Celtics

On KG, bin Laden, the Twitterverse and you

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On KG, bin Laden, the Twitterverse and you

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

All in all, it was a pretty impressive West Coast swing for the Celtics.

Sure, that loss in Phoenix was one of the ugliest since this Big Three got together. But when youre out West, 3-1 is 3-1.

Actually, with the win in L.A., 3-1 feels more like 13-1. And it couldnt have come at a better time.

When we next see the Cs, theyll be back home at the Garden (Friday night against Brian Cardinals Dallas Mavericks) and ready to kick off the defining stretch of their season.

After Dallas (which sits at 32-15 and already beat Boston earlier this season), the Celtics host the Magic on Sunday, before heading down to Charlotte (11-8 since Snazzy Silas took over) for the tail end of a back-to-back on Monday. After two days off, the Celtics welcome the Lakers on Thursday, the Heat arrive on Sunday and then, just for fun, the 96 Bulls are going to stop by for a scrimmage. Hey, why not?

Its only February, but for the next two weeks, if you ignore the eye-level snow, the hair-freezing temperatures and Herm Edwards' painful relevance, itll feel just like April, or May, or maybe even June.

And thats a good thing. Thats a lot to expect from winter basketball. And this recently completed West coast swing serves as the perfect launching point.

BUT . . .

Aside from that awful outing in Phoenix, there was one more little blemish on this otherwise uplifting trip.

Call it a black eye. Call it smacked groin. Call it a profusely bleeding head wound.

Call it Kevin Garnett, and his ever-dwindling public image.

Now, I know what youre thinking you buried the lead!

Why all the gushing about the Cs success, if youre just going to talk about the cancer comment, the bullying, the ball boy, bin Laden, the ball whacking and the undercutting?

Why make it seem like the winnings more important!?

Ah, you see what I did there?

But, perspective-inducing intros aside, we do have a bit of a problem.

The heart and soul of the Celtics has become a bonafide NBA villain. Of course, thats been the case for a while now. Its a storyline that was lurking under the surface over his last few years of persistent rookie hazing, foreigner taunting and other antagonizing behavior.

Then the surface was shattered when the Villanueva incident went viral.

After that, everyone who already hated KG, but could previously only go so far in criticizing his on-court intensity and intimidation, finally had their springboard. For a few years, KG was like Jack Nicholson in The Departed and his detractors were the feds. In their heads, he was always up to no good. They knew this villain existed. They just needed him to slip up, and then theyd have him.

Villanueva was Leonardo DiCarprio. He brought KG down from the inside.

And since then, its been mayhem.

Im not saying Garnetts been entirely victimized, because truthfully, its hard to argue with the basic tenets of anti-KG camp. Personally, I think the cancer comment was blown out of proportion, and that anyone who claims to truly be offended by the bin Laden joke needs a vacation. But still, Garnett does pick on lesser players. He does have a certain way with foreigners. He did say something to Villanueva that wont win him many fans.

Last Friday, he most definitely gave Channing Frye a little Hows your Father? On that same jumper, KG definitely closed out in a way that would make for a dangerous landing. He got under Fryes legs, and KG knew what he was doing.

On Sunday, if you believe Marc Spears and J.A. Adande (and given their track records, theres no reason not to), KG responded to an autograph request from a Lakers ball boy with, Youve got a better chance of catching bin Laden.

Basically, whether youre looking for a reason to hate the guy, or all you want to do is love him, you cant deny that theres a pattern of less-than-perfect behavior. And for the anti-KG camp its great. At this point, the only thing that can match their hatred is how much they actually love hating him. They get off on it. And thats fine. (As long as theyre tidy about it.)

But if youre a fan of the Celtics, its not that easy.

If youre a Celtics fan, youre faced with a problem:

What do you do when someone a friend, another fan, anyone tells you they hate Kevin Garnett?

Or more importantly, what do you do when that same guy or girl or Jamie Lee Curtis makes you feel like a bad person for NOT hating Kevin Garnett?

For instance, take this Twitter conversation from Sunday night (after the ball boy thing) between a well-known sports blogger and a very well-known fantasy guru.

@TheBigLead is Jason McIntyre founder of thebiglead.com who has nearly 20,000 followers. @MatthewBerryTMR is, obviously, Matthew Berry The Talented Mr. Roto from espn.com and he has nearly 300,000.

Berrys a Lakers fan. Im not sure on McIntyre. But it doesnt matter. Their brief interaction says it all. It represents the feeling across the country.

@TheBigLead I notice Boston fans have yet to chime in on KG's douchy Bin Laden quote. They're probably hoping it's not true. Either way, KG's a prck@MatthewBerryTMR @TheBigLead Read my @ responses. Some still defend him.

And there it is: What do you do?

You cant win.

If you defend him, you know youre going to have to put up with a lot of BS. If you blindly take the side of the player most responsible for bringing the Boston Celtics back to relevance and raising another banner at the Garden, then youre opening yourself up for a ton of ridicule. Theyll say youre insensitive to cancer patients or 911 victims or the plight of the long-suffering Lakers ball boys.

