Celtics

Shaq used MMA training to prepare for season

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Shaq used MMA training to prepare for season

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM -- This summer, fans watched Shaquille O'Neal battle Justin Bieber in a dance-off, golf against Charles Barkley, and challenge Joey Chestnut to a hot-dog eating contest on his hit television show, Shaq Vs.

But what people didn't see was ONeal's preparation for his 19th NBA season. Friendly competitions aside, the 38-year-old pushed himself to get ready for basketball. He followed a daily routine to stay in game-shape during the offseason.

"I'd wake up, go to the UFC school for about an hour-and-a-half, come back, eat lunch, take a nap, and then go swimming at night," he told CSNNE.com.

O'Neal trained in mixed martial arts with Jonathan Burke at Gracie Barra Orlando. He has been participating in the program for several years and finds the workouts on the mat help him on the court.

"I did a lot of wrestling stuff because that's the only thing that prepares me for basketball," he said. "I play the wrestling basketball, rather than the running basketball. I can run and jump all day, but I get tired when I have to wrestle against big guys. So wrestling helps me get my stamina."

In the evenings, O'Neal swam 40 laps a night at 24 Hour Fitness in Orlando. This hour-long workout reminds him of the pace of the game.

"Swimming is similar to basketball," he said. "Sprint, sprint, sprint, rest. Sprint, sprint, sprint, rest."

O'Neal is not the only member of the Celtics to follow this type of offseason regimen. Glen Davis also participates in MMA training during the summer in Las Vegas.

Even though the two have yet to test their skills against one another, both are sure they could predict the outcome.

"I could teach him a move or two - armbar, probably kimura, different kinds of positions. I could teach him some kicks," said Davis. "I'd beat him, though. Too seasoned."

Said O'Neal: "Yeah right. He wishes."

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comJCameratoNBA.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Mavericks in Dallas. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Get it done. No excuses.
 
That has been how the Boston Celtics have played most of this season.
 
And if there’s one Celtics player who embodies that on this team, it’s Marcus Smart.
 
The fourth-year guard has struggled all season with his shot-making, but when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter you can count on Smart to be on the floor.

THE WINNING STREAK

He has been among the many reasons Boston has won 15 in a row, which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
And Smart will be among the Celtics looking to keep it going tonight against the Dallas Mavericks.
 
Most likely, Smart will make an impact with his defense, which is among the best in the NBA.

How good?
 
Smart has a defensive rating of 93.4 (points allowed per 100 possessions) which is tops among all guards in the NBA, and ranks third among all players who have played in at least 10 games this season.
 
But in the 110-99 win over the Hawks, Smart knocked down a couple of 3-pointers which was a big deal considering how mightily he has struggled shooting the ball this season.
 
Smart is shooting 27.3 percent from the field as well as from 3-point range – both career lows.
 
However, he’s also averaging career highs in assists (4.5) and rebounds (5.1) this season.
 
And while he certainly doesn’t appear to be affected by the shooting struggles, he acknowledges that it is something that he can’t help but think about from time to time.
 
“It does affect you, especially if you’ve been working (on shooting) all summer,” Smart said. “At the same time, I don’t take as many shots. But like I said, we got other guys who are playing well. My job is to get them the ball and do whatever I can, go back down the floor, play defense and get the ball again.”

In Boston’s win over Atlanta, Smart spent a good amount of time defending Marco Belinelli who had four points on 2-for-10 shooting compared to 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting when these two teams met earlier this month.
 
Coach Brad Stevens pointed to the job Smart did on Belinelli, in addition to the clutch offensive rebound he was able to snag and quickly put back up and in that gave Boston a 103-95 game with about two minutes to play.
 
“He was really good,” Stevens said.
 
The same could be said for most of the Celtics of late.
 
Kyrie Irving is coming off his most efficient game of the season, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the field. Jayson Tatum had a rough start, but he came on strong as well with 14 points – all coming in the second half.
 
But the backbone of Boston’s success lies in what they’re able to get done defensively.
 
So far, Boston’s defense has been as strong as we’ve seen this early, in quite some time.
 
Boston, which has a league-best defensive rating of 95.9, has length, savvy and an overall total buy-in by the players on what Brad Stevens is looking for, from them.
 
Meanwhile, the Mavericks (3-14) are coming off their most impressive victory this season, a 111-79 win over Milwaukee.  Dennis Smith Jr. has been among the more talented rookies this season. He’s averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Dallas is indeed in a transition period where longtime superstar Dirk Nowitzki (10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) is gradually passing the torch to his younger teammates like Harrison Barnes (18.7 points, 7.1 rebounds) and Smith Jr.
 
Much like the Hawks game, the Celtics must approach this game with a focus on the opponent and not their record.
 
Because the Celtics are no longer just a good team on the schedule. They are a measuring stick for most to see how they stack up against the league’s best.
 
And the Celtics understand how their success has changed how teams see them.
 
“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

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