Celtics

Johnson struggling for Hawks and in the dumps

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Johnson struggling for Hawks and in the dumps

ATLANTA If the Winnie the Pooh character Eeyore ever had an NBA equal, chances are pretty good it would be Atlanta Hawks swingman Joe Johnson.

Johnson sounded about as depressed as depressed can be prior to tonight's Game 5 matchup against the Boston Celtics who lead the best-of-seven series, 3-1.

Now Johnson wasn't expected to have an ear-to-ear grin or go on and on about how the Hawks are still good enough to win this series. But for Johnson and his seemingly always low-key demeanor, he sounded even more down-in-the-dumps than usual -- even when asked about something that should have brightened his day.

The Hawks are going to start Marvin Williams and Al Horford tonight, which means Johnson will move to the shooting guard position.

Not only will the 6-foot-6 Johnson have a size advantage over Boston's 6-2 Avery Bradley, but he also faces a player in Bradley who has health issues (sore left shoulder) that might limit his effectiveness when he's in the game.

That's great news about Marvin and Al back with the starting group, right Joe?

"Hopefully it works out for the best for us; at this point we really don't know," said Johnson, dejectedly. "Hopefully it helps."

According to Johnson, the Hawks starters haven't really been the issue in this series.

"Hopefully we'll come out with a better effort than we did in Game 4 and give us a chance to go back to Boston (for Game 6)," Johnson said.

Johnson acknowledged that lack of effort was indeed a problem in Game 4, and he's not sure it will be cured in time for tonight's Game 5 battle.

"We haven't had a game like Game 4 in quite some time," Johnson said. "It was mind-boggling. I couldn't get why we came out and played so poorly when we were so close in Game 3. I'm still puzzled from that. Hopefully Game 5 will be different."

While effort certainly has been an issue for the Hawks in this series, so has the inability of Johnson to elevate his game as Atlanta's primary scorer.

Johnson averaged 18.9 points per game during the regular season, one in which he was named as an NBA all-star for the sixth straight season. He's averaging fewer points (17.8) in the playoffs which unfortunately for the Hawks, is fairly consistent with how he has fared in the playoffs.

This is his seventh trip to the postseason, with him averaging fewer points in the playoffs compared to the regular season in four of the previous six postseason runs in Phoenix and now, Atlanta.

"All the guys that have defended him, have stepped up to the challenge," said Boston's Keyon Dooling. "We got great help defenders as well. KG is probably one of the best help-defenders; Rondo sees plays before they happen, so he's always talking, cating and mousing as well. He's (Johnson) the primary focus. We want to stop him, and so we're doing a pretty good job of it."

While Johnson's scoring is down, C's coach Doc Rivers believes those numbers are a bit deceiving.

"I wish there was a stat of points created," Rivers said. "With Joe, even if he's not scoring, he creates points for them. He makes you double team; we're loading to his side. And so when we count, we count that as a point scored for Joe. He's creating a lot of points for them still. He scores on his own; he makes tough shots and we've done a pretty good job with our double teams on him. But we still have to do a better job of eliminating the points that he creates. In all the games, he's done that very well."

But it won't mean anything if the Celtics win tonight and move on to the second round, which means the Hawks' season will end in the playoffs on their home floor for the fourth straight season.

Clearly that's not what Atlanta wants, even if there are few signs from the Hawks players that they indeed want this season to go beyond tonight.

When asked by a reporter if there was a sense in the locker room that tonight's game would be different, Johnson responded:

"Honestly, I'm not sure. Just have to wait until we get between the lines. It's easy to talk it, but it's different when you get on the court."

And with that, Eeyore . . . uh, I mean Joe Johnson, has spoken.

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

BOSTON – With all the changes the Celtics went through over the summer, seeing more rookies on the floor this season was a given.
 
But six?
 
Yes, only three games into the season and the Celtics have played more rookies than any team under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens.

