Celtics

The 'Celtic way' starts with mentoring at the top

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The 'Celtic way' starts with mentoring at the top

BOSTON It wasn't that unusual to watch the Boston Celtics play this season and see Avery Bradley peppering Ray Allen - the man he replaced in the C's starting lineup - with questions before, during and after games.

If you continue to scan the C's sideline, rookie forward JaJuan Johnson could at times be found soaking in every syllable uttered by Kevin Garnett during time-outs, a player that Johnson would like to someday succeed one day as the Celtic's starting power forward.

Keyon Dooling is a 12-year veteran who won't hesitate to drop a few knowledge bombs on rookie guard E'Twaun Moore who has spent most of this season fighting for minutes as a backup guard, along with Dooling.

As much as you have a Celtics team full of young - and not so young - guys that want to play, there is an ever-present mentoring dynamic at work that players believe has been one of the secret weapons to their success this season.

Players believe it helps explain why they have been able to overcome what has been a season's worth of injuries and unexpected setbacks to be where they are now, Atlantic Division champions about to begin their postseason journey with a Game 1 first round series matchup at Atlanta on Sunday.

"Not playing, it's easy to bea cancer," said Celtics forward Marquis Daniels, who has been in and out of the C's rotation this season. "You could easily be like complaining, moaning, whining, but we got some great young guys on this team. We (veterans) don't want to put bad fruits in them; you want give them a good foundation so that they can have something to lean on. I stay after everyday to get a workout in. I make sure E'twaun and JaJuan staying, and make sure they stay in shape."

Back when the Celtics were struggling just to get to the .500 mark earlier this season, C's coach Doc Rivers consistently talked about his team in the kind of glowing terms that were in stark contrast to their record at the time.

"I like our spirit," Rivers said. "We're showing resolve. You can see the camaraderie; it's just a good group, a good group to coach. And the future will say how good we are as a basketball team. But they're a good group to coach, and I'm a coach, so that's good."

And the mentoring is done on many levels.

There's the in-game stuff such as offering tips on how to handle different on-the-court situations. And then there's the stuff that you seldom see or hear about, such as Kevin Garnett spending time after a rare practice this season, working one-on-one with Ryan Hollins.

Hollins, who had a chance to play in pick-up games in California with Garnett and Paul Pierce this past summer during the NBA lock-out, doesn't take for granted the time that Garnett has spent with him.

"It's huge," said Hollins, who signed with the Celtics last month after being released by the Cleveland Cavaliers. "You got somebody like that in your corner. It's him, in the back of your mind, whether he's saying something or not. His attention to detail, preparation for the game, the teammate that he is it rubs off and really helps."

Hollins is just one of the many young players that Garnett has been a mentor of sorts to this season.

One of the first to latch on to the ways of Garnett was Johnson, whose lanky, lithe frame and ability to stretch the floor with his perimeter shooting is in some ways similar to Garnett's style of play.

Said Garnett: "I'm not a force-feeder, but when I do see him struggling with things, I do give him advice. I do encourage him (Johnson) to speak up a little more because I can't read minds. And use the guys in here. I always tell him that you have a lot of guys in here with a lot of different experiences. You should get to know them. When I do have the young boys on the plane, when I have them individually, I just like to talk to them about just life, this league and the journey and all that. So I open up to them a little bit from that standpoint; just about NBA life; it can be difficult for young guys.

"I don't think it's enough veterans out here on teams, all the teams, to say, to speak and guide some of these young guys and let them know how important hard work is. Having a work ethic, love for the game, respect for the game, respect for yourself, respect for your family, those things. I'm sort of that on this team. I like to always make sure the young guys understand that, as players that come before you, you gotta respect that."

And it's not just the players working with players, either.

Following a recent practice, Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, was on the floor providing a few pointers to Johnson.

"I just enjoy learning," Johnson said.

Fortunately for Johnson, he's surrounded by a long list of willing teachers - something that isn't necessarily the case with most teams.

And those lessons taught, players agree, begins with the Big Three of Garnett, Pierce and Allen.

This is Dooling's sixth NBA team, and he has never seen a trio of leaders such as the C's Big Three who have led both by their work and their word.

"It's just been a phenomenal experience," Dooling told CSNNE.com. "It's good that these young guys get to see those guys, these high-caliber guys come in here and really get their work in. Because if they can come in and do it, you (as a younger player) should be doing 10 times more."

That certainly has been part of what has driven Bradley, who has emerged as one of the NBA's most improved players this season.

"He wants to get better," Rivers said. "He genuinely wants to get better, and our older guys appreciate that."

Even guys no longer with the team still play the role of mentor.

Bradley recalls a conversation he had recently with Jermaine O'Neal who underwent season-ending wrist surgery last month and has since been waived by the C's to make room for Sean Williams.

When O'Neal was with the Celtics, he would often tell Bradley about his struggles early on his career when he wasn't playing much in Portland, and how he was determined to make the most of his opportunity once he was traded to Indiana when he finally had a chance to play.

With Bradley's emergence, he finds himself having similar conversations with players like Johnson.

"Me and him were in kind of similar situations," said Johnson, referring to himself and Bradley. "We talk about it a lot."

