Celtics

Shortened schedule could doom Celtics

585700.jpg

Shortened schedule could doom Celtics

NEW YORK So if the NBA Players Association decides to accept the latest take-it-or-it'll-get-worse ultimatum from the NBA, we'll have a 72-game season that begins on Dec. 15.

One word for the Celtics:

Yikes!

The last thing an aging team like the Celtics wants is a shortened training camp, a frenzied free-agency period with at least seven new faces to the lineup, and a regular-season schedule that features 10 fewer games packed into a tighter time frame.

The biggest fear with this kind of schedule has to be injuries.

When you look at the Celtics' Big Four (Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo), you have to be concerned about whether they'll be able to withstand the rigors of a compressed schedule that is sure to feature a couple of back-to-back-to-back sets of games.

The C's have to be especially careful in handling Garnett, who even at 35 years old, is one of the NBA's better big-man defenders. He's on the downside of his career -- I know, shocker -- and is more susceptible to injuries in part because of his age and the fact that he has played so many minutes throughout his career.

Look no further than the fact that he has missed at least 11 regular-season games every year he's been with the Celtics. When he was in Minnesota, KG missed no more than six contests in a given season.

But the show of injuries among the Big Four isn't just a KG production. Collectively, Boston's Big Four missed a total of 29 regular-season games this past season.

Only once (2008-09) did they combine to miss more regular-season games. And that was primarily because KG was out for 25 games and the playoffs.

Even if the C's managed to stay relatively healthy, there lies another potential issue -- chemistry.

We saw at times how challenging it was for some of the Celtics' new faces to immerse themselves with the core group. If you have a shortened training camp, little to no preseason and you're playing games in a relatively tight window of time, developing on-court chemistry won't be easy.

We saw the problems that Jeff Green had last season when he arrived to Boston in a trade with Oklahoma City.

We saw the struggles Von Wafer had . . . and Nenad Krstic . . . and Nate Robinson. You get the picture.

And making matters even tougher for the Celtics is that even when they map out the areas in need of improvement, there won't be much time to work on those aspects of play because there won't be a lot of practice time.

Execution, along with chemistry, will have to be honed, literally, on the fly as the season progresses.

But who knows, Danny Ainge could hit the free agency jackpot and land all of his primary targets. The gelling process could happen very quickly. If that happend, the C's could once again one of the last teams standing in the NBA.

As KG reminds us, "Anything's possible!"

Blakely: Work in progress, but oh, what progress

Blakely: Work in progress, but oh, what progress

BOSTON – The words of Stephen Curry following the Celtics’ 92-88 win over his Golden State Warriors had an off-handed, end-of-the-night throwaway feel to them, a statement that would soon be forgotten after the Warriors reel off what should be a long string of victories going forward.
 
“They’re playing the best right now in the East,” Curry said of the Celtics, who now have a 3-2 edge in their past five meetings following Thursday night’s thriller. “And obviously until they beat Cleveland, who's done it three years in a row … so we’ll see.”

CELTICS 92, WARRIORS 88

We already have, folks.
 
The Celtics and the Warriors are both quick to remind us all that we are only a month into the season and that there’s still lots of basketball to be played.
 
But the big takeaway from Thursday was that the Celtics’ ascension to the top of the NBA mountain is a matter of when, not if, it’ll happen.
 
Because what we’re seeing now is a team that is very much a work in progress, yet one that still manages to win games on a lot of nights that they have no business winning.
 
Think about it.
 
They shot 32.9 percent against the Warriors, the best team in the NBA, and still managed to get the win. According to NBA stats guru Dick Lipe, it was only the second time in the past 35 years that the Celtics shot less than 33 percent from the field and still managed to win.
 
That speaks to how well Boston defended the Warriors, who came in averaging a league-best 119.6 points per game.
 
But more than that, it shows this team has a will to win that’s almost unheard of for a group whose pieces are so relatively new to one another.
 
Of the 14 Celtics with guaranteed contracts on the roster, all but four are in their first season in Boston.
 
