O'Neal gives C's a taste of what they've missed


O'Neal gives C's a taste of what they've missed

By A.Sherrod Blakely

WASHINGTON When the Boston Celtics signed Jermaine O'Neal this summer, the plan was for him to be the team's starting center.

Things haven't quite worked out the way he or the Celtics would have wanted.

But for the first time since he's been part of the Green team, O'Neal delivered a starter-like performance against the Washington Wizards on Monday night.

Despite a strong showing, his play was not enough as the Celtics lost 95-94, in overtime.

O'Neal tallied his first double-double with the Celtics, scoring 15 points to go with 13 rebounds. He also had five blocked shots.

"He defended the basket about as well as you can defend it," said coach Doc Rivers.

More important, he played a season-high 37 minutes.

"I knew I would play extended minutes, but I didn't know how many," O'Neal said. "It's definitely minutes that were welcomed."

More than anything else, his health has held him back from logging more minutes for the Celtics.

A series of nagging injuries forced the C's to limit his playing time at the start of the season.

When rest didn't do the trick, O'Neal eventually opted to have surgery on his left knee on February 4, which sidelined him for a couple months.

Unsure of how the knee would respond upon his return, the Celtics have been cautious in their approach to his minutes played.

Prior to Monday night, O'Neal had played no more than 18 minutes since returning to the lineup on March 31 against San Antonio.

"It's all about getting a rhythm," O'Neal said. "I felt like tonight I was given an opportunity to stay out there longer; get a feel for the game and get back to doing some of the things that I'm quite comfortable doing."

Because he has been sidelined for so long, and essentially was a forgotten man with the Miami Heat last season, it's not that surprising that some forget that he is a six-time All-star who at one point was on the short list of elite big men in the NBA.

That O'Neal is not with the Celtics now, and chances are pretty good that he'll never get back to being that dominant a player.

But as he showed on Monday, he still has enough to offer the Celtics a solid presence defensively as well as a player they can turn to from time to time, to be a scorer.

O'Neal said he has had conversations with the coaching staff about getting more touches offensively when he's on the floor with the second unit.

"I think I can still help this team offensively, when the starting five is out, on the bench resting," O'Neal said. "It's not about that. It's about playing good basketball."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

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.


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


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.