Celtics

Celtics concerned about Paul's knee

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Celtics concerned about Paul's knee

Slowly but surely, the talk of Chris Paul coming to Boston is beginning to die a slow death.

But it's not necessarily because of his reported disinterest in signing a long-term deal with the Celtics (Kevin Garnett's camp had similar reservations at first, but eventually got over it), or whether the C's have had a change of heart about being open to the idea of trading point guard Rajon Rondo.

One of the reasons that's giving the C's some reason to pause in their pursuit of Paul is his health; specifically, his surgically repaired left knee.

While he appears to have bounced back from the 2010 injury nicely, there is some concern that the injury could prove problematic in the future.

Paul suffered a torn meniscus injury in late-January of 2010. Dr. James Andrews, one of the top orthopedic surgeons in the world, performed surgery on the knee on Feb. 4. Unable to sew the torn meniscus back together, Dr. Andrews had to take the torn portion out entirely.

The knee has two menisci that essentially serve as shock absorbers between the femur and tibia bones. Paul has one now, which means there's likely some of bone-on-bone rubbing which has the potential to get worse and ultimately lead to additional surgical procedures.

Paul played this past season with a brace on the knee, which helped with its stability -- one of the concerns that exist with having a partially meniscus.

"Talking with the doctors and trainers, (the brace) was the best thing for the long haul and for my body," Paul told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

The bone-on-bone issue is a serious one, especially for players who rely so heavily on change-of-direction quickness -- like Paul -- in order to be effective.

Look no further than Portland's Brandon Roy, one of the most talented players in the NBA who underwent surgery on both of his knees in an effort to alleviate the discomfort that came along with bone-on-bone contact. The Trail Blazers have to limit his minutes because of his bad knees, which is why he's one of the players many believe will be available via amnesty.

Of course, there's also the possibility that the remaining meniscus in Paul's knee is adequate enough to limit the amount of bone-on-bone action so that it won't be a problem.

But if you're the Celtics -- or any other team considering a deal for Paul -- are you willing to take that chance?

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Hawks in Atlanta. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: C's defense looks to keep up historic pace

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C's defense looks to keep up historic pace

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C's defense looks to keep up historic pace

As the wins continue to pile up for the Boston Celtics, so does the praise and adulation from others throughout the league. 

It’s a double-edged sword if you think about it. 

Acknowledging how good the Celtics are, is indeed a sign of respect. 

But it also means Boston plays every game with a large target on its back unlike any of Brad Stevens’ previous Celtics teams. 

And that means every game they play, even those like tonight’s matchup at Atlanta where they will be heavily favored, are dangerous matchups.

Because for some teams, the next best thing to competing against the champ (Golden State) is facing the team with the best record who just knocked off the champ. 

That will be one of the dynamics at work tonight when the Celtics (14-2) kick off a three-game road trip against a trio of sub-.500 teams beginning with the Hawks (3-12).

Boston has shown tremendous focus and attention to detail during their 14-game winning streak. But in that span, the Celtics have never had a trio of teams right behind each other that struggled as much as the Hawks, the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks have this season. 

Not including games played on Friday, Boston’s next three opponents are a combined 11-33. 

All three of those teams would love to be the one to knock off the Celtics, the kind of victory that could significantly shift the direction of their respective franchises from their current downward spin. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will look to continue to play with the kind of defensive temperament that has catapulted them to the top of the NBA’s defensive standings in several categories. 

“The way they’re beating teams it ain’t pretty,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “But they win. Last I checked, that’s what matters most.”

And that success has to a large degree, put a bigger bullseye on the Celtics than ever. 

“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

Especially if they continue to defend at a level we haven’t seen in years. 

Boston has a league-best defensive rating of 95.4. A key component in Boston’s strong play defensively has been their ability to win the battle of the boards. They come into tonight’s game with a .530 rebounding percentage which is second in the league to Portland (.539).

And that defense, while praised for how it functions collectively, it also consists of some pretty good individual defenders as well. 

Among guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game, Boston has four players ranked among the top 10 in defensive rating (Marcus Smart, 93.5 defensive rating, 2nd); Jaylen Brown (93.6, 3rd); Terry Rozier (95.0, 5th) and Kyrie Irving (96.4, 8th). 

When you look at forwards, Brown headlines a trio of forwards that includes himself, Al Horford (94.2, 3rd) and Jayson Tatum (96.1, 7th). 

Aron Baynes has the best defensive rating (90.6) among centers, followed by Horford (94.2).

“Our guys are locked in and really trying and again we can really play some pretty ugly basketball at times,” Stevens said. “But I do think that we are competing which is really good.”