Celtics

Garnett stands to face most pressure without Perkins

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Garnett stands to face most pressure without Perkins

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

LOS ANGELES There are varying degrees of disappointment felt now by anyone who watched or had the privilege of playing with Kendrick Perkins, who may be the nicest mean-muggin' dude to ever play the game.

Fans, as well as his Boston Celtics teammates, are clearly bummed about Perkins being traded to Oklahoma City.

But y'all know if Jeff Green comes in here, puts up big numbers and we're rockin' down Causeway Street in June with Banner 18, all will be forgiven.

There have been questions raised about how Perkins' departure will impact team chemistry.

No worries, folks.

These guys are too talented and too motivated to allow something like that to become an issue.

No, it's not team chemistry you need to worry about.

It's Kevin Garnett.

When you look at all the players who will be impacted by Perkins being traded to Oklahoma City, no one will feel this more than Garnett.

Garnett was a great defender before he arrived in Boston.

Perkins' presence allowed him to be even better.

You think it was just a coincidence that the first year KG played with an above-average defensive big man like Perkins, he just so happened to win the league's Defensive Player of the Year award for the first time, that same year?

Even with Perkins, Garnett's plate defensively is pretty stacked.

Now that he's gone, it takes on buffet-esque proportions.

The issue isn't whether Garnett can handle the added responsibilities.

The bigger concern is how much will they take out of him heading into the playoffs.

Boston did a wonderful job last season of managing Garnett's minutes, and essentially unleashing a healthy, ready to kick ass KG on a bunch of unsuspecting wannabe title contenders.

The C's won't have the luxury of limiting Garnett like they did a year ago.

Last season's squad was talented enough to win every playoff series, with or without home court advantage.

They knew this, and so did the rest of the league.

Just about every contender from a year ago, has made tremendous strides to where home court advantage is expected to become a major difference-maker in who moves on throughout the postseason.

Miami. Chicago. Even the Orlando Magic.

All three are good enough to knock off the Celtics in a best-of-seven series, which is why home court advantage throughout the playoffs is valued so highly by all teams in the East this season.

Now replacing Perkins in the starting lineup will be the man who held it down while Perkins was out recovering from his right knee injury, Shaquille O'Neal.

That's a pretty good trade off, just as long as O'Neal can stay healthy.

We're talking about Shaquille, but we might as well be talking about Jermaine, too.

So far, Boston cornering the NBA market on O'Neals hasn't been quite the investment we thought it would be.

Injuries have limited them to a combined 53 games this season, which has put even more pressure on the Celtics' healthy big men to perform.

But there's more to performing than simply putting up numbers.

Big men have to establish a certain presence around the basket, a certain toughness that gives opponents second thoughts about attacking the rim.

Perkins delivered that, daily.

Now it's on KG to do the same.

Garnett is considered one of the NBA's biggest trash talkers, but you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who sees him as one of the league's tough guys.

On this Celtics team, he didn't need to be that guy, not with Perkins around.

But now that the resident enforcer is no longer around, Garnett will clearly be the one looked to as the protector of not only the paint but also his people in Green when others try to rough them up.

These are all things that you can't ignore when you think about the impact of this trade.

But it's done, and there's no turning back from it now.

The disappointment that losing Perkins has brought on, that will subside soon as Celtics Nation prepares to welcome its two newest members.

But there's no mistaking that Perkins' departure will impact this team in more ways than you can imagine.

And nobody will feel this more than Kevin Garnett.

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

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
 
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
 
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.

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 But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
 
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
 
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
 
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
 
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
 
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
 
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
 
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
 
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
 
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
 
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road. 
 
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
 
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
 
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
 
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
 
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
 
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Boston’s Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
 
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
 
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
 
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
 
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
 
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
 
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
 
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
 
And even that might not be enough.
 
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
 
“Here in this league,” he said. “You have to love challenges.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Smart 'not worried' about lack of contract extension with Celtics

Smart 'not worried' about lack of contract extension with Celtics

CLEVELAND – For the third year in a row, a first-round pick of the Boston Celtics is unable to come to terms on a contract extension prior to the deadline.

That means Marcus Smart will become a restricted free agent this summer. Last year it was Kelly Olynyk (now with the Miami Heat) and in 2015 it was Jared Sullinger (now with Shenzhen Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association).

Both the Celtics and Smart's camp intensified their discussions in recent days as the October 16th 6 p.m. EST deadline drew near.

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While there was progress made, there wasn’t enough to get a deal done.

Smart has repeatedly indicated that he wants to re-sign a long-term deal to stay in Boston.

And the market for the 6-foot-4 guard became clearer based on the contracts that some of his fellow rookie class of 2014, were receiving.

Denver’s Gary Harris agreed to a four-year, $84 million contract after establishing himself as one of the better young two-way talents in the NBA last season. And at the other end of the financial spectrum, you would have to look at Phoenix’s T.J. Warren who signed a four-year, $50 million contract.

More than likely, Smart’s deal next summer will fall somewhere between the deals those two players received.

As much as Smart would have preferred to get a deal done heading into the season, it’s not something that he’s going to cause him to lose any sleep.

“Get it done now, or get it done in six months, I’m OK either way,” he told NBC Sports Boston. “I’m not worried about it.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE