Celtics

Jermaine O'Neal's still talking

615918.jpg

Jermaine O'Neal's still talking

Here are three things you can count on every NBA offseason:

1. GMs will make stupid decisions.

Check. (In the Knicks case, we can also include owners)

2. Kevin Garnett will disappear.

Check. (Unless you count his I'm more than happy and I'm excited to be back!" press release, which definitely wasn't made up by someone on the Celtics PR staff.)

3. Jermaine ONeal will talk out of his ass.

And now . . . Check.

I had a fantastic time in Boston, with the city, the fans were phenomenal, the organization was phenomenal, I just dont know if the playing situation was right to be quite honest, JO told the Globe yesterday. The hardest thing for me was to not be able to do some of the things I have been quite comfortable doing all my life. I accepted the challenge. I accepted the role. I didnt want 10 shots a game, but it was hard to be told not to worry about scoring."

How much should we still care about Jermaine ONeal?

Ive asked myself this question a few times today.

On one hand, this quote is so infuriating. Honestly, Im starting to worry about JO. Forget signing with the Lakers, the guy needs an intervention. Jermaine. Listen. We all brought you here because were concerned . . . These things youre saying to the media . . . its just so obvious that something isnt right . . . you're out of your mind . . . Jermaine, please! . . . (starts shaking him) . . . let us help you!

But seriously, what's ONeal trying to get across in this interview? Is he saying that a few more touches might have made the difference in him missing 99 of a possible 148 games? How does that make sense? Thats like a blacked out drunk driver slamming his car into a telephone pole and then blaming the crash on a faulty headlight.

But what makes the whole thing even more frustrating is that you know there are people out there who will still fall for his shtick. The same way Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers fell for it in 2010. The same way we all did at some point during his two years in town. There are GMs who will become fascinated by his size and All-Star resume, who will buy into his sweet nothings and give him another chance.

Again, I'm not sure why that should bother anyone in Boston. He's not our problem anymore. We should let him go to the Lakers and drive them as crazy as he did us.

But after two years of dealing with his song-and-dance, the sound of the Jermaine O'Neal BS Machine is still like nails on a chalk board. As much as I don't want to care, it still drives me nuts.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

To get to 15, C's need to keep up the D

To get to 15, C's need to keep up the D

BOSTON – If you were to deconstruct the building blocks of the Celtics' 14-game winning streak, you would find the foundation lies in what they’re able to accomplish defensively.
 
And to the Celtics’ credit, their defense has been challenged in a multitude of ways already.

MORE CELTICS:

 
They have managed to beat teams with great one-on-one talent (Golden State), those that rely heavily on athleticism and length (Milwaukee) as well as those that put a premium on sharing the ball (Philadelphia), which will be among the ways Atlanta could potentially challenge the Celtics tonight.
 
While the Hawks (3-12) have had their struggles this season, it hasn’t necessarily been because of selfish play offensively.
 
Atlanta averages 327.9 passes per game, which ranks third in the NBA.
 
The problem hasn’t been getting players the ball; it’s what happens – or doesn’t happen – when they get it.
 
Despite being a top three passing team, the Hawks average 22.9 assists, 10th in the NBA. And they're connecting on 45.5 percent of their shots from the field, 14th in the league.
 
For Boston to continue its winning ways, it’ll again be because their defense will have taken away things the Hawks love to do.
 
When it comes to scoring, Atlanta has been one of the NBA’s best at generating offense off screens.
 
Despite having an offense that ranks 19th in scoring (104.2) this season, Atlanta has been among the league leaders when it comes to scoring off screens.
 
In fact, only two NBA teams (Golden State and Cleveland) have generated more points off screens this season than Atlanta (141).
 
That still shouldn’t be a major issue for the Celtics defense, which allows a league-low 94.1 points per game and has shown the ability to find success against any and every kind of offense.
 
Here are five below-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game between two teams at opposite ends of the success spectrum this season.
 

KYRIE IN THE CLUTCH
It’s one thing to score a bunch of points, but it takes a special player to do it in the latter stages of play, especially against an elite team that knows you’re looking to get points any way possible. We saw Kyrie Irving shrug off a horrible shooting night (4-for-16) in the 92-88 win over Golden State that included him draining all seven of his fourth-quarter free throws. But Irving coming through when the game counts shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. According to NBA.com/stats, Irving is averaging a league-best 5.8 points in “clutch” situations (last five minutes of a game with the margin being five points or less), ahead of notable standouts Damian Lillard (5.0) of Portland who is second and ex-teammate LeBron James (4.6) who ranks behind Irving, Lillard and Miami’s Dion Waiters (4.9).
 

HIGHS, LOWS FOR HORFORD
Although he spent nine seasons in Atlanta, it has been anything but a sweet homecoming for Al Horford statistically speaking. In the four games he has played against his former team, Horford has averaged 8.8 points and 6.8 rebounds, which are his lowest career scoring and rebounding averages against any team. However, the 5.8 assists he averages against the Hawks represents his highest career average in that category against any team.
 

JAYLEN BROWN
His athleticism has always made Jaylen Brown a standout and the way he has shot the ball this season in clutch situations has stood out as well. But what hasn’t been talked much about is his defense against 3-point shooters. NBA.com/stats lists Brown with 67 contested 3’s this season. That's tops in the NBA. And his 4.2 contested 3’s per game rank sixth in the league.
 

DENNIS SCHRODER
When you see the numbers, it’s clear that much of what the Atlanta Hawks do these days is centered around Dennis Schroder. But upon deeper inspection, it’s apparent that Atlanta is literally driven by the play of the 6-foot-1 point guard. Known for his attacking style of basketball, it doesn’t come as a surprise that he’s one of the league’s best at getting to the rim. According to NBA.com/stats, Schroder leads the NBA with 19.1 drives per game. The closest Celtic in that category is Irving who averages 9.7 drives per game which ranks 38th in the league.
 

TAUREAN PRINCE
With Schroder looking to run out in transition as much as possible, Taurean Prince has been more than willing to help fill lanes and provide an option for Schroder to pass to on the break. That has led to lots of spot-up shot opportunities for Prince this season. He comes into tonight’s game averaging 5.4 spot-up possessions per game, which ranks third in the NBA behind Detroit’s Tobias Harris (6.3) and New Orleans’ DeMarcus Cousins (6.2).
 
 
 

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks

stream-celtics-hawks_0.jpg

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Hawks in Atlanta. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: C's defense looks to keep up historic pace

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE