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Tommy Heinsohn on M&M: Paul Pierce ‘just an outstanding guy to be around’ 01.27.14 at 1:28 pm ET
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Tom Heinsohn (AP)

Tom Heinsohn

CSNNE Celtics analyst Tommy Heinsohn talked with Mut & Merloni on Monday about the tributes for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett during Sunday’€™s game at TD Garden. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Heinsohn enjoyed the tributes for Garnett and Pierce, saying it exemplified what they and the team stood for.

“€œLast night with these two great players that brought a championship to Boston exhibited over their careers what the Celtics organization was and has been for many many years; full of spirit, teamwork, and accomplishment,”€ Heinsohn said.

Heinsohn recalled watching how Pierce grew not only as a player but as a person in his time with the Celtics.

“€œI’ve watched him grow as a person, as a player, accept all the challenges that anyone could hope to meet,”€ Heinsohn said. “Take the last shot at games, willingly. Really enjoyed being in that position, and the real tribute to him was when he was named captain and how he went about fulfilling that role. He was a very dedicated guy and worked at his craft all the time. Not just at the basketball end of it, but at the person side of it.”

Added Heinsohn: “He was around all those banners when he first came in, and I coached after the [Bill] Russell era and saw players come in and look up at the banners and the rafters and it became both a blessing and a curse. They feel privileged to play for the Celtics but they also know that they have to live up to the standards, and Paul Pierce certainly did that and recognized what those standards were. Just was an outstanding guy to be around.”

While Garnett was only a Celtic for six years, Heinsohn believes he always had the Celtic attitude and should have his number retired by the organization one day.

“He was totally focused,” Heinsohn said. “When he’€™d come out on the basketball court there was nothing else in his mind but winning a basketball game. And it wasn’t about him, it was about winning. He wasn’t there to score the most points or do anything else, he was there to be the supreme teammate, to excel in what he did best to help win a game and that embodied the Celtics spirit of the teams I played with and coached.”

Added Heinsohn: “€œWhen you see the impact he had on that team, he belongs up there. It was just at a chance that he ended up some place else, because he had the Celtic attitude as soon as he stepped on a basketball court in the NBA.”

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Avery Johnson: ‘Rebuilding was the right move’ for Celtics 10.23.13 at 4:10 pm ET
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While New England is concentrating on the World Series, Avery Johnson will be focused only on Wednesday night’s preseason game between the Nets and the Celtics at TD Garden.

Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson

Johnson, who coached the Nets for 2½ seasons and was dismissed shortly after the Celtics trounced Brooklyn last Christmas, will be adding a very distinct voice to the ESPN airwaves this season, sharing his insight every Wednesday on “NBA Countdown.”

In a one-on-one interview with WEEI.com, Johnson shared his thoughts on the state of the Celtics, as well as the Nets’ decision to go all-in.

“This is a totally different year for the Celtics,” Johnson said. “A lot of the pieces that were there last year, those guys are pretty much in the twilight and near the end of their careers. They still had a lot of great basketball in them and can carry a team during the regular season, but that was an aging team.”

Johnson, known as the “Little General” during his playing career, believes the Celtics were never the same after Ray Allen’s departure to Miami as a free agent last offseason.

“The loss of Ray Allen was too much,” Johnson said. “They never really were able to fill his shoes in terms of the great work he did on the court for the Celtics over the years during their championship runs.”

Similar to the beginning of his run with the Nets, a team that only won 24 games in 2011, Johnson sees a team in Boston with an uncertain future.

“This was a team that needed to change,” Johnson said. “Obviously we didn’t know the change would occur with Doc Rivers not being a part of it, but everything’s changed. Now the Celtics have a lot of pieces they’re still trying to figure out. They’re still working on how they’re going to play defensively and offensively, and where they’re going, not only now, but in the future.”

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Kevin Garnett’s future determines Celtics’ ability to be competitive next few seasons 05.10.13 at 10:27 am ET
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If next season’s Celtics team does not start Kevin Garnett at power forward, prepare for a long, dark stretch. Without KG patrolling the middle in green and white, feel free to reintroduce yourself to the lottery, long losing streaks and the empty promise of rebuilding.

Doc Rivers bids farewell to Kevin Garnett in Game 6 but will it be the last time they're together? (AP)

If Kevin Garnett walks away from the Celtics following their first-round playoff loss to the Knicks, it’s going to mark the beginning of a long rebuilding era for the team. (AP)

While you miss the scowls, intensity and blocked shots after the whistle, remember that the decline of the Celtics is more complex than the team simply aging. The major problem is the Celtics actually ask Garnett to do more now than they did during the NBA finals run in 2010. Despite his age (37 on May 19) and contract (2 years, $24.3 million), Garnett still is a premier power forward and a critical piece for a team chasing a championship.

