Celtics

Wakeup Call: Rest easy; they're friends again

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Wakeup Call: Rest easy; they're friends again

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Thursday, February 14.

BASEBALL
Mariano Rivera knows whether or not he'll play beyond 2013 . . . but he's not telling you. Yet. (AP)

Well, this is different: Francisco Cervelli, one of the players named in the Miami New Times article, admits that, yes, he's actually heard of Biogenesis of America LLC, and, yes, he consulted with them. But, of course, he didn't take any PEDs, no, no. (AP)

As for players who actually got caught with their hands in the PED cookie jar, the Padres' Yasmani Grandal plans to make his apologies this weekend. (AP)

And the Phillies' Carlos Ruiz made his yesterday. Very quietly. (CSN Philly)

Pete? Pete who? (NBC's Hardball Talk)

He looks a lot different with short hair. And Tim Lincecum says he feels a lot different -- a lot better -- at this early stage of spring training. (CSN Bay Area)

Johnny Cueto feels better, too. (AP)

The Rays are trying to figure out ways to keep Evan Longoria feeling better. (AP)

The Mets insist the worst of their financial woes are behind them, and that their modest 83 million payroll is that low simply because they don't have many good players. Well, they didn't say that, but . . . (AP)

Yes, that's right, Robin Ventura declined his contract option this offseason. But that doesn't mean he wants to stop managing the White Sox. (CSN Chicago)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Connecticut sure made its last-ever regular-season meeting with Syracuse a good one. (AP)

And it's reason for the Orange to start worrying. (NBC's College Basketball Talk)

It wasn't the clash of the titans it usually is, not with North Carolina just sort of stumbling along this year, but Duke is still happy with the 73-68 win over its arch-rivals. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
The Big Ten is putting its teams on a cupcake-free diet. (AP)

Hitting a defenseless opponent in the head may get you kicked out of the game if the NCAA institutes a proposed rule change. (AP)

The Merry Maids should do housecleaning as thorough as Oklahoma's Bob Stoops. (AP)

New coach Brett Bielema has his first player arrest to deal with at Arkansas. (AP)

GOLF
Here's a little break in the monotony of the qualifying round: Daniela Holmqvist uses a tee to extract what she thought was potentially fatal venom from a spider bite on her ankle at the Women's Australian Open . . . and then continued playing. Alas, she shot a 74 and didn't make the cut. (AP)

We might still have belly putters if only Ernie Els and Webb Simpson hadn't won majors in consecutive months last year. At least that's whay Els thinks. (golfchannel.com)

HOCKEY
The Senators lose star defenseman Erik Karlsson, the reigning Norris Trophy winner, when his left Achilles is cut by the dastardly Matt Cooke's skate blade during Pittsburgh's 4-2 win over Ottawa. (AP)

Mike Milbury thinks it was just an unfortunate accident but knows that "a lot of people are going to start yakking . . . about Matt Cooke this and Matt Cooke that." And sure enough, Ottawa GM Bryan Murray fumed after the game: "It's Matt Cooke. What else should I say? Watch the replay." (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

You have your upper-body injuries and your lower-body injuries. But those head injuries are another matter entirely . . . and that's what the Avalanche's Erik Johnson has to deal with. (AP)

All the Blues had to do to break their five-game losing streak was get out of St. Louis. (AP)

You can go home again, right, Alexei Ponikarovsky? (AP)

Right, Andrew Brunette? (AP)

As expected, the Blue Jackets make Jarmo Kekalainen the first European GM in NHL history. (AP)

PRO BASKETBALL
Shaq and Kobe are pals again. Now we can all sleep at night. (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

Derrick Rose says if he has to sit out the year in order to get completely healthy, then he'll sit out the year. Good news, eh, Bulls Nation? (CSN Chicago)

This isn't the Pro Bowl; players actually like participating in the NBA All-Star Game. But, like his NFL brethren, 'Melo says he has an injury that may force him to miss it. Unlike his NFL brethren, it's a real one. (AP)

Come on, Clippers. You score 46 points in the first quarter, you really should finish with more than 106 for the game. (AP)

PRO FOOTBALL
Jason Garrett insists that all those moves which seemed to diminish his powers as Cowboys coach were collaborative decisions with everyone, him included, in on the discussions. (AP)

But Mike Florio wonders if Garrett isn't a dead man walking, even at this late date of the offseason. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

At the other end of the security spectrum, the Vikings pick up Leslie Frazier's option for 2014. (AP)

Johnny Knox, released by the Bears Tuesday, is calling it quits. (AP)

Terrell Suggs made a miraculous recovery from a partial Achilles tear. Now he may go without surgery to fix the partial tear of his right biceps. (CSN Baltimore)

The NFL's movers and shakers, including Robert Kraft, come together in a tribute for Steve Sabol, the late president of NFL Films. (CSN Philly)

Young Celtics playing high-level defense without fouling a lot

Young Celtics playing high-level defense without fouling a lot

When you’re an NBA rookie or early on in your career, there’s so much to learn, especially when it comes to playing defense.
 
Despite having at least two players with a year or less experience in the starting lineup and at least three or four other rookies who see regular action, Boston’s top-ranked defense has been able to do the seemingly impossible – defend without fouling a lot.
 
Boston comes into tonight’s game against Atlanta averaging 19.8 fouls committed per game which is the ninth-lowest total in the league.

MORE:

 
Celtics guard Kyrie Irving has some ideas as to how the team has been able to defend without fouling a ton.

“Our length, being able to communicate on the fly, having a system that’s predicated on shrinking the floor, just being very active,” Irving said. “Obviously, we’re going to foul. But the times we don’t foul, we limit teams to some tough shots, some tough two’s or some tough contested threes; I feel we put ourselves in great position. And then when you have guards down there rebounding as well as bigs down there boxing out and staying active it makes all our jobs easier, all five connected out there. We understand the importance of valuing each possession.”
 
The qualities that Irving talks about make sense when you’re talking about the qualities of an elite team defensively.
 
But for the Celtics to have so much youth tossed into such