Celtics

Garnett's trash talk preps rookies for mental challenges

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Garnett's trash talk preps rookies for mental challenges

ISTANBUL At some point during the Boston Celtics' first practice in Turkey, Kevin Garnett and Dionte Christmas had some terse words for each other.

Christmas' play suffered afterward while Garnett stepped his game up.

On Thursday, another C's rookie, Jamar Smith, had a verbal spat with KG.

Smith's game got worse while Garnett once again, took over.

While some might view Garnett's treatment as picking on the young, he's actually preparing them for what's to come.

Legit title contenders like Boston will be challenged both mentally and physically all season. In order to overcome those hurdles, especially the mental ones, it'll require more than a mentally tough starting five - but a mentally fit 15.

The sooner these younger Celtics understand this, the better their chances become of providing some meaningful help this season.

And while Christmas knew before he signed a non-guaranteed contract with the C's that Garnett's verbal game is kind of like his play - top flight - that still didn't prevent him from becoming frustrated.

"I got a little out of focus (on Wednesday)," Christmas told CSNNE.com. "When I was on the floor trying to get the ball, Kevin was talking and I turned around and we started talking and it kind of knocked me off focus."

And when that happens, it's a wrap.

"When he was talking smack to me, he came down and hit the game-winner," Christmas said. "Once somebody talks (back), that means they just pushed the button on him. And that got him going."

Thursday's practice was a different day, different player (Smith) but the same end result.

"He (Garnett) was talking to another rookie and hit three straight jump-shots," Christmas said.

That's just vintage Garnett, a future Hall of Famer who has seemingly mastered the delicate balancing act between knowing when to push and pull young players with the end result - hopefully - them being tough enough mentally to contribute.

Having enough mental strength becomes even tougher during days like Thursday in which players were still adjusting to the seven-hour time difference not to mention just the usual physical pounding their bodies take during training camp.

"You have tough days as far as the physical, physicality parts of it," Garnett said. "You have to be mentally into it. The young boys won't feel the impact of the mental part of this until we get into the latter parts of the season. The physicality, the travel, those are the things that wear on you a little bit."

But if they can withstand the sometimes harsh but necessary teachings of Garnett, those rough moments won't be too bad.

"Chalk that up as a lesson learned from the vets," Christmas said. "You don't talk, just play. Keep your mind on the task at hand."

Which Christmas has discovered, is a very Kevin Garnett-like way of doing things.

Larkin provides fourth-quarter spark, Celtics beat Sixers, 102-92

Larkin provides fourth-quarter spark, Celtics beat Sixers, 102-92

PHILADELPHIA – Despite playing its second straight game without a key rotation player, the Boston Celtics did just enough to get their first win of the season, 102-92, over Philadelphia.

Boston (1-2) was led by Kyrie Irving’s game-high 21 points, but it was Shane Larkin's floor game down the stretch that truly catapulted Boston to its first win of the season.

Larkin, who was seeing action in large part because Marcus Smart was out with a left ankle injury, provided a huge spark in the fourth before finishing with 10 points and four assists.

He drained a 3-pointer that tied the game at 75-all, which was part of an 18-9 Celtics run.

The Sixers (0-2) were led by J.J. Redick and Jerryd Bayless who had 19 and 18 points, respectively. Joel Embiid got off to a slow start, but finished with a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds.

Boston played with a lead for most of the first half, but Philadelphia took over with a 7-0 run to end the second quarter and had the Celtics playing catch-up for all of the third and some of the fourth quarter.

Boston was once again short-handed, with Marcus Smart out with a left ankle injury. He replaced Gordon Hayward, whose left ankle injury in the first quarter of Boston’s loss to Cleveland on Tuesday, is expected to keep him sidelined for the rest of the season.

But with players out, that opens up opportunities for others to step up.

Larkin, who walked away from a contract overseas that would have paid about $5 million more than he’s making with the Celtics, was one of those players.

Aron Baynes, who got the start with Smart out, had 10 points and eight rebounds. Boston also got another strong game off the bench from Terry Rozier who had 14 points and seven rebounds

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Moving to power forward 'presents a different challenge' for Horford

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Moving to power forward 'presents a different challenge' for Horford

PHILADELPHIA – For the third time in as many games, the Boston Celtics will field a different lineup.

It will have a domino effect on Boston’s usual starters, but no one more than Al Horford who will slide over to power forward with Aron Baynes inserted into the starting lineup where he’ll be charged with trying to defend Sixers 7-footer Joel Embiid.

Meanwhile, Horford will be assigned to defend Robert Covington who is one of Philadelphia’s better perimeter scorers.

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“I feel like one of my strengths is being able to play multiple positions,” Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “It presents a different challenge for me, which is making sure I do a good job of covering him out on the perimeter, staying between him and the basket.”

In Philadelphia’s 120-115 season-opening loss to Washington, Covington led all Sixers with 29 points which included him going 7-for-11 from 3-point range in addition to grabbing seven rebounds.

While Covington will be Horford’s first defensive assignment, he knows he will also be called upon at times to defend Embiid who ranks among the best centers in the NBA despite having played just 32 games over the course of three NBA seasons.

In the loss to the Wizards, Embiid had a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Horford’s defense will be critical for Boston (0-2) to get its first win of the season, but the Celtics will also need him to take advantage of scoring opportunities as well.

“We have some guys down, but that creates opportunities for other guys to step up and contribute,” Horford said. “It’s going to all of us, the veterans, the young players, all of us to get that first win.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens agreed.

“I think that’s how we have to look at it,” Stevens said. “We’re going to have to make a few tweaks on how we do things, obviously. Hey, it’s gonna be something that we’re going to have to do really, really well on the fly.”

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