But even with the new guys coming together quicker than anticipated, Boston should not all of a sudden be considered the favorites in the NBA.
 
Even with the victory, Boston still has some ground to make up if they are to be on the same level as Golden State, a franchise that has been to the NBA Finals each of the past three seasons and has emerged a champion twice.
 
“It takes a lot of basketball to get there,” said Warriors guard Klay Thompson. “They have a good, young, hungry team. You have to give them credit. They have a better record than us, so you can say they’re better now.”
 
And while Thompson didn’t place an emphasis on it, the last word in his comments, “now,” is why Thursday’s victory leaves the Celtics cautiously optimistic.
 
Because as we’ve seen time and time, regular-season success does not always travel well beyond that and into the playoffs.
 
Still, Thursday’s win provides something for Boston beyond hope and optimism.
 
They now have results to go with the work they’ve put in to be a better team and compete with the league’s best.
 
And they’ve done it under less-than-ideal circumstances.
 
Gordon Hayward went down with an ankle injury less than five minutes into the season and he’s expected to be lost for the rest of the season. Al Horford missed two games while recovering from a concussion while Kyrie Irving missed a game after suffering a facial fracture.
 
So in other words, the Big Three that Boston was set on unleashing to the rest of the world has logged less than five minutes together all season.
 
And yet there are the Celtics (14-2), tops in the NBA while riding a historic 14-game winning streak, and there's reason to believe that maybe, just maybe, these two will be the last teams standing when all is said and done and some of those customary throwaway lines uttered by Curry might have some value after all if these two wind up meeting in the NBA Finals.

“I hear the weather is great here in June,” Curry said.
 
 

Brown leads C's to victory just a day after best friend's passing

Brown leads C's to victory just a day after best friend's passing

BOSTON – The NBA is an emotional game, but the feelings Jaylen Brown was working through on the eve of Thursday’s game against Golden State, are the kind you don’t wish anyone with the death of his best friend less than 24 hours before Thursday night’s tip-off.

Brown channeled his pain into a performance that was absolutely vital to Boston pulling off the biggest upset for them this season, a 92-88 win over the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

He led the Celtics with a team-high 22 points in the win which extended the Celtics’ winning streak to 14 straight. 

But he was in no mood to celebrate afterwards.

CELTICS 92, WARRIORS 88

“My best friend (Trevin Steede) passed last night,” Brown said after the game. “It was tough to accept it. Everybody was kind of in shock. I knew coming in today, he would want me to play.

Brown paused, and added, “It’s hard to get my thoughts together. After talking to his mom and family, they inspired me to come out. I wasn’t in any shape to come out. I didn’t want to leave my room. They inspired me to come out and play and I came out and played in his spirit today.”

Indeed, Brown played with the kind of purpose that made it clear that this wasn’t just another game. 

Sure, Golden State was the defending champs but Brown’s temperament seemed to be on a level higher, much higher, than what you would come to expect from a highly-anticipated matchup. 

His teammates as well as the coaching staff were aware of what Brown was dealing with, and were prepared for him to not play if he decided that was the best thing for him. 

After the game, Kyrie Irving gave the game ball to Brown.

“I knew from start of the game, I gave him some great words that were given to me,” Irving said. “I’ve lost individuals in my life. It’s never a good thing when someone is going through it. You do your best to encourage them, to console them. But at the end of the day, it’s about the strength within themselves and he showed a lot of that tonight.”

Irving added, “to be able to go out and perform the way he did, I knew exactly who the game ball was going to.”

Dealing with this kind of adversity unfortunately is nothing new to the Boston Celtics. 

On the eve of the playoffs last season, ex-Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas’ younger sister Chyna Thomas died in a car accident. 

Just as they rallied around Thomas at that time, the Celtics have done the same for Brown. 

“It’s been a tough 24 hours for him as you call can imagine,” said coach Brad Stevens. “Very similar meetings and talking points I had with Isaiah (Thomas) last year, today. Like Isaiah used it as a distraction, he (Brown) went out there and played and was really, really good.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE