Celtics

Doc on KG's return

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Doc on KG's return

BOSTON While no timetable has been set, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers anticipates the C's will have an answer soon as to what Kevin Garnett plans to do next season.

The free agent big man has had talks with Rivers as well as Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, since the C's season ended at the hand of the NBA champion Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.

"I hope he comes back, and I think he will," said Rivers, a featured speaker at Fenway Park on Tuesday during the first annual Sports Leadership Breakfast to Benefit thePositive Coaching Alliance.

Rivers added, "I have no basis for that. I just believe that he will."

With the No. 21 and No. 22 picks in the first round, Garnett's potential return will have no bearing on their draft plans.

"It's not like we have the No. 1 pick," Rivers said. "When you're in the 20s, you just wait and see what comes to you. I think this is a great draft. Where we're picking, we'll be able to get two very good players."

While Garnett has been mum for weeks - he did not speak to the media after the C's Game 7 loss at Miami and was fined 25,000 by the NBA - sources throughout the league are banking on him coming back for a 17th tour of duty in the NBA.

Earlier this season, Garnett talked about being an NBA lifer - something he never envisioned for himself.

"Duration is everything, man. To be able still, to be playing on this level, it says a lot," Garnett said. "It's not like I'm playing on some grand level, but I am playing on a decent level to where it's helping the team and I'm still trying to create different edges and different matchups and different mismatches night-in, night-out. And I still have a brain; I still know how to think this game. There's different formats of the game for me at this point. and I'm still enjoying the game. As long as those components are still a part, then I'm good."

And with Garnett, the C's are good - very good.

He knows this.

So do the Celtics.

But they also understand that this season probably took more out of Garnett physically than any of his previous 15.

When you combine the lockout-shortened season with him playing more at the center position - and with that, dealing with more physical players - it was clear near the end of the Miami series that the physical toll of a long season was starting to catch up with him.

That's why the C's are mindful not to push him too hard, too quickly for a response.

"He'll let us know soon enough," Rivers said. "Him and Danny (Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations) and that group are talking. That's all you can ask for."

If Garnett is back, Rivers said he will once again play primarily at the center position unless the Celtics draft, trade for or sign a talented center whose presence would allow Garnett to go play his more natural power forward position.

And while the C's want to give Garnett all the time he needs, both sides understand that a decision will have to be made sooner rather than later on his future.

"It's amazing that he has to make a decision already," Rivers said. "But that's the rules. It'd be nice if he could go home and detox from the season. Unfortunately the way we do this, it's not allowed. You have to make a decision quickly. I think that's very difficult; I really do."

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

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C' 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.”