Celtics

Rivers, Thibodeau expect smooth adjustment to Boston for Hayward

Rivers, Thibodeau expect smooth adjustment to Boston for Hayward

LAS VEGAS – When you listen to players and coaches whose careers have included a pitstop in Boston, they will collectively tell you the city loves its star athletes. 

And with that love comes expectations of greatness, the kind of greatness that only a select few ever achieve in this town. 

It takes a special kind of talent to weather the sometimes-tumultuous, stormy relationship between fans that comes with being a superstar athlete in Boston, something the newest soon-to-be Celtic Gordon Hayward will learn first-hand. 

Hayward, who agreed to a four-year, $127.8 million contract with the Celtics on the Fourth of July, has never been in a sports vacuum quite like the one he’s walking into. 

An NBA all-star, Hayward was not a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school in Indiana before ultimately signing with nearby Butler University coached by now-Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. 

And when the Utah Jazz drafted him with the ninth overall pick in 2010, he evolved into a star for one of the league’s smaller market franchises. 

Ain’t nothing small about Boston other than its patience level when it comes to its stars.

Some players can handle that pressure with ease, like David Ortiz or Tom Brady. 

Others like David Price … not so much. 

So I asked a couple of NBA coaches (Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau) who have spent years coaching against Hayward who also have an intimate knowledge of the Boston sports scene, just how they saw Hayward adjusting to his new surroundings and with it, the increased amount of pressure to perform at the highest of levels. 

“He’ll handle that well,” said Rivers, president of basketball operations and head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers who spent nine seasons (2004-2013) as the Celtics’ head coach. “I think he’s really humble. His relationship with Brad (Stevens) will help as well, to channel that. You still have Isaiah (Thomas) there to take some of that pressure away. They’re going to be really good.”

Fandom aside, Hayward will ultimately be judged on his play which was on an all-star level this past season when he averaged 21.9 points and 5.4 rebounds, both career highs. 

And for those who have had to coach against him, seeing him head East is a welcomed reprieve. 

“He scores so many different ways,” said Thibodeau, president of basketball operations and head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. “You have to prepare for every situation.”

And even that’s not enough as Thibodeau’s Timberwolves lost three of four meetings against Hayward and the Jazz last season which included the 27-year-old dropping 39 points on Minnesota in late-April shortly before the playoffs. 

“He’s a great catch-and-shoot guy, moves well without the ball, very good off the dribble, very good in pick-and-rolls … he puts enormous pressure on the defense at all times,” said Thibodeau, a former Celtics assistant coach (2007-2010) who grew up in New England and attended Salem State just outside of Boston. “His versatility, that’s probably the biggest thing. And he’s unselfish.”

Thibodeau believes the qualities that he brings to the floor as a player will mesh well with the Celtics and the fan base which Thibodeau knows all too well, can be a tough crowd to please. 

“I think the way they (Celtics) play, who he is … I thought it was a great acquisition,” Thibodeau said. “He’ll fit in seamlessly.”

Morris returns to Celtics starting lineup vs. Magic

celtics_marcus_morris_112417.jpg

Morris returns to Celtics starting lineup vs. Magic

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics will turn to a familiar starting lineup as they try to get back on their winning ways following Wednesday’s loss at Miami.
 
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said Marcus Morris will be in the starting lineup tonight against Orlando, joining the usual Celtics foursome of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford.

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Morris’ availability tonight was not a given, similar to it being in question prior to Wednesday’s game against the Heat.
 
Morris has been dealing with soreness in his left knee which kept him out for the first eight games of the season and has limited his playing time since then.
 
Stevens said Morris will likely not play against Indiana on Saturday but no final decision has been made. Since returning to the lineup, the Celtics have played Morris with a minutes restriction in addition to not allowing him to play in any back-to-back games.

Morris has made it clear that he does not like having his playing time limited while not playing in any back-to-backs, but has repeatedly he understands why it is being done and won’t fight what the coaching and medical staff believe is best for him and the team.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics' bounce-back ability put to the test

Celtics' bounce-back ability put to the test

BOSTON – When it comes to bouncing back from defeat, the Celtics don’t have a ton of experience with that this season.
 
As impressive as their 16-game winning streak was, a truer sense of where this team is at lies in how they respond.

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Their first chance to bounce back comes tonight against the Orlando Magic (8-10) who will put Boston’s team cohesion to the test.
 
With so many new players to the roster this season, it has been somewhat surprising how well players have come together. It was instrumental to Boston’s winning streak, which was the fourth-longest in franchise history.
 
“It’s two things,” said Al Horford. “A lot of credit to coach [Brad Stevens], really setting the emphasis on the things that he expects from our group. And then credit to our younger guys and our guys in general, to pick up those concepts and play for each other out there on the defensive end. That’s what we try to do every night.”
 
When you talk about Boston’s young players, it begins with the rapid improvement of second-year wing Jaylen Brown and rookie Jayson Tatum.
 
“I just think that they’re starting to see, to understand the game more especially on the offensive end,” Horford said. “I think they’re starting to identify reads. It’s a process. They’re going to keep learning; it’s a long season. But that’s the one thing, from the beginning of the season until now, I feel like they have the ability to read plays and make plays for themselves and others.”
 
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game at TD Garden: 
 


STREAKING MAGIC
The Magic are on a bit of a streak, but not the kind any team would like to have. They come in having lost six in a row. The Magic have struggled to knock down 3-point shots and rebound in that span. They're ranked among the league’s bottom 10 in both categories.
 

THE PAINT GAME
Boston has had its problems scoring in the paint this season, averaging 38.5 points, which ranks 27th in the NBA. But that might change tonight against a Magic team that has been among the worst limiting points in the paint all season. Scratch that. They are the worst, giving up a league-high 51.0 points in the paint this season.
 

WICKED TOUGH SCHEDULE
Boston’s 16-game winning streak was impressive, especially when you consider their schedule which included their past eight games being played in a 16-night stretch with a game every other day. It’s not so much the challenge of so many games close together, but the inability to have any time to practice. “For a young team like ours, practice is really important,” Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston earlier this season. “But the schedule is what it is. You play every game as best you can, practice when you can practice and go from there.”
 

BACKUP POWER LOW
The Celtics got 34 points from their bench in Wednesday’s loss at Miami, an improvement over what the second unit has been able to deliver most of this season. They come into tonight’s game ranked dead-last in the NBA in shooting (33.5 percent) and next-to-last in 3-point shooting (27.7 percent). Scoring-wise, they average 28.6 points, which ranks 24th in the league, but log an average of 18.8 minutes which ranks 14th in the NBA. So why do they get major minutes? Because more often than not, they find a way to come out ahead of their second unit brethren. For the season, Boston’s bench has a plus/minus of +1.6 which ranks eighth in the league.
 

REBOUND SUCCESS
One of the biggest concerns for the Celtics coming into this season was rebounding. So far, so good. The Celtics average 47.2 rebounds per game, which ranks fourth in the NBA. To put that in perspective, if Boston maintains that average, it would be the franchise’s highest rebounding average in 40 years (49.8, 1977-78).