And OK, maybe thats a little extreme. But more realistically, it's that if youre defending him, youre defending a guy who probably doesnt entirely deserve to be defended; a guy whose game youd always respect, but who, if he played on the Lakers, Heat or Magic, you might have already grown wary of.

But then again, whats your other option?

Do you denounce him?

Because if you denounce him, then . . . well, you cant denounce him!

To denounce KG would be to denounce the Celtics. And thats not going to happen.

Youd have a better chance of catching bin Laden then you would of seeing a Celtics fan ever denounce Kevin Garnett.

If Giants fans hung with Barry Bonds while he was ruining baseball; if the Lakers fans hung with Kobe after the alleged rape; if Steelers fans will be cheering like mad for Ben Roethlisberger after the alleged RAPES, then Celtics fans can stand by a guy who made an unfortunate comment to Villanueva and refused to give an autograph after a game. They can stand by a guy who may very well act like a jerk when hes on the court, but who does so in the name of winning. You think Channing Frye wont be even a little focused on landing safely the next time he takes a jumper on KG? Dont get me wrong. What KG did was dangerous, but it will be effective. And word will spread. Plus, its hard to make a jumper when youre wearing a military-grade brass cup.

For the Garnett detractors, I know that last part was probably infuriating. Typical defense. Just a bunch of homers!

But, come one, everyones a homer.

All the time in sports, we root for guys with serious records, arrests, DUIs and domestic violence charges. There are athletes who have been directly involved in the death of another human being, and we will cheer for them. No matter what uniform Donte Stallworth is wearing next season, when he catches a touchdown, he will be celebrated. When hes out in the parking lot, or walking off the field, kids will ask him for autographs. And assuming he doesnt respond with, Youve got a better chance of getting Mubarak re-elected, hell be treated like a hero. Whether he's in New England, Baltimore, Seattle, wherever.

And in Boston, KG is a hero. Perhaps the most selfless and focused athletes we have. The model of team. Now, maybe he's not a hero in every sense of the word, which is to say hes not perfect. Its not a perfect situation. You wish he wouldnt call guys cancer patients. You maybe wish hed have taken five seconds to sign a basketball. You wish he went about his business without being deemed a dirty player. But come on, world. Lets not be nave. For Celtics fans, in the big picture of what all fans are willing to do and how far they're willing to go, its just not a huge deal.

And if KG was traded to L.A., Miami or Orlando, then it wouldnt be one there, either.

If you live outside the Boston bubble, and want to take those imperfections and villainize the man behind them, then cool. Thats your right as a fan, too.

Just dont be shocked when Boston doesnt follow suit.

Dont wonder how Garnett can stiff a ball boy for an autograph, make a reference to bin Laden, and Boston fans are still defending him. Because it will take a lot more than that to create that kind of shift in allegiance.

And dont theorize that most of Boston isnt commenting on a bin Laden reference because theyre hoping its not true, because the truth is especially when its something as stupid as that its more a matter of Boston just not caring.

It's hard to get caught up in the ball boy drama when the Mavericks, Magic, Lakers and Heat are knocking on the Garden door.

Especially when, after a great trip out West, the Celtics look more than ready to take care of the competition.

Although they better be gentle. Don't want to offend anyone.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

For Celtics, winning streak is history in the making

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For Celtics, winning streak is history in the making

BOSTON – Beating the Atlanta Hawks 110-99 on Saturday did more than just pad the win total for the Boston Celtics.
 
It moved them even further up the food chain to what has already been a pretty amazing season.
 
Saturday’s win was their 15th straight, which places them in the penthouse of great Celtics runs of success.
 
Only four other teams in this franchise's storied history have won more consecutive games than this year’s group.
 
Here at NBC Sports Boston, we take a look back at the four teams that are ahead of the Celtics in what has been one of the greatest streaks in franchise history.


 
19 straight wins:  Nov. 15, 2008 – Dec. 23, 2008
 
Fresh off claiming Banner 17, the Celtics were determined to take their place among the all-time great Celtics teams by winning a second straight NBA title. They seemed well on their way with a 15-2 start to the season and of course, their 19-game winning streak. But what turned into a season-ending knee injury suffered by Kevin Garnett later in the year derailed their date with destiny and instead ended with them being upset by the Orlando Magic in the second round of the playoffs , brining a quicker-than-expected end to one of the best regular seasons in franchise history.


 
18 straight wins: Feb. 24, 1982 – March 26, 1982
 
Boston was still considered the best team in the East, although Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers were very much closing the gap. The Celtics dodged a number of close calls during the streak with seven games decided by five points or less, including a 98-97 overtime win at Washington in which the Bullets (now Wizards) went into the fourth quarter with a nine-point lead. The Celtics’ streak eventually came to an end at the hands of the Sixers, which, in hindsight, served as a precursor for Boston losing to Dr. J and the Sixers in the playoffs.