“Back in Minnesota, Kevin used to say, ‘I want to live beyond my contract,’ ” new Timberwolves president (and former coach) Flip Saunders told WEEI.com. “That meant whatever he was getting paid, whenever someone would see him in a game or in a practice, he wanted to live up to that contract and then play beyond that.”

Garnett has done exactly that in his six seasons in Boston. His playoff averages (35 minutes, 12.7 points, 13.7 rebounds, his highest playoff average since 2004) against the Knicks also demonstrated that quality basketball remains afloat in his veins. Surrounded by the right players, Garnett still can help Boston contend for a championship. After watching Garnett for 18 seasons, Kevin McHale — who drafted Garnett in Minnesota with the No. 5 pick in 1995 — still is amazed by his former student. Garnett was the first player in 20 years to go directly to the NBA from high school, and McHale recently reminisced about Garnett’s rookie training camp in Minnesota, when the 19-year-old was only a couple of months removed from his senior prom.

“I loved the kid the first day of practice,” McHale said. “He laid on the floor after his first training camp — laying on the ground with nothing left — and I said, ‘We’ve got to go again tonight.’ He went, ‘Huh?’ I said we did two-a-days, and he was like, ‘Oh my.’

“But that night he came and he laid it on the ground, played on the line, laying on the ground, playing on the line. At the end, he was laying on the ground, and I said to him, ‘Now we do two again tomorrow.’ He looked up at me and said, ‘Man, this is going to be a job.’ He hasn’t changed since then, he’s just got better.

“His ability to compete at a high level for such a long time, his love of the game, his competitive nature,” marveled McHale, “it really is fun to watch.”

Competing at a high level for an extended period of time in the National Basketball Association takes a rare talent. It is a skill that is difficult, but far from impossible. The highest standard of excellence has been set by the Spurs, a team with an aging superstar in soon-to-be-Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan. Far from the best of friends, Garnett and the 37-year-old Duncan share very similar basketball philosophies, a fact not lost on Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

“They can look in the mirror and realize they’re both the same in so many respects as far as how they run their lives in the NBA and how they’ve run their careers,” Popovich said during his last trip to Boston. “They’re both competitive as hell, they both understand the game, they both love being on the court, and neither one of them is really that excited about the hoopla that is all around it, but they’ve also endured by taking care of their bodies and what they do in the summertime to take care of their bodies.”

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Jason Terry sets some more 3-point NBA history in Celtics win 03.30.13 at 12:03 am ET
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Celtics sharpshooter Jason Terry was 5-of-7 from 3-point range and finished with 24 points off the bench has the Celtics held off the Atlanta Hawks 118-107 Friday night at TD Garden.

Terry passed another milestone as he became the fourth player in NBA history with more than 1900 3-point field goals. Entering Friday, only Ray Allen (2,841), Reggie Miller (2,560) and Jason Kidd (1,976) have more.

Terry has 1,903 threes. Paul Pierce is 93 behind with 1,810 and in sixth place. Chauncey Billups (1,813) is in fifth place.

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Dwyane Wade: ‘There’s some dislike’ among Heat, Celtics 03.19.13 at 1:00 pm ET
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The celebration in the Heat locker room could be heard from the hallway after Miami’s 105-103 win over the Celtics on Monday night, which seemed strange — considering the absences of Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett — until Dwyane Wade reminded everyone his team doesn’t like Boston all that much.

“It’s a Celtics-Heat game,” said Wade, who scored 16 points in 36 minutes, mostly against Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee. “It’s always like that, man. Whether it’s the first game of the year or the last game of the year, it’s always like that. No matter who’s on the court, no matter who’s playing, it’s going to be a battle, and here they’ve beat us in those games. Tonight, we were able to pull it out, and it just shows the growth of our team.

“We know we’re getting the best from Boston every time we play them,” he added. “There’s a dislike there. It’s a different focus, especially here in this building.”

Conversely, the Garden crowd apparently focused its ire on former Celtics star turned Heat role player Ray Allen.

“Nobody pulled punches for me today,” said Allen, who scored six points in 30 minutes. “I heard some pretty brutal things in the building today, and people really let me know how they felt. I don’t go into it with any expectation, but I’m on the other team, so they’re going to say whatever they can and whatever they think they need to say.”

Maybe that’s why Allen pretended Celtics-Heat isn’t a rivalry in the aftermath of yet another memorable meeting.

“When I played here, our rivals were the Lakers, Pistons and New York,” said Allen. “That’s deep-seeded. It comes from a lot of basketball, and we’ll see how the years go to determine if that’s the case.”

OK, then. So, I guess those 20 games and 980 minutes of basketball between the two teams over the past three seasons have just been all in good fun. I don’t remember Rondo laughing when Wade dislocated his elbow, when Paul Pierce head-butted James Jones, when LeBron James laughed in Garnett’s face or when KG ignored Allen’s return to Boston. It’s kind of a touchy subject, especially if you ask LeBron.

