Celtics

30 teams in 30 days: Spurs remain in title conversation out West

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30 teams in 30 days: Spurs remain in title conversation out West

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The San Antonio Spurs

There is no finer organization in the NBA than the San Antonio Spurs, a franchise that seems to always be in the title-contending conversation regardless of who is – and who isn’t – on the roster.

For years, conventional wisdom was that the San Antonio dynasty would take a major step back once Tim Duncan FINALLY retired.

Instead of taking a step back, the Spurs continued to do what they did with Duncan – win a lot of games and scare the bejesus out of any and every team they saw in the playoffs.

To read A. Sherrod Blakely's 2017-18 team-by-team NBA previews, click here

One of the forgotten subplots in Golden State’s run towards a title last spring, was the ankle injury Kawhi Leonard suffered when he landed on the foot of Warriors big man Zaza Pachulia.

For those who don’t remember, the Spurs were beating the crap out of Golden State in Game 1 of their second-round series with Leonard getting anything and everything he wanted at both ends of the floor.

Prior to him landing on Pachulia’s foot (something that was debated for weeks as a dirty play), the Spurs were ahead 78-55.

After Leonard’s departure, Golden State went on an 18-0 run and eventually wound up edging the Spurs 113-111 before going on to sweep the series to become the first team in NBA history to open up the playoffs with 12 straight wins.

Well, Leonard’s back and will once again be on the short list of league MVP candidates due to his ability to dominate games at both ends of the floor.

For years his defense has been at an unmatched level. But it is the growth of his game offensively that has made him such a difficult and at times, dominant performer.

Leonard has finished in the top-3 of the league’s MVP voting the past two seasons.

Last season, he averaged a career-high 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game which was also a career high.

But the Spurs have proven through time to be more than just a one-man operation even when the face of the franchise (Tim Duncan) received a lot of credit for the franchise’s success.

San Antonio brings most of its core guys back, but recognized the need to add at least one more legitimate scorer to the mix.

In comes Rudy Gay, an 11-year veteran who has averaged 18.4 points per game throughout his career.

Golden State remains the team that everyone, including the Spurs, is chasing this season.

But the depth of San Antonio’s roster coupled with the addition of Gay, means the Spurs will once again be in the title-contending conversation.

Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Rudy Gay (Sacramento); Joffrey Lauvergne (Chicago).

Key losses: Jonathan Simmons (Orlando); Dewayne Dedmon (Atlanta); David Lee (free agent); Joel Anthony (free agent).

Rookies of note: Derrick White.

Expectations: 56-36 (2nd in the Southwest Division, 3rd in the West).

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Now, it gets real for revamped Celtics

Now, it gets real for revamped Celtics

CLEVELAND – For the Celtics, the preseason went about as well as expected.
 
No serious, long-term injuries.

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They won every preseason game, even one in which the team’s second unit played the role of starters.
 
And the chemistry concerns with so many new players, while very real, didn’t seem to be that big an issue.
 
Still, as good as the Celtics may feel about where they stand, they know it means absolutely nothing unless they get it done against elite, NBA-caliber competition.
 
The Cleveland Cavaliers.
 
Opening night.
 
It doesn’t get much more challenging than that.
 
And for the Celtics, win or lose, this is going to be a game for them to build upon going forward this season.
 
“I’m just ready to get going,” said Gordon Hayward. “A lot of things have happened this summer, a lot of buildup. I’m ready to get to the game. It’s going to be a fun matchup, for sure.”
 
Among the summer happenings was Boston and Cleveland pulling off one of the biggest blockbuster deals of the offseason with the Cavs trading Kyrie Irving to the Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic while also conveying Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick and Miami’s 2020 second-round pick to complete the deal.
 
Having spent his first six seasons with the Cavaliers, there’s a certain amount of corporate knowledge that the 25-year-old Irving brings to tonight’s matchup.
 
“I know a lot about them, they know a lot about me,” Irving said. “There’s plenty of film on all of us, but specifically going back and understanding the way we played last year when I played with them and now how they’re playing with the new guys, understanding how to implement themselves into their new system plus me implementing myself into this system...There’s definitely some benefits on our end, there are some benefits on their end. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
 
Part of the challenge for the Celtics will be developing the kind of on-court cohesion to be successful, which is easier said than done when you’re talking about getting nearly a dozen players on the same page in just a few weeks.
 
“We have good chemistry as a group,” said Al Horford. “We still have a ways to go as far as keep getting comfortable with each other and keep figuring out our spots. But we feel good with what we have. Our young guys, it’s been remarkable how quickly they’ve been able to come along and be up to date with everything. And our new guys as well. They’re up to date, they know what we need to do. They understand the game plan. It’s been good.”
 
Players aren’t the only ones eager to get to tonight’s game.
 
“To have to go into Cleveland with that level of intensity, with that level of attention, distraction, etc. is great,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “It’s great to experience that in game one, a tremendous learning experience for our group, so we’re preparing to play as well as we can. And we know that they’re really, really good. But this is..I’m looking forward to it because I want to find out where we are.”
 

'People took it the wrong way,' Isaiah says of his Ainge comments

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'People took it the wrong way,' Isaiah says of his Ainge comments

Isaiah Thomas told Sports Illustrated last week that he "might never talk to Danny [Ainge] again." And he sounded pretty bitter about his trade from the Celtics to the Cavs.

Now, on the "Road Trippin" podcast with new teammate Channing Frye and ex-Cav Richard Jefferson, Thomas, who is out until at least January with a hip injury, said those comments were misunderstood.

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“People took it the wrong way,” Thomas said. “I understand the business, I understand that we’re in position to get traded and sent to other teams and things like that. It’s just how it went down that I didn’t respect. As a man, I feel like if you respected me as much as you say you did, you would have at least informed me about what was going on before it happened. And that’s all I was talking about.

“I’m not tripping off the trade like I got traded to the Cavs and we’re going to win a championship. And at the end of the day, I’m going to be fine with that,” Thomas said. “[Ainge] sent me to an even better situation with a bigger platform. I’m blessed to be in the position, I’m grateful and I’m excited.”

The Cavs host the Celtics tonight in the season opener. 

Jae Crowder, who came to Cleveland from Boston, was also on the podcast and when Frye talked with him about players deserving communication from the front office, Thomas could be heard in the background, saying, “That’s what I’m talking about.”

“I already said what I’m doing," Thomas told Crowder about what he'll do should he run into Ainge. "I’m going to keep it pushing like he kept pushing when he traded me, I’m not going to disrespect him. He’s a man and I’m a man, too. Like, I’m going to go my way. I play for the Cavaliers and that’s what it is.”