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And in the 102-92 victory at Philadelphia on Friday night, the Celtics (1-2) played almost as many first-year players (five) as veterans (six).
 
The youth movement here in Boston has been sped up a bit by the season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward, compounded by a left ankle sprain to Marcus Smart that Smart said won’t keep him out any more than Friday night in Philly.

Even if Smart is back in the Celtics lineup Tuesday night against New York, that doesn’t change the fact that Boston will continue to need rookies to step up and contribute going forward as they did on Friday.
 
And while there’s an old adage about experience being the greatest teacher, Boston’s youngsters are going to have to fast-forward past some of those on-the-floor growing pains for the Celtics to stay among the top teams in the East.
 
“Everybody talks about young players having to learn by going through experience,” said Stevens. “Why don’t we just watch film and learn? Learn from things we can control and in the interim, let’s beat the age thing. Let’s not talk about the age thing. Let’s talk about how we can be better at what we can control and how we can learn and grow every day and expedite the learning curve.
 
Stevens added, “because they are going to get opportunities all the way down the line, let’s not focus on trying to learn from experience; let’s focus on learning from every day and see if we can get a little bit better every day.”
 
The one rookie who has had no problem adjusting to the NBA game early on has been Jayson Tatum.
 
Selected with the third overall pick last June, Tatum has been among the NBA's most productive rookies in this first week of the season.
 
Tatum’s 35.3 minutes played per game is tops among all rookies. His 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds rank seventh and fourth among his first-year brethren.
 
Stevens loves what he has seen thus far from Tatum, but believes he’s capable of making an even greater impact sooner rather than later.
 
“I like him to shoot it on the catch more,” Stevens said. “Because he has tremendous touch. When he shoots it in rhythm with confidence, the ball finds the net. He’s one of those guys; he’s a natural scorer. But his ability to read the game … he’s very intelligent. It’s been more evident on the defensive end. He’s gonna pick his spots offensively now. But we want him to be aggressive and first and foremost, be a threat to shoot it every time he catches it.
 
Stevens added, “I guess it should feel pretty good when you’re 19 years old and your coach is begging you to shoot it.”
 
How quickly Tatum and the rest of Boston’s youngsters grow into the roles they will be asked to play this season can do nothing but help the Celtics adapt to what has already been a season with major changes needing to be made.
 
“You saw [against Philadelphia], we had Shane [Larkin], we had Guerschon [Yabusele], we had guys coming in that played the game at a high level and we need them to contribute,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving. “For me to see that and witness that, it makes me nothing but proud and happy to have teammates that are ready to play. It’s not always going to look perfect because we’re still gaining knowledge about one another. But as long as we’re out there competing, having each other’s backs, that’s all that matters.”
 

Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for his inappropriate language with a fan

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Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for his inappropriate language with a fan

BOSTON – As expected, the NBA has fined Celtics guard Kyrie Irving $25,000 for using “inappropriate language” toward a fan at the Friday night game in Philadelphia.
 
The incident occurred at halftime as Irving and his teammates were heading to the locker room, trailing by four. Boston went on to win 102-92 for their first victory of the season.
 
A fan yelled, “Hey, where’s LeBron?” to which Irving replied with a lewd suggestion to the yeller.
 
The Celtics practiced on Saturday with Irving addressing the incident.

When asked if he had any regrets about the incident, Irving replied, “Hell no. Man enough to record it on video, that’s on him. I’m glad he got his ad name out there, and his five seconds of fame and it’s gone viral. That’s social media platform we live on.
 
Irving added, “I take full responsibility for what I said. You move on.”
 
When asked about the incident on Saturday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he had not seen the video but was aware of it.
 
“People make mistakes; hopefully learn from them and move on,” Stevens said. “There’s a right and wrong. And if you’re in the wrong you have to own up to it and that’s that.”

It was the second such fine levied by the league in as many days. 

New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins was fined $25,000 for "inappropriate language" toward a fan when the Pelicans lost 103-91 at Memphis on Wednesday.