“Why does it always have to be, ‘They gave us a war’?” said James. “There’s never us giving anybody else a war, huh? That’s how y’all like it? That’s all that matters is the win. That’s all that matters.”

For more on the rivalry — and that’s exactly what it is — read this column: “James, Heat don’t scare Celtics.”

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Ray Allen: ‘I didn’t expect to get booed the whole time’ 01.27.13 at 11:52 pm ET
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All the mind games Ray Allen went through in an effort to get ready for returning to Boston couldn’t prepare him for what he experienced Sunday each and every time he touched the basketball.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Allen said. “The one thing I was gonna do is come into it and just focus on being prepared and getting the guys ready that were playing, that were starting the game. Early game is always tough regardless of the circumstances. I didn’t expect to get booed the whole time, throughout the game, that I touched the ball. That was interesting.”

The day was the definition of surreal for Allen. There was walking into the visitors’ locker room for the first time since he was with Seattle in 2007.

“It was very weird. And then going to the other locker room. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on that side of the hallway, and again, it was an adjustment. The whole year’s been an adjustment being in Miami after being in Boston for so long, so ya, it was definitely a weird feeling for me.”

There was the video tribute in the first timeout, when he was still on the bench. There were the boos reining down mixed with a standing ovation. And then there was the news breaking during the game of his former backcourt teammate Rajon Rondo out for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee. Ironic, considering how the two former teammates didn’t exactly end things on the best of terms in Boston.

He did appreciate the video tribute.

“When you see something like that, you know when I saw it, just all those emotions came streaming back from all the great things we did here, and that’s why I say I’ll always remember the big games we played in and won, and I always know I’ll always be a Celtic in my mind, regardless of what anyone else says.”

As for the Rondo news, Allen was short and to the point.

“I didn’t know until we got out onto the floor and he wasn’t out on the floor,” he said. “That was unfortunate.”

He was asked how difficult it will be for Celtics without Rondo.
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Gut check: Paul Pierce, Celtics pull out 2OT thriller over LeBron James, Heat at 4:09 pm ET
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Jeff Green (8) and the Celtics were up against it Sunday against the Heat as Rajon Rondo was lost for the season. (AP)

Paul Pierce hit the go-ahead jumper with 30.4 seconds left in double-overtime and earned a triple-double with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists as the Celtics snapped their six-game losing streak with a heart-pounding 100-98 win over the Heat Sunday at TD Garden. It was Boston’s second straight double-overtime game.

LeBron James scored a game-high 34 points and forced overtime with a clutch 3-pointer while Ray Allen had 21 off the bench in his first return to Boston since leaving for Miami as a free agent, and help the Heat rally in the final minute of regulation. The Heat fell to 28-13.

Kevin Garnett scored a team-high 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Celtics, who could not protect a four-point lead in the final minute of regulation but managed to improve to 21-23 on the season.

The game was played under a cloud for the Celtics, as they found out in the second half that Rajon Rondo tore the ACL in his right knee and was done for the season. Rondo returned in the third quarter and watched the rest of the game from just behind the Celtics bench.

With Courtney Lee starting for Rondo and Jared Sullinger in the starting lineup, the Celtics stayed close in the first quarter, trailing by just four, 26-24, after 12 minutes. The Celtics managed to stay close in the second and forged a 45-45 tie.

WIth news breaking in the third quarter that Rondo had a torn ACL in his right knee and was done for the season, the Celtics managed to put up a fight taking a three-point lead. Garnett’s jumper 16 seconds into the second half gave Boston its first lead since early in the first quarter. Boston built the lead to 60-57 before Miami finished the period on a 11-4 run to take a 68-64 lead into the fourth.

Jeff Green drilled a three from the left baseline to bring the Celtics within one, 72-71, and then after James missed a three, Leandro Barbosa put back a miss to give the Celtics a 73-72 lead with 8:26 left in the fourth. Green’s one-handed slam over Chris Bosh with 7:48 left sent the Garden crowd into a frenzy and put the Celtics up, 75-72.

Pierce drove in for a go-ahead layup with just under six minutes left. Allen connected for a three with 4:38 left to put the Heat up, 78-77, and grabbed a rebound off a Pierce miss moments later. Jason Terry responded with a 15-foot step-back jumper to put Boston back up, 79-78, with just over four minutes left. James responded with a 12-foot fadeaway with three minutes left, putting Miami ahead, 80-79.

Garnett hit a pair of free throws with 2:40 left to put Boston back ahead, 81-80. Allen was fouled by Pierce with 2:19 remaining and Allen converted only one of two for an 81-81 tie. Pierce drove to the basket on a spinning move with 1:59 left to put Boston up, 83-81. After a missed three from Shane Battier, Garnett hit a mid-range jumper with 59.9 seconds left to give the Celtics their biggest lead, 85-81. Read the rest of this entry »

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