Said Bradley: "I help people out just like Jermaine and those guys helped me out, telling me their stories."

Today, Bradley is a starter having unseated a future Hall of Famer (Allen) in the process who is, when healthy, still one of the most lethal shooters in the NBA.

Ainge sees the mentoring dynamic of the Celtics as being a collection of all involved - players, coaches and the front office - recognizing that none of them can achieve greatness without the help of the others. And that involves teaching - and having players willing to learn which hasn't always been the case with the Celtics.

"We're patient with young guys, as long as young guys want to be taught," Rivers said. "It took me about a year of coaching to realize potential with character turns out to be good player. Potential with no character turns out to be the guy that keeps being traded. You get impatient with that, where you try to get a guy to be a better player, and they can't get out of themselves; they're so much into themselves, they're unteachable."

Yes there is indeed teaching that goes on with mentoring. But more than anything, it's about being professional - something that all of the C's veterans take great pride in.

"Being a professional is something you don't have a choice; something you have to do everyday," Garnett said. "Along with Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, those guys are true professionals. They are great examples of that. When you're consistent with something, that's what you are and that's what we've established here."

Too much rest for the weary?

Too much rest for the weary?

BOSTON -- You won’t find any of the Celtics griping about having more days off this month than they've had all season.
 
But is there such a thing as too much rest?
 
It certainly looked that way Tuesday during Boston’s 116-113 overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, which was Boston’s first game after having played once in the previous 10 days.
 
When asked about the long layoff being a factor, Al Horford said he wasn’t sure what, if any, impact that had on the game’s outcome.

“I thought we were just sloppy on the offensive end and couldn’t capitalize on a lot of opportunities and transitions and I think that hurt us,” Horford said.
 
Just as surprising was how the game, on so many levels, looked identical to previous games in which the Celtics trailed by double digits only to rally in the second half for the win.
 
“We can’t come back every game,” said Kyrie Irving. “It’s as simple as that. Sometimes another team is going to hold the lead and they’re going to play well.”
 
Here are five other takeaways from the loss,  which snapped Boston’s seven game winning streak.  

CELTICS DEFENSE

A strength all season, there were just too many breakdowns for Boston to emerge victorious. At no point did it feel like the NBA’s top-rated defense put its imprint on the game. And on nightswhen that happens -- which have been few and far between this season -- success for the Celtics is extremely hard to come by.

JAYSON TATUM

This was one of the more bizarre games we’ve seen from Tatum this season. He had 10 points on 3-for-6 shooting, but he never had one of those Tatum-like stretches of domination. While some may wonder if the 19-year-old is finally hitting that rookie wall, you have to remember this isn’t his first subpar game of the season. To his credit, he has bounced back quite well on the heels of rough outings. Don’t expect that to change now.

DANIEL THEIS

One of the reasons for Tatum playing less than 30 minutes (it was the second straight game he played less than 30 after logging 30-plus in his previous nine), was the play of Theis. He provided some much-needed energy for a Celtics team that looked and played somewhat lethargic for long stretches most of the night. He had seven points, which included a huge 3-pointer in the second half with the shot clock winding down, in addition to playing solid defense that factored into DeMarcus Cousins shooting just 7-for-20 from the field.

ANTHONY DAVIS

Celtics Nation’s bromance with The Brow will only intensify after he dropped 45 points on the Celtics last night, to go with 16 rebounds. What really made his performance stand out beyond it being the most points scored by a Celtics opponent this season, was the ease in which he got them. It really felt like Boston put up little to no resistance  most of the game. He shot jumpers with great confidence. He finished around the rim. Davis did anything and everything he wanted, all game. It was the kind of performance that Celtics fans would love to see at the TD Garden more often . . . in a Celtics uni, of course.

3-POINTERS

We know the 3-point shot is a weapon of choice for Boston. But launching a season-high 50 last night was not part of the plan. More than anything else, it was a function of the Pelicans playing arguably their best defensive game of the season. They kept Boston’s guards in front of them most of the night. And by not allowing much dribble penetration, it made life easier of sorts for their interior defenders. When there was penetration on Boston’s part, far too often Davis or Cousins would alter the shot attempt or help create a turnover. That often led to Boston having little choice but to take a 3-pointer, many of which were contested. It’s an important part of the Celtics offense, obviously. But when the number of 2-pointers (51) is basically the same as the number of 3s taken, the result will usually be a Celtics loss.
 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

 

BEST OF BST PODCAST: Pelicans snap Celtics 7-game win streak

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BEST OF BST PODCAST: Pelicans snap Celtics 7-game win streak

0:41 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins BST to break down the Celtics loss to the Pelicans in overtime, which snapped Boston's 7-game winning streak, and talks about the dysfunction with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

4:24 - Michael Holley, Tom Curran, Phil Perry, and Tom Giles discuss Gregg Doyel's article where he expressed concern over the expected hiring of Josh McDaniels by the Colts because of his tenure in Denver.

10:13 - Celtics legend Jo Jo White passed away at the age of 71. Michael Holley and Tom Curran talk about the impact he had on the franchise.

13:49 - Phil Perry gives us his report card for each position from the Patriots win over the Titans in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.