Celtics

Blakely: Despite gut-wrenching loss, it's all good for Celtics

Blakely: Despite gut-wrenching loss, it's all good for Celtics

NEW ORLEANS -- There was an undeniable collection of emotions inside the Boston Celtics’ locker room following Thursday’s loss at Chicago, one that left the Celtics collectively sick to their stomachs.
 
Gut-wrenching defeats have that kind of effect.

CELTICS 104, BULLS 103

But win or lose, the Celtics have not been the kind of club to let outcomes marinate on their minds too long.
 
Unfortunately, they don’t have a choice this time, not with the next opportunity to play coming in a week.
 
But as frustrated and disappointed as they were with the Bulls loss, the Celtics are mindful of the big picture.
 
They hit the All-Star break with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference (37-20), winning 11 of their last 13 games.
 
And while Isaiah Thomas has been a one-man wrecking crew to opponents, as well as to longstanding Celtics scoring marks, we have seen the emergence of different players at different times stepping up in very different roles than we had seen previously.
 
It has made Boston one of the best storylines in the NBA this season outside of Golden State adding Kevin Durant.

Adding to the drama, the Celtics are a week away from the trade deadline. While nothing is imminent, Boston has lots of assets in the form of players and draft picks to get just about any deal done for any player that’s made available.
 
But Danny Ainge has made it clear he’s not willing to mortgage the future of the franchise on a player for 25 games, one who doesn’t make them appreciably better in the short or long term.
 
There are few players who can put Boston over the top in the East, let alone be made available through trade.
 
Ainge hasn’t ruled out having his team after the break look identical to the one we’ve seen thus far, and frankly, that’s not a bad thing.
 
Remember, Avery Bradley has missed almost one-third of the season dealing with an Achilles strain injury. His expected return right after the break will in some ways be like adding a new player in terms of getting him back up to speed where he’s executing at both ends of the floor the way he’s used to.
 
Jaylen Brown has been sidelined for a couple of games with a hip injury. He too will be back soon.
 
The team’s success with a relatively young core of players; Stevens’ plug-and-play system that has worked so well; Isaiah Thomas’ emergence; high draft picks in the coming years.
 
No matter how you look at it, the Celtics are a team that’s in good shape to not only compete with the elite teams in the East now, but potentially blaze a path that will keep them on the Eastern Conference short list for many years to come.

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

BOSTON – With all the changes the Celtics went through over the summer, seeing more rookies on the floor this season was a given.
 
But six?
 
Yes, only three games into the season and the Celtics have played more rookies than any team under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens.

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And in the 102-92 victory at Philadelphia on Friday night, the Celtics (1-2) played almost as many first-year players (five) as veterans (six).
 
The youth movement here in Boston has been sped up a bit by the season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward, compounded by a left ankle sprain to Marcus Smart that Smart said won’t keep him out any more than Friday night in Philly.

Even if Smart is back in the Celtics lineup Tuesday night against New York, that doesn’t change the fact that Boston will continue to need rookies to step up and contribute going forward as they did on Friday.
 
And while there’s an old adage about experience being the greatest teacher, Boston’s youngsters are going to have to fast-forward past some of those on-the-floor growing pains for the Celtics to stay among the top teams in the East.
 
“Everybody talks about young players having to learn by going through experience,” said Stevens. “Why don’t we just watch film and learn? Learn from things we can control and in the interim, let’s beat the age thing. Let’s not talk about the age thing. Let’s talk about how we can be better at what we can control and how we can learn and grow every day and expedite the learning curve.
 
Stevens added, “because they are going to get opportunities all the way down the line, let’s not focus on trying to learn from experience; let’s focus on learning from every day and see if we can get a little bit better every day.”
 
The one rookie who has had no problem adjusting to the NBA game early on has been Jayson Tatum.
 
Selected with the third overall pick last June, Tatum has been among the NBA's most productive rookies in this first week of the season.
 
Tatum’s 35.3 minutes played per game is tops among all rookies. His 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds rank seventh and fourth among his first-year brethren.
 
Stevens loves what he has seen thus far from Tatum, but believes he’s capable of making an even greater impact sooner rather than later.
 
“I like him to shoot it on the catch more,” Stevens said. “Because he has tremendous touch. When he shoots it in rhythm with confidence, the ball finds the net. He’s one of those guys; he’s a natural scorer. But his ability to read the game … he’s very intelligent. It’s been more evident on the defensive end. He’s gonna pick his spots offensively now. But we want him to be aggressive and first and foremost, be a threat to shoot it every time he catches it.
 
Stevens added, “I guess it should feel pretty good when you’re 19 years old and your coach is begging you to shoot it.”
 
How quickly Tatum and the rest of Boston’s youngsters grow into the roles they will be asked to play this season can do nothing but help the Celtics adapt to what has already been a season with major changes needing to be made.
 
“You saw [against Philadelphia], we had Shane [Larkin], we had Guerschon [Yabusele], we had guys coming in that played the game at a high level and we need them to contribute,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving. “For me to see that and witness that, it makes me nothing but proud and happy to have teammates that are ready to play. It’s not always going to look perfect because we’re still gaining knowledge about one another. But as long as we’re out there competing, having each other’s backs, that’s all that matters.”
 

Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for his inappropriate language with a fan

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Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for his inappropriate language with a fan

BOSTON – As expected, the NBA has fined Celtics guard Kyrie Irving $25,000 for using “inappropriate language” toward a fan at the Friday night game in Philadelphia.
 
The incident occurred at halftime as Irving and his teammates were heading to the locker room, trailing by four. Boston went on to win 102-92 for their first victory of the season.
 
A fan yelled, “Hey, where’s LeBron?” to which Irving replied with a lewd suggestion to the yeller.
 
The Celtics practiced on Saturday with Irving addressing the incident.

When asked if he had any regrets about the incident, Irving replied, “Hell no. Man enough to record it on video, that’s on him. I’m glad he got his ad name out there, and his five seconds of fame and it’s gone viral. That’s social media platform we live on.
 
Irving added, “I take full responsibility for what I said. You move on.”
 
When asked about the incident on Saturday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he had not seen the video but was aware of it.
 
“People make mistakes; hopefully learn from them and move on,” Stevens said. “There’s a right and wrong. And if you’re in the wrong you have to own up to it and that’s that.”

It was the second such fine levied by the league in as many days. 

New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins was fined $25,000 for "inappropriate language" toward a fan when the Pelicans lost 103-91 at Memphis on Wednesday.