Celtics

How Greg Monroe is acclimating to Celtics' system

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How Greg Monroe is acclimating to Celtics' system

BOSTON – Greg Monroe is a low-post, back-to-the-basket scorer who is a willing passer but doesn’t have the deep, long-range shooting touch that’s becoming more common among today’s NBA big men. 

But the big fella has skills, the kind that should be on display more often as he becomes more familiar with the Boston Celtics' system. 

Tuesday was an important step in that process with Monroe going through his first practice with the Cltics. 

Boston acquired the 6-foot-11 center on Feb. 8, just days after he was bought out by the Phoenix Suns.

“It felt good to practice,” Monroe said. “It was good to get some reps, get some good reps at learning the offense, communicating on defense with the guys game speed but not in a game.”

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Monroe has already appeared in three games for Boston, averaging 4.0 points, 5.0 rebounds in 14.3 minutes per game.

The 6-foot-11 center has been picking up the nuances of the Celtics' system at a pretty good clip, but said getting the offensive stuff down has been the bigger challenge.

“Defensively, it’s pretty easy picking up rotations, communications … the language you use is pretty universal,” Monroe said. “Even if the call may be different, it’s still the same positioning that I’m used to so that’s not really hard.”

It’s still early, but his new teammates like what they have seen thus far. 

“More than anything with Greg, he’s a veteran. He knows what to do," said Boston's Al Horford. "He has a very good feel for the post. For me, I’m going to try and help him defensively and on offense, anything I see that can help our team and help him … but he’s picked up our offense pretty quickly. He’s a very smart player. He’s on top of a lot of things.”

One of the keys to Monroe being on the fast track in learning the Celtics' system, has been assistant coach Jay Larrinaga. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens assigns all players an assistant coach to work with throughout the season. 

“He’s been a huge help,” Monroe said of Larrinaga. “Just getting me up to speed, learning the plays, telling me what certain guys like, what Brad expects of me.”

And those expectations have been pretty clear. 

Stevens wants Monroe to be Monroe, a big man who can score in the post, find teammates if they are open and maybe most important, contribute to the culture of winning which has the Celtics (40-18) firmly entrenched as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. 

And for Monroe, Tuesday’s practice – his first with the team – was a great first step in that process.

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Horford knows Celtics need to take it one day at a time

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Horford knows Celtics need to take it one day at a time

LOS ANGELES – Al Horford is credited for consistently being someone whose play contributes heavily to winning games.

But it was in defeat in the playoffs nearly a decade ago to the Boston Celtics that has shaped him into the player we see before us today.

“They were a tough team,” Horford said of the eventual NBA champion Celtics. “Defensively, just as good as they come. They looked like a very together group.”

Horford added, “It helped me tremendously. It helped that team that I was with in Atlanta, a lot. To have that experience, to go against the eventual champions but at that time a veteran team like the Celtics, it really but really made me realize the level I needed to play and the things I needed to do to for the team to be successful.”

And those lessons have helped shape the 31-year-old into being a five-time all-star whose teams have been to the playoffs every year he has been in the NBA.

“That first year could not have gone any better. It was a great learning experience and I felt it helped set up the rest of my career,” Horford said.

These days, Horford finds himself as the voice of experience on a Celtics team that has been among the NBA’s best squads for most of this season.

Horford has an open-door policy when it comes to doling out advice and tips for improvement, to his younger teammates.

But he knows first-hand the greatest teacher is experience.

“You can say things but you have to live through different things,” Horford said. “The biggest thing I try to emphasize to them and coach (Brad Stevens) talks about, is embracing the now. It’s about taking advantage of what we have now. 

Horford added, "I've been in the league, this is my 11th year, you never know if you’re going to have the same teammates next year. That happened to us last year. We had a great year and I look around and it’s only four of us remaining. I just think it’s embracing and taking advantage of doing the best you can with the group you have.”

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Horford can cross skills challenge off his bucket list

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Horford can cross skills challenge off his bucket list

LOS ANGELES – After making a near-perfect pass during the early stages of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Al Horford was feeling good about his chances of winning.

But near the end, the final stage – knocking down a 3-pointer – proved to be Horford’s undoing as Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid eliminated Horford in the first round after Horford missed three consecutive three-pointers.

“It happens. It was fun,” Horford said.

Embiid, who was eliminated in the next round by Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen, said he was nervous before the event.

“I don’t know why. My heart was beating so fast,” Embiid told reporters. “I have no idea. But I thought it was fun.”

Although Horford has been a part of all-star weekend four times prior to tonight, this was the first time he participated in the Skills Challenge.

“It’s different. I normally come as a fan,” he said. “This time it was a little different, just getting your mind set and come out here and compete and win. It’s good to be a part of it. Now I can just scratch that off.”

When I asked him about tips or advice from teammates, he said the only thing they told him was he “had to win it.”

“I let them down so I have to make it up in the season,” said Horford, grinning.

Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie wound up winning the event, over Markkanen.

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