On defense, KG helps Celtics talk the talk


On defense, KG helps Celtics talk the talk

By A. Sherrod Blakely

PHOENIX Not a game passes by where Kevin Garnett isn't running his mouth and coach Doc Rivers couldn't be any happier.

For all the talk about KG's trash-talking, regarded as the best of the best in the NBA, what's often overlooked is his role as the voice literally of the Celtics defense.

That defense was again put to the test (and failed) Friday against a Phoenix Suns squad that did what all Phoenix Suns teams try to do run, run and when that doesn't work, run some more. Not only did the Celtics lose the game, 88-71, but both Garnett and Rivers were ejected from the contest.

For all the things that the C's do well, often their ability to effectively communicate with one another is overlooked.

Rivers feels so strongly about making sure his team understands this, every now and then he'll have practice where no talking is allowed.

"Then they find out, a guy gets cracked and knocked down on a pick and then he'll turn around because he can't talk . . . then all of a sudden, you realize how important talking is," Rivers told CSNNE.com. "We don't do that a lot."

That's because most nights, it is evident that the C's place a premium on ensuring everyone on the floor is on the same page defensively.

Even before a sold-out crowd with the collective voices of fans usually drowning out the players on the court, there's no mistaking Garnett barking out defensive instructions to his teammates, or Rajon Rondo alerting a teammate to a screen coming, before it is set.

And when that communication isn't what it should be, players notice.

Rivers recalls Boston's most recent game against Detroit, a game in which the Celtics struggled before ultimately rallying in the fourth quarter for an 86-82 win.

"At halftime, Rondo was complaining that no one was talking," Rivers said. "All the switching that we were doing defensively, there was no talking. We were getting destroyed. You can't play good defense without a lot of guys talking."

For Boston, the productive chatter begins and ends with Garnett.

Even though the C's managed to win six of the nine games Garnett missed when he was out with a muscle strain in his lower right leg, it was clear that their defense suffered in his absence.

In the 36 games Garnett has played this season, the C's are giving up just 90.8 points per game.

In the other nine without him, that number jumps to 94.1 points per game.

"The value he has on your team, is irreplaceable," Rivers said. "It's amazing the difference when he doesn't play. Even though we're still a good defensive team, it's not the same."

Before the Celtics traded for Garnett in 2007, Rivers got a heads-up from Garnett's former coach in Minnesota, Flip Saunders, about what to expect.

"Flip said, 'You're going to be amazed at how much he talks on defense,' " Rivers recalls. "And you knew it anyway when you played against him. You always heard him. It's great."

So is getting back Kendrick Perkins, a player who like Garnett, impacts a game as much with his words as he does with his play on the court.

"Defensively, Perkins doesn't need a lot of help," Garnett said. "He's a talker. We have that chemistry and rapport with him. To have him back to be a force . . . it's good to have Perk back."

Indeed, the return of Perkins has brought the C's as close to being complete as we've seen them all season.

"All the starters have great chemistry," Rondo said. "Not many guys play together four years straight, same starting five. We're in a great situation."

But the on-the-court chatter, making sure teammates don't get beat by giving them a heads-up, it speaks to a bond that goes deeper than simply the game of basketball.

"We actually give two cents about each other, which is a rarity," Garnett said. "We deal with each other off the court, which is a big plus. I'm not just saying that to make your column look like whatever, this is true life. And we enjoy each other; we're like brothers. We argue, we debate, we laugh . . . we're like brothers, real life."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Isaiah Thomas likes video of Jalen Rose calling Paul Pierce 'petty'

Isaiah Thomas likes video of Jalen Rose calling Paul Pierce 'petty'

Just when all the video tribute controversy between Isaiah Thomas and Paul Pierce seemed to be dying down, Jalen Rose heated it right back up.

Live on ESPN's "NBA Countdown," Rose called Pierce "petty" for his comments on the Celtics potentially holding a video tribute for Isaiah on Feb. 11 when Pierce gets his jersey retired.

Jalen Rose called Paul Pierce petty right to his face... 😳

A post shared by DIME on UPROXX (@dimemagazine) on

Thomas tweeted on Tuesday that he (again) declined the Celtics' offer to hold the tribute for him so it wouldn't interfere with Pierce's night. But if you look at the likes on the Instagram video above, posted by dimemagazine, you'll see Thomas appears to agree with Rose on the matter.

It doesn't look like the video tribute drama is going to end until the Feb. 11 matchup between the Celtics and Cavaliers is over with.

Horford: Fighting in NBA 'needs to stop'


Horford: Fighting in NBA 'needs to stop'

WALTHAM, Mass. – Three Houston Rockets players entered the Los Angeles Clippers’ training room before being stopped by security but not before a profanity-laced exchange that’s sure to result in fines and possibly some suspensions.

Orlando’s Arron Afflalo threw a punch – and barely missed – hitting Minnesota’s Nemanja Bjelica which led to both players being ejected and for Afflalo will likely result in a suspension of some kind.

Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons got into it with Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, resulting in both players being tossed and apparently leading to Simmons signaling to Lowry that they could continue having their “discussion” in the hallway.

That hallway encounter never happened (Lowry said he was there, Simmons said he didn’t see Lowry so you believe who you want to), but the fact that it was even a possibility speaks to this being one of the more bizarre weeks in recent memory when it comes to potential fighting in the league. 

And remember … it’s only freakin’ Wednesday!

I asked Boston’s Al Horford about this.

“It’s very, very bizarre,” said Horford, now in his 11th NBA season. “I don’t think I remember any period of time, (with) all this chippiness going on. You want to compete, you want to play hard; that’s fine. But all the extra stuff, I think needs to stop. At the end of the day you need to focus on basketball. We’re here to play.”

Horford added, “I’m sure the NBA will address those things and fix them.”

No one was shocked that things got a little testy in the Houston-Los Angeles Clippers game which was played on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It was the first time Chris Paul, now with the Rockets, returned to Los Angeles to face his former team. 

The Clippers won 113-102, a game filled with trash talk from both sides. But apparently the chatter soon turned to chippy play with hard fouls delivered and taken in the latter stages of play with a total of five technical fouls called, two of which were on Blake Griffin which is an automatic ejection. 

Talking trash gone bad was a factor in the Simmons-Lowry bruhaha with the Sixers emerging with the victory. 

And on Tuesday, Afflalo and Bjelica had already been assessed a technical for an earlier run-in. Soon after, there was a collision between the two which pissed off Afflalo who swung with great force at Bjelica’s face. 

“We’re professionals,” Horford said. “We can’t get caught up in that stuff.”

Horford plays around the basket and is no stranger to banging around with the big, bad angry bodies. 

But as much as there will be times when he’ll want to snap, Horford has consistently resisted the urge. 

“It’s hard; it’s hard,” he said. “But we have to remember what we play the game for; I play to win. I’m playing for my teammates and sometimes you need to take a step back before you do something you regret. That’s the way I look at it.”