivalry?

“Not unless they’re playing,” Rivers said. “Really. I just think it’s just talk both ways. I’ll just let those two grown men handle their own grown men argument. I’m going to stay out of it. On a side note, it gives me a smile and it’s interesting. I think it’s fun. It’s a flashback.”

Rivers wasn’t about to pass judgement either way on the fouls called on James at the end of the game with the Bulls on Wednesday.

“I did see those fouls,” Rivers said, before being asked what he thought. “I don’t know. I’m going to stay out of it.”

For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, LeBron James
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
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Ray Allen had plenty to smile about as he sat alongside coach Erik Spoelstra and was introduced as a member of the Heat on Wednesday in Miami. (AP)

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.”

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Read More: Erik Spoelstra, Kevin Garnett, Pat Riley, Paul Pierce
Report: Ray Allen felt disrespected by Celtics, leading to move to Miami 07.07.12 at 1:46 pm ET
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Ray Allen had his reasons for not returning to the Celtics. (AP)

According to a report from Yahoo! Sports, Ray Allen’s decision to leave the Celtics and sign a three-year, $9.7 million deal with the Miami Heat was based on not only the love shown by Heat president Pat Riley, but the lingering bitterness toward the Celts.

The report had a source saying “He felt he was getting respect that he hadn’t gotten from [Celtics president] Danny [Ainge] and [coach] Doc [Rivers] anymore.…The presentation was incredible.”

According the author of the report, Adrian Wojnarowski, Allen still was upset that Celtics boss Danny Ainge had dangled him in trade talks, at one point telling the guard he was being shipped to Memphis only to then be told the deal was off. Allen was also reportedly upset over Doc Rivers taking away his starting job late in the season.

Then there was the fractured relationship Allen had with Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. As Wojnarowski wrote:

Those were some of the conflicts that Allen had with Rondo, but the stubbornness of the point guard worked to exacerbate everything. Rondo and Allen were non-confrontational, but much of the behind-the-back sniping to teammates and those around the team took a toll. So much of it was sandbox stuff, the kind of grating, ultimately petty issues that occur in every locker room, every workplace. Rondo didn’t chase Allen out of Boston, but their relationship did become a drain in the locker room. Their cold war was something Allen discussed with associates, something that become a concern of management and the coaching staff.

“When it comes to basketball, Rondo is the smartest player on the team – one of the smartest players in the league,” one locker-room source said. “And Ray considers himself a smart guy. But at some point, it became hard for Ray to be corrected by a guy so much younger than him.”

The report states that Kevin Garnett and (to a lesser extent) Paul Pierce both joined Rivers in trying to convince Allen to stay with the Celtics in the final days leading up to his agreement with the Heat. But the recruitment by Riley — who promised the end of any trade talks, along with the prospect of championship runs — won out.

To read the entire story, click here.

Read More: Celtics, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, Heat
Doc Rivers: ‘Riley is inside [Spoelstra]‘ and other Celtics-Heat Game 7 shootaround notes 06.09.12 at 1:08 pm ET
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MIAMI — Pat Riley won five NBA championships as a head coach, including one with the Miami Heat before he assumed his current role as team president.

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.

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Erik Spoelstra
Malcolm Huckaby remembers the making of Erik Spoelstra 05.28.12 at 7:28 am ET
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Malcolm Huckaby was a member of the 1996-97 Heat.

The little office light on in the practice facility still on at 3 a.m. The calculating of plus-minus plays in practice. The guy breaking down film for Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley.

This is my memory up close with a Pat Riley clone and future coach of an NBA dream team named Erik Spoelstra.

I had fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams, playing in the NBA for the Heat, when I inked a one-year deal in 1996 as a free agent with Riley, who coached the team then.

Riley mused on a then-undrafted free agent point guard out of Boston College who had overcome a horrific ankle injury, calling me a player who was a PHD (poor, hungry and desperate). Spoelstra, at the time, was crafting his skill in the dungeon of the video room of the team, working long hours desperately trying to give Riley any advantage possible.

Most people on the outside at the time of the 1996-97 season failed to give the kind of credit they do now for the work of assistant coaches, who work zombie hours with all the credit going to the head coach. But the knowledge that was around when I played was priceless. You had a Hall of Fame coach in Riley, along with Stan Van Gundy (who, after I asked him and Spoelstra how much sleep they got the night before, replied, “Huck, sleep is overrated”), and assistant coach Bob (Can Do) McAdoo, who once led the NBA in scoring when guys with nicknames like “Ice Man” were playing.

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Read More: Bob McAdoo, Erik Spoelstra, Malcolm Huckaby, Pat Riley
Game 4 officials: Monty McCutchen, Tony Brothers, Derrick Stafford 05.09.11 at 11:58 am ET
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Monty McCutchen discusses a call with Spurs guard Manu Ginobili. (AP)

The NBA announced the referee crew for Game 4 of the Celtics’ playoff series with the Heat, and it consists of Monty McCutchen, Tony Brothers and Derrick Stafford. Rodney Mott is the alternate.

McCutchen was on the TD Garden court for the Celtics’ 87-85 comeback victory over the Knicks in Game 1 of the first round on April 17. That game featured a couple a couple of controversial calls that went the Celtics’ way. McCutchen called Carmelo Anthony for an offensive foul for pushing off Paul Pierce while trying to get room to receive the ball with 21 seconds left and the Knicks holding a one-point lead. Then, when Knicks guard Toney Douglas tripped over Kevin Garnett‘s leg on a screen while Ray Allen hit the game-winning shot, no foul was called.

In the last three playoff games McCutchen has officiated this postseason (Mavericks-Trail Blazers on April 28, Hawks-Bulls on May 2, Mavericks-Lakers on May 4), the visiting team has won.

Brothers has refereed four games this postseason, all wins by the home team. He officiated the Heat in the first round, a 97-91 victory over the 76ers on April 27 that ended that series in five games.

Stafford will be officiating a Celtics game for the first time this postseason. According to former referee Tim Donaghy, Stafford has had some issues with the Heat in past years. Donaghy wrote in his book about his gambling problems that Stafford “despised Heat coach Pat Riley” in reference to a 2007 game between the Heat and Knicks, although Donaghy’s assertion that Stafford was biased in that game was debunked by reporters’ analysis. Riley now is Miami’s team president.

Read More: Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Stafford, Kevin Garnett, Monty McCutchen
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