Celtics

Garnett's return to Celtics allows another title run

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Garnett's return to Celtics allows another title run

WALTHAM The return of Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics was anything but a given.

Paul Pierce recalls many times sitting around with Garnett last season and asking him the only question Celtics Nation cared about - Are you coming back or what?

"I really wasn't confident he was coming back," Pierce said. "Kevin, he said this is it for him. People didn't know this, but there are times we'd be in the locker room and be like, 'Kevin, is this your last year?' He was like, 'Yeah, this is it.' I would say, 'If you retire, I'm going to retire.' But then I started thinking. I was like, 'Kevin's been in the NBA since he was 18. He doesn't know anything else. What is he going to do? He has to come back.'"

And because of Garnett's decision to return, the Celtics are once again in the hunt to win an NBA title.

You can point towards Rajon Rondo's development into one of the NBA's top players and not just one of the elite point guards. Boston has the kind of bench depth that the C's haven't seen since the 2008 championship team.

But any chance of the Celtics winning another NBA title hinged on Garnett's return.

Two of the folks who played a major part in his return - head coach Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge, the C's president of basketball operations - each had different takes on the probability of Garnett coming back for a sixth season with the Celtics.

"I had some doubt that Garnett would return," Ainge said. "Listen, it's a grind. And every year, players, it's amazing what a person like Kevin Garnett puts in to prepare himself for the year and what he does day-in and day-out just to go out on the court. I'm grateful that he chose to come back and play and I think a lot of it has to do with Paul and Rondo and Doc and what he believes that we can do this year."

Rivers remembers hearing Garnett talk about retirement often last season.

"It was a bunch of crap, I never believed it," Rivers said. "I really didn't. I told him that all the time. Everytime, in the middle of the season, I would say, 'next year,' (and he'd say), 'I won't be here next year,' that was Kevin. But I never believed it, I honestly didn't."

But if you listen to Garnett now, retirement was a serious consideration heading into free agency this summer.

And while he was able to sign with any team, Garnett made it clear that Boston was the only team he would consider playing for this season.

"I did give it some real thought," Garnett said. "My number one reason for coming back was Doc (Rivers). Doc being here is huge, and I enjoy playing for him. The guys, the city, the fans here are by far the best fans that I've been a part of. And all that stuck with me."

But as much as the fuzzy, feel-good stuff helped make Garnett's decision to come back for three seasons ("I don't know how Danny talked me into three years," Garnett said), his ability to still play at a high level was probably what swayed him the most to sign on for another run towards a title.

"This is in his blood," Pierce said. "This is what he's been born to do. For him to be playing at a high level to walk away from the game and with his competitive spirit, inside at the end I knew he wasn't going anywhere because me as a competitor, I understand other competitors. I just knew that he wasn't going to walk away."

Rivers echoed those sentiments.

"Even this summer when you heard whispers, I think there (were) a couple reports that he decided to retire, I just didn't believe it," Rivers said. "He just has too much passion. You don't usually see guys with the fire burning high with the level that he's played to just turn it off. It's unnatural, and it's definitely unnatural for Kevin."

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

BOSTON – With all the changes the Celtics went through over the summer, seeing more rookies on the floor this season was a given.
 
But six?
 
Yes, only three games into the season and the Celtics have played more rookies than any team under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens.

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And in the 102-92 victory at Philadelphia on Friday night, the Celtics (1-2) played almost as many first-year players (five) as veterans (six).
 
The youth movement here in Boston has been sped up a bit by the season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward, compounded by a left ankle sprain to Marcus Smart that Smart said won’t keep him out any more than Friday night in Philly.

Even if Smart is back in the Celtics lineup Tuesday night against New York, that doesn’t change the fact that Boston will continue to need rookies to step up and contribute going forward as they did on Friday.
 
And while there’s an old adage about experience being the greatest teacher, Boston’s youngsters are going to have to fast-forward past some of those on-the-floor growing pains for the Celtics to stay among the top teams in the East.
 
“Everybody talks about young players having to learn by going through experience,” said Stevens. “Why don’t we just watch film and learn? Learn from things we can control and in the interim, let’s beat the age thing. Let’s not talk about the age thing. Let’s talk about how we can be better at what we can control and how we can learn and grow every day and expedite the learning curve.
 
Stevens added, “because they are going to get opportunities all the way down the line, let’s not focus on trying to learn from experience; let’s focus on learning from every day and see if we can get a little bit better every day.”
 
The one rookie who has had no problem adjusting to the NBA game early on has been Jayson Tatum.
 
Selected with the third overall pick last June, Tatum has been among the NBA's most productive rookies in this first week of the season.
 
Tatum’s 35.3 minutes played per game is tops among all rookies. His 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds rank seventh and fourth among his first-year brethren.
 
Stevens loves what he has seen thus far from Tatum, but believes he’s capable of making an even greater impact sooner rather than later.
 
“I like him to shoot it on the catch more,” Stevens said. “Because he has tremendous touch. When he shoots it in rhythm with confidence, the ball finds the net. He’s one of those guys; he’s a natural scorer. But his ability to read the game … he’s very intelligent. It’s been more evident on the defensive end. He’s gonna pick his spots offensively now. But we want him to be aggressive and first and foremost, be a threat to shoot it every time he catches it.
 
Stevens added, “I guess it should feel pretty good when you’re 19 years old and your coach is begging you to shoot it.”
 
How quickly Tatum and the rest of Boston’s youngsters grow into the roles they will be asked to play this season can do nothing but help the Celtics adapt to what has already been a season with major changes needing to be made.
 
“You saw [against Philadelphia], we had Shane [Larkin], we had Guerschon [Yabusele], we had guys coming in that played the game at a high level and we need them to contribute,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving. “For me to see that and witness that, it makes me nothing but proud and happy to have teammates that are ready to play. It’s not always going to look perfect because we’re still gaining knowledge about one another. But as long as we’re out there competing, having each other’s backs, that’s all that matters.”
 

Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for his inappropriate language with a fan

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Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for his inappropriate language with a fan

BOSTON – As expected, the NBA has fined Celtics guard Kyrie Irving $25,000 for using “inappropriate language” toward a fan at the Friday night game in Philadelphia.
 
The incident occurred at halftime as Irving and his teammates were heading to the locker room, trailing by four. Boston went on to win 102-92 for their first victory of the season.
 
A fan yelled, “Hey, where’s LeBron?” to which Irving replied with a lewd suggestion to the yeller.
 
The Celtics practiced on Saturday with Irving addressing the incident.

When asked if he had any regrets about the incident, Irving replied, “Hell no. Man enough to record it on video, that’s on him. I’m glad he got his ad name out there, and his five seconds of fame and it’s gone viral. That’s social media platform we live on.
 
Irving added, “I take full responsibility for what I said. You move on.”
 
When asked about the incident on Saturday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he had not seen the video but was aware of it.
 
“People make mistakes; hopefully learn from them and move on,” Stevens said. “There’s a right and wrong. And if you’re in the wrong you have to own up to it and that’s that.”

It was the second such fine levied by the league in as many days. 

New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins was fined $25,000 for "inappropriate language" toward a fan when the Pelicans lost 103-91 at Memphis on Wednesday.