Celtics

Green soaking in every moment with Celtics

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Green soaking in every moment with Celtics

WALTHAM The first day of practice can be a drag for many NBA players.

Not for Jeff Green, who was fighting a losing battle in trying to hide his ear-to-ear grin.

"It was hard," said Green, still trying (and failing miserably) to mask a smile. "I was trying not to smile too much in practice, keep a straight face."

Can you blame him?

The 6-foot-9 forward inked a four-year, 36 million deal with the C's this summer, which is enough right there to be giddy.

But when you consider what he has gone through this past year and how this was his first training camp with the Celtics, being in a jovial mood makes sense.

After being acquired midway through the 2010 season from Oklahoma City, Green had to sit out all of last season after a routine physical showed an abnormality with his heart. That ultimately led to the one-year, 9 million contract he signed being voided, in addition to him needing season-ending heart surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm.

Months of rehabilitation and workouts followed, bringing Green to the Saturday where he was ready to go all-out - literally.

Throughout the C's first practice, Green was doing what he does best - run the floor - which caught the eye of many, including head coach Doc Rivers.

While Rivers was pleased with the conditioning of most of his players, Green stood out.

"Jeff looked great," Rivers said. "He had one of the better practices. His conditioning was phenomenal. I thought that was great."

Even if he struggled, just being back on the floor is a blessing that Green does not take for granted.

He acknowledged that there was a point in which he wasn't sure if he was going to be able to return to the NBA.

Green is not only back, but he's seemingly in even better health than before the surgery.

That bodes well for Green being able to have the kind of major impact off the bench that he and the C's are hoping for.

One way of helping make that happen would be to cut down Paul Pierce's minutes, something Rivers said he will look into trying to do this season.

Pierce, who has averaged at least 34 minutes per game in each of his 14 NBA seasons, said he has no problem with Green getting some of his playing time.

"He's a guy that makes our lineup so much more versatile," Pierce said. "He can switch from the 3 (small forward) to the 4 (power forward), or he can make us a big lineup with him at the 3 and me at the 2 (shooting guard)."

Green said he spent most of Saturday's practice primarily at the small forward position.

But there's no question that with Rivers wanting to play more "small ball" this year, there will be times and lineups in which Green will be called upon to play multiple positions.

Green is clearly more comfortable at small forward.

Considering all that he has gone through this past year, being on the court is a reward in itself.

"I've gone through the tough times and I beat it," Green said. "Now I'm in great condition; my game is getting right and I'm just happy to play basketball."

Green added, "The surgery is behind me. Good times in front of me."

Young Celtics playing high-level defense without fouling a lot

Young Celtics playing high-level defense without fouling a lot

When you’re an NBA rookie or early on in your career, there’s so much to learn, especially when it comes to playing defense.
 
Despite having at least two players with a year or less experience in the starting lineup and at least three or four other rookies who see regular action, Boston’s top-ranked defense has been able to do the seemingly impossible – defend without fouling a lot.
 
Boston comes into tonight’s game against Atlanta averaging 19.8 fouls committed per game which is the ninth-lowest total in the league.

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Celtics guard Kyrie Irving has some ideas as to how the team has been able to defend without fouling a ton.

“Our length, being able to communicate on the fly, having a system that’s predicated on shrinking the floor, just being very active,” Irving said. “Obviously, we’re going to foul. But the times we don’t foul, we limit teams to some tough shots, some tough two’s or some tough contested threes; I feel we put ourselves in great position. And then when you have guards down there rebounding as well as bigs down there boxing out and staying active it makes all our jobs easier, all five connected out there. We understand the importance of valuing each possession.”
 
The qualities that Irving talks about make sense when you’re talking about the qualities of an elite team defensively.
 
But for the Celtics to have so much youth tossed into such prominent roles, it is unusual to see everything seemingly come together so quickly.
 
“They utilize their length appropriately,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “They’re both long for their positions; that helps. So, you’re not playing Jaylen at the 3 (small forward) as much, and Jayson (Tatum) at the four (power forward) as much. You’re playing them at the two (shooting guard) and three (small forward) a lot. So, they can use that length rather than try and have to battle.”

Irving points out there’s added incentive to play at a high level defensively without fouling.

“If you don’t, you’ll be on the bench,” Irving said. “Brad has made that very clear. If the effort isn’t being put out there, and you’re not paying attention and you’re not preparing the way all of us should be preparing, that goes from the head coach all the way down to the 15th guy, if you’re not preparing the way you should and not perfecting your craft outside the game and that’s being very diligent, understanding what we’re trying to do in strategy, understanding our system, why it works, and why we’re doing it, then why the hell would you expect to play? So, he made it very simple. All the guys understand that. We’re a young team, but what we’re trying to accomplish will take a lot of energy and effort and focus. They understand that at a very young point in the season.”

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Stevens: Celtics haven't played well enough to make streak 'valid'

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Stevens: Celtics haven't played well enough to make streak 'valid'

You know who else - besides Charles Barkley - isn't impressed by the Celtics' 14-game winning streak?

Their coach. 

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At the shootaround in Atlanta before the Celtics attempt to make it 15 in a row tonight against the Hawks, Brad Stevens told reporters, including ESPN's Chris Forsberg, that his team hasn't played well enough to make the streak "valid." 

“We haven’t played well enough to consider this win streak to be valid in my opinion,” Stevens said."We’ve figured out ways to win games. We gotta play a lot better.”

The Celtics have come back from double-digit deficits a number of times in the streak. Stevens said they're fortunate those rallies have kept the streak going.  

"We've got to be better, and we know that," Stevens said. "We can't get so caught up in the results of all these games and ride that emotion. We've been fortunate to win a lot of the games in this streak, including Thursday night [92-88 over the defending champion Golden State Warriors]. If we dig ourselves a 17-point hole every other game, it's not going to be as much fun as we've had recently."