Celtics

Ainge has Boston feeling Green

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Ainge has Boston feeling Green

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

When Jeff Green joined the Celtics in February, Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers gave off the impression that theyd found the next James Posey. Of course, it turns out they were setting the bar way too high.

In the two and a half months Green was in Boston, he never came close to filling Poseys long-departed role. Green was never comfortable coming off the bench, he was never a great, or even good, defender and most of all, he never embraced the big moments. Posey may have been the toughest, grittiest, and one of the most confident guys the Celtics had back in 2008. The brighter the lights, the better the Posey. Thats what endeared him so well to fans, teammates and coaches alike. Posey was a gamer, regardless of the situation.

Jeff Green is not. Or, at least, he isn't yet.

Sure, he had his moments over the course of the playoffs. There were flashes, as always, when you thought to yourself, Hey, this kid might not be that bad. According to Ainge, Green was Bostons most efficient player in the postseason, which may be true, but is just as meaningless. Efficiency aside, Green was not a guy the Celtics could count on. He was completely overwhelmed by the atmosphere, and if the Celtics had advanced, that only would have gotten worse.

His fumbled pass at the end of Game 5 was the perfect example. And Im not saying that thats the reason why the Celtics lost the game. But that turnover was a product of nothing other than a guy who was terrified to be out there; who wasnt ready for that kind of pressure. A guy who sure as hell doesnt have it in him to be the next James Posey.

But to Ainges credit, he realized that. Speaking on WEEI yesterday, he admitted that Green didnt adjust to that role as well as they would have liked. And looking back (this is me speaking, not Danny), it was probably unfair of Ainge and Rivers to ever even mention Poseys name along with Green. Like I said, it set the bar too high. And lets be honest, this kid already had big enough shoes to fill.

Greens performance in Boston will always be tied to Kendrick Perkins absence. For as long as Green wears the Green, hell be held to a higher standard than most players in his position. It doesnt matter if Perks knees give way next season or he continues to play out a mediocre existence in OKC, Green will always be the guy who was worth breaking up the Celtics for. The fans wont forget that. His teammates (the four that matter most, at least) wont forget that. For all that Perk wasnt, he was a guy that the Big Four felt comfortable and confident taking into battle. Green isnt there. In fact, hes not even close.

And believe me, this had an effect on team down the stretch.

When people talk about the trade, its still mostly about Xs and Os. They talk about things like offensive efficiency or the fact that Perk hasnt played that well in OKC. Its about what each respective guy is doing in a vacuum on the court, and obviously I get that. But these Celtics were never just about Xs and Os. The Celtics were a team, and that bond went far beyond numbers. It was about respect, trust and friendship. It transcended age, speed, athleticism and sometimes even talent. And regardless of where you stand on the Perk trade, you have to admit that that was gone as soon as Perk boarded that plane to OKC. The trade killed the Celtics' chemistry, and they never found it again.

You can talk about efficiency all you want, but that doesnt change the fact the Celtics never completely accepted Jeff Green in that locker room. They never accepted most of the new guys. In a way, you wish they could have just let bygones be bygones and everyone could have been best friends, but you know its not that easy. Were talking about three of the greatest player in NBA history, plus one of the most talented, enigmatic point guards in the league. That respect isnt given; it has to be earned. And Green didn't do much to earn it. Hell, it took the Big 3 nearly three years to even accept Rondo and that was after they won a title together. They had to go through a lot to get to the point where they are now, and with Green theyve barely scratched the surface.

Which makes what happened with Ainge on the radio yesterday so perplexing. Two and a half months, after setting the bar too high on Green, and ultimately realizing that he wouldnt and couldnt be the next James Posey, Ainge essentially suggested that Green can now become the next Paul Pierce. Whether or not what Ainge suggested that Pierce might come off the bench, so that Green can excel as a starter will actually ever happen, the seed has been planted, and Im not optimistic about how it will grow.

Ainge has created a situation where, as long as Green is coming off the bench, that will be the reason that hes not contributing. Its now: This trade that we shook the team up for will not be worth as much as we thought it would be until Jeff Green is starting" which is essentially means until Paul Pierce isnt. Just a reminder: Pierce signed an extension last summer through 2014.

Do you think Pierce enjoyed hearing that? Do you think Pierce would ever even consider coming off the bench? Thats crazy. Thats an insult. And its just going to make this whole thing more complicated. It goes against the very tenants that made this team so great, and just piggy backs on everything that was ruined when Perk was sent away. It created more inner turmoil, more drama, more reasons to second guess everything.

It made it less likely for these two to ever accept each other, or for the Celtics to ever find the same unity they once did. Now, not only is Jeff Green the guy who was worth giving up Perk for, but now hes also the guy moving Pierce to the bench? Whats that even mean? How can, or will, that ever happen? Why even plant that seed?

Maybe its Ainge just trying to do anything he can to salvage a trade that merely hasnt worked out, and one that may come to be the second most memorable (after KG) of his tenure in Boston. Im not one of those people who think that the Celtics would have beat the Heat if Kendrick Perkins was still there, but Ill certainly argue that the trade did not make them better. I dont know how anyone can argue that. Ainge said that the trade would give the Celtics a greater chance to win this year, and that certainly didnt happen. And dont give me the deal on how they were counting on Shaq to be healthy because that just makes it worse. Why would you ever count on Shaq being healthy?

I dont know, maybe hes just grasping at straws. Maybe hes just in a little bit of a panic. And moving forward, no ones exactly sure what road the Celtics will take with Green, Pierce and the rest of the team. But heres one thing Im pretty confident in.

This is going to get worse before it gets better.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Irving: Struggling Celtics must 'weather the storm'

Irving: Struggling Celtics must 'weather the storm'

BOSTON – While it’s too soon to hit the panic button on the Boston Celtics’ season, Sunday’s 103-95 loss to Orlando is disturbing on multiple fronts. 

For starters, the Magic (14-32) have been in the NBA basement most of the season, so for them to see the light towards victory, on the road nonetheless, against the Celtics is bothersome for the Green Team. 

MORE - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from C's-Magic

Boston came into Sunday’s game with an impressive 17-3 record against teams with a sub-.500 record.

Making matters even worst, it was Boston’s third straight loss – a first for the Celtics this season - with all three defeats coming at the TD Garden. 

Celtics big man Al Horford said the team needs a “Fight for our lives’” mentality heading into Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. 

While no one wants to lose game, having to overcome some hurdles along the journey isn’t always a bad thing.

“Gotta have some adversity,” said Kyrie Irving who led all scorers with 40 points - the second time he has reached the 40-point plateau this season (47 points, Nov. 20 at Dallas). “We need it as a team. There’s a lot more adversity down the road. You have to be able to weather the storm no matter what.”

Aside from Gordon Hayward’s dislocated ankle injury in the season-opener, dropping three straight is probably the biggest adversity the Celtics have had this season. 

And this latest setback came against an Orlando franchise that the Celtics have absolutely owned at home. 

Prior to Sunday’s loss, Boston had not lost to the Magic at home since Feb. 7, 2010 with 14 straight wins.

"We didn't underestimate them," said Boston's Jaylen Brown who had 17 points. "They've been playing a lot better than they've been playing all year."

Al Horford echoed similar sentiments.

“You can’t underestimate any team,” Horford said. “I don’t think we necessarily did, but we need to have that sense of urgency like we started the game and be able to hold that throughout the game. That’s important.”

So is making the most of transition scoring opportunities which was an area of play in which the Celtics struggled mightily all game. 

Boston wound up with six, fast-break points on just 3-for-9 shooting. 

“We had some transition opportunities that we didn’t covert,” acknowledged Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. 

Failing to capitalize on those easy scoring opportunities came back to hurt Boston and in hindsight, proved to be one of the key differences in the game’s outcome. 

“Whether you’re doing things at an optimum level as you would like, that’s part of the game of learning one another,” Irving said. “Being able to figure out how to respond from that. Us as a group, we’ve come together in the last four months, five months, it’s new. We need to hit something like this in order for us to grow. It’s part of the game; part of being on a team, part of being a professional. Any team, any environment, you have to have stuff like this where you have to figure it out.”

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Celtics' losing streak reaches a season-worst three games with loss to Magic

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Celtics' losing streak reaches a season-worst three games with loss to Magic

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics’ defense had its moments on Sunday. 

Ditto for the offense. 

But overall, the sense of urgency that we saw when they reeled off 16 straight wins and skyrocketed to the top of the Eastern Conference standings, was nowhere to be found on Sunday against the Orlando Magic. 

And because of that, the Celtics now find themselves riding a season-worst losing streak that has reached three games. 

While it may not seem like that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, Boston understands all too well how momentum works. 

It is a catapulting force that can elevate teams for a stretch of games, or set them back which is exactly what’s happening now with the Celtics (34-13).

“In my eyes, I feel like we’re fighting for our lives,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “That has to be our mindset gong into Tuesday’s game (against the Los Angeles Lakers).

Horford added, “We have to understand that teams are coming for us. I felt that we’ve handled it okay this season. We have to do a good job of making sure we’re bringing the fire and them not bringing it to us.”

Lately, that has proven to be easier said than done. 

At the end of the day, Boston’s success comes down to one thing and one thing only – improving their play. 

“You know, you’ve got to play well,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “We haven’t played well consistently on both ends for a while now.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 103-95 loss to the Orlando Magic which snapped the Celtics’ 13-game home winning streak against Orlando. 

 

STARS

Kyrie Irving: The Celtics came up short, but that doesn’t diminish a strong bounce-back game for Kyrie Irving. Irving, who did not play in Boston’s loss to Philadelphia on Thursday, returned to the floor and dropped 40 points on 14-for-23 shooting. He also had seven rebounds and five assists with just one turnover.

 

STUDS

Elfrid Payton: By no means did he shut Kyrie Irving down, but his scoring off the dribble certainly provided a much-needed boost for Orlando. He had a team-high 22 points on 9-for-16 shooting along with six rebounds.

Evan Fournier: He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (8-for-19), but made some clutch baskets for the Magic in pulling off the upset win. 

Aaron Gordon: He tallied his 10th double-double of the season and second straight on Sunday, finishing with 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

Marcus Morris: Getting the starting assignment, Morris gave the Celtics a nice lift with 12 points on 4-for-9 shooting to go with five rebounds.

Jaylen Brown: Early on, Brown and Kyrie Irving were the only sources of offense for the Celtics as they combined to score 23 of Boston’s first 25 points. For the game, Brown had 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting to go with seven rebounds.

 

DUDS

Celtics third quarter: There were other less-than-stellar stretches of play for Boston, but this game was truly decided by Boston’s horrific play at both ends of the floor in the third quarter. That is when the Magic outscored Boston 32-12.

Celtics transition offense: Easily one of the keys to Boston’s inability to get over the hump once after spending most of the second half on the comeback trail. Boston had six, fast-break points while shooting a woeful 3-for-9 in those opportunities. The Magic had almost twice as many fast-break points (11) while doing so on fewer fast-break field goal attempts (8).

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