 
17 straight wins: Nov. 28, 1959 – Dec. 30, 1959
 
The Celtics were defending NBA champions and seemingly off to a strong start, only to lose back-to-back games to Philadelphia. While it was still early in the season, they knew they had to quickly right the ship. And they did. During the 17-game winning streak, 12 were by double-digits with only three by five points. The streak ended on New Year’s Day 1960. But by then, the Celtics had re-established their presence atop the NBA landscape and would go on to claim the second of eight straight NBA titles.


 
16 straight wins: Dec. 19, 1964 – Jan. 22, 1965
 
There was little doubt in anyone’s mind that this Celtic team was going to have a special season. They got things going with an 11-0 record right out the gate. And they weren’t just winning games; they were thumping teams with flat-out beatdowns, which is evident by their average margin of victory being by 18.5 points per game. That’s not all that surprising when you consider most of Boston’s core group consisted of players in their prime such as Bill Russell and Tommy Heinsohn. The streak began with a double-digit win over the St. Louis Hawks and would roll along for another couple of weeks. During both the start of the season and the 16-game winning streak, both cemented Boston as the team everyone was chasing. And no one caught them. The Celtics continued to be the dominant force in the league and the season ended with another title, which was the franchise’s seventh straight.

Celtics need to let Morris continue feasting on seconds

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Celtics need to let Morris continue feasting on seconds

It gets harder to find problematic areas when a team wins 15 straight, like the Boston Celtics have.
 
But there are some. Boston’s inability to develop a consistent scoring threat when the second-unit players are on the floor hasn’t cost them a game yet, but you can see it coming if they don’t address this at some point.
 
Well, the answer to their second-unit struggles may be staring them right in the face – Marcus Morris.
 
While he does go back and forth as a starter, keeping him on the floor in the second quarter with the second unit makes sense for all involved.
 
Morris is a better scorer than many expected, but opportunities aren’t as plentiful with the first group. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford are the top two options. The team’s young wings, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, probably stack up slightly higher in the scoring pecking order than Morris.
 
So for him to get quality looks with the second unit in the second quarter not only helps the team offensively, but it keeps Morris even more engaged than he already is.
 
We saw that in Saturday’s win over the Hawks.
 
Morris had 14 points, with 10 coming in the second quarter when he was surrounded primarily with players off the bench.
 
 “We need Marcus quite a bit,” said coach Brad Stevens. “We’re still managing his minutes appropriately as he comes back.”
 
Morris missed the first eight games of the season because of a sore left knee. Since his return, his minutes have been capped at around 25 or less, in addition to not playing back-to-back nights..

But as he continues to play a more significant role, look for his minutes -- and his role as a primary scorer in the second quarter -- to increase.
 
“He brings us scoring," Stevens said. "He brings us defense, he brings us toughness, and we really needed his scoring (against Atlanta), his ability to shoot the ball both off broken plays and off movement.”
 
Here’s a look at five other takeaways from Boston’s 110-99 win at Atlanta to extend the team’s winning streak to 15 in a row which is the fifth-longest streak in franchise history.



 
JAYLEN BROWN'S EMERGENCE

The improvement in Jaylen Brown has been evident all season, but it's really spiked the last two games. The second-year wing player dropped 22 points on Golden State Thursday, then followed that up with a career-high 27 Saturday. Conventional wisdom tells you not to bank on Brown delivering like that on a consistent basis. But as a former No. 3 overall pick who works as hard as Brown does . . . would anyone be surprised if this becomes a new-norm when it comes to Brown?


 
HORFORD STREAK CONTINUES
 
Early foul trouble and an overall lack of flow offensively had Al Horford looking at having his first game of the season with a negative plus/minus. At the half he was at -16. Then came the Celtics’ second half surge which saw them turn a 16-point deficit in the first half into a double-digit victory. And Horford’s plus/minus? For the game he stood at +2, keeping his streak alive of having a positive plus/minus in every game played this season.

KYRIE IRVING
 
An efficient scoring Kyrie Irving is an NBA team’s worst nightmare. One of the league’s well-established scorers, Irving was just too much for the Atlanta Hawks to handle. And the end result was one of the most efficient scoring nights in Irving’s career as he tallied a game-high 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting.


 
TATUM'S SECOND-HALF SURGE
 
For the second straight game, Jayson Tatum did not begin playing his best basketball until the second half. Against the Hawks, Tatum scored all of his 14 points in the second half. And in Thursday’s win over Golden State, 10 of his 12 points came in the second half. “For whatever reason he was pretty tentative (in the first half),” said Stevens. “He’s a good player, so struggles aren’t going to last long. He’ll figure it out.”


 
SMART'S SHOOTING (SLIGHTLY) BETTER
 
There’s plenty of room for improvement when it comes to Marcus Smart’s shooting. Against the Hawks, he had 10 points on 3-for-8 shooting. Now the numbers won’t wow you, but they are a huge step in the right direction in comparison to how he has been chucking up shots lately. In Boston’s previous five games, Smart was a face-cringing 10-for-52 shooting, or 19.2 percent from the field. Even with all the impact he makes consistently with his defense and effort, that number has to continue to improve if Boston is able to continue along its winning ways.

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