Rondo takes the reins and Celtics follow suit


Rondo takes the reins and Celtics follow suit

MIAMI With a roster full of Hall-of-Famers-to-be, establishing a pecking order of sorts as to who is in charge can be tricky.

When the Big Three came together in 2008, it was Paul Pierce's team.

He's still the captain and remains their best scoring threat on most nights. But Celtics have evolved into Rajon Rondo's club throughout the course of this series.

There will be others who on any given night who may contribute more than Rondo to the Celtics' success. But the more you watch the C's play, the clearer it is that the Celts will only go as far as Rondo is able to lead them.

Accepting that has been an overlooked but important dynamic as the C's have advanced to the Eastern Conference finals against Miami. With the series tied at 2-2, a pivotal Game 5 takes place tonight in Miami.

"They understand Rondo is the leader of the team," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "Everybody else plays with Rondo. Paul is still our best scorer. They've kind of gotten out of each other's way with roles."

While Pierce remains Boston's best one-on-one scorer, he has grown to accept that the success of the Celtics hinges on the play and leadership of Rondo.

"He's the head of the snake on this team," Pierce said of Rondo. "We need him to come out with a vicious bite."

Pierce added: "When he's out there controlling the tempo, pushing the pace, rebounding and passing . . . we almost ask him to try to get a triple-double every night."

What Rondo has done in this series against Miami isn't all that shocking.

He has proven to be at his best in the playoffs, a regular in delivering the spectacular, mind-blowing kind of performance to help the Celtics win tough games.

But there's one difference with this current run by Rondo -- consistency.

In the four playoff games against Miami, Rondo has averaged 17.6 points, 11.7 assists and 6.9 rebounds per game - the kind of numbers only a handful of point guards in the league are capable of delivering.

Those kind of numbers only strengthen the argument that the big-game performances that Rondo has had in the past, are now coming in more steady, more consistent doses.

It's to the point where a 15-assist game for Rondo is just another game.

"He's just a phenomenal talent," said C's guard Keyon Dooling. "He's already doing things that no one in the league is doing, or things that haven't been done before. It's good to see the work that he has put into his game, pay off the way it has. He's one of the best players in the NBA; not just one of the best point guards, but one of the best, period."

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.