Isaiah Thomas: 'Surreal moment' talking Celtics with Paul Pierce

Isaiah Thomas: 'Surreal moment' talking Celtics with Paul Pierce

BOSTON – Paul Pierce’s final game at the TD Garden on Sunday was billed as means of bringing some closure to the career of one of the greatest players ever in the franchise’s history.
But in many ways, it also served as a passing of the guard.
No longer are the Celtics of today viewed in the post-Big Three/Paul Pierce prism.
This is Isaiah Thomas’ team, with Sunday’s 107-102 Celtics win over Pierce and the Los Angeles Clippers essentially serving as Pierce’s way of blessing this transition.
He and Thomas went out to dinner Saturday night at Strip by Strega, which was the first time Thomas said he had a chance to have an extensive talk with the 10-time All-Star.
Thomas, who will be playing in his second straight All-Star game on Feb. 19, said they talked about “everything; the city, championships.”
Pierce also repeated some of the praise about Thomas that he had shared earlier with reporters.
“He (Pierce) said ‘When I watch you play, I can tell you figured it out. You’re not forcing anything. The game is coming to you and it looks very easy,’” Thomas recalled.
Thomas added, “it was a surreal moment for me to sit back and soak up all the game he was giving me. I’ll take that with me forever.”
Pierce recognizes that Thomas is the future for the Celtics, and like himself, he came to Boston with a huge chip on his shoulder. 

Leading up to the 1998 NBA draft, Pierce was viewed by most experts as a top-five selection only to slip to the 10th overall pick. 

And Thomas felt he was one of the nation's best players when he entered the draft, only to be the last player selected in the 2011 draft. 

"As a competitor you always try to find different things to motivated you," Pierce said. "I can see that in Isaiah. He'll always have that chip on his shoulder and that's the way he's playing."

But ultimately, Pierce's place among Celtics legends was cemented in 2008 when he along with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen brought Banner 17 to Boston. 

“You win a championship here, you give your all here, they’ll love you forever,” Thomas said. “It was the definition of what they did tonight for one of the best players ever to play here.”
Thomas added, “It drives me a lot. I want to be like that one day, hopefully. Be in that situation where I can be on a franchise for a long time; give it my blood, sweat and tears and come back and play your last game and have that type of love is unbelievable.”
And for Pierce to check into the game with less than 20 seconds to play and drain a 3-pointer for his final shot at the TD Garden, Thomas felt honored to be on the floor for that moment.
“I just wanted him to shoot it,” said Thomas who was on the floor defending (sort of but not really) Pierce when he re-entered the game.
“I just kept backing up,” Thomas said. “I wanted him to shoot it and make it. I was chanting his name too; I wanted him to come back in the game. It was a great moment to be a part of. That shot defines his career; to sit almost the whole game and make his last shot as a Celtic … that was great.”
And that last statement by Thomas (“… sit almost the whole game and make his last shot as a Celtic …) speaks to how Pierce is seen in the eyes of many.
He may be a Clipper by contract, but Paul Pierce will forever been seen as a Celtic at heart.

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

When is a setback not a setback?

When Danny Ainge says, "You know what? Sometimes I talk too much," Ainge told the Boston Herald over the weekend. "'Setback' wasn't the right word, so let me rephrase that because it's not exactly true to say it - or say it that way.

The Celtics president of basketball operations, in his weekly radio interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub and simulcast on NBC Sports Boston, used that word when he was describing how Gordon Hayward is coming along in his recovery. 

"He had like one setback for a couple of weeks, maybe a month and a half ago," Ainge said on the radio last week. "We were progressing a little bit too fast, we thought."

Ainge clarified that to the Herald's Steve Bulpett. 

"What happened is he went on the AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] the first day and he felt some soreness," he said. "It was the first day he tried the AlterG, a long time ago. He just wasn't ready for it at that point. That's all it was."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been adamant that Hayward, recovering from his gruesome leg and ankle injury in the season opener, will not play for the Celtics this season. On Sunday, Stevens, via MassLive.com's Jay King, characterized Stevens' soreness as a "small" issue. 



Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

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Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

CLEVELAND - Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence from the team to address health issues that have included chest pains and loss of sleep.

Lue said Monday in a statement that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is and offered no timetable for his return. The coach said he feels he needs to step away "and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation" from which to coach the rest of the season.

Here's a portion of Lue's statement:

I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is.

"While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team. I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season," Lue said. "My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the championship we are all working towards."

A stress-filled season for the Cavs has taken a toll on the Lue, 40, a former Celtics assistant under Doc Rivers who led them to the 2016 NBA championship after taking over for David Blatt midway through that season. They are j40-29, third in the Eastern Conference, behind the second-place Celtics and East-leading Toronto Raptors, and have endured roster shake-ups, injuries and other distractions as they try to return to the NBA Finals.

David Aldridge of TNT reports that the plan is for Lue to return in a week. The NBA playoffs begin April 14. 

"We all want great players, we all want the best teams, but with that comes a lot of pressure as well. And what Ty Lue has had to go through this year with that team, with the trades and the injuries and the pressure, it's unrelenting," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "So I hope that he gets healthy and is able to get back in time for the playoffs and help that team win as many games as possible."

Lue spent the second half of Cleveland's victory in Chicago on Saturday in the locker room because of an illness, the second time this season he left a game because he wasn't feeling well. The former NBA guard also sat one out against Chicago at home in December.

Associate head coach Larry Drew coached the second half of Saturday's game, the finale of a six-game, 11-day road trip. Cleveland is back home to host Milwaukee on Monday.

"We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues," general manager Koby Altman said.

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford also left his team to address his health this season. He took six weeks off. Medical tests revealed that the 56-year-old Clifford did not have any internal problems, but the doctor's diagnosis was the coach was suffering from severe sleep deprivation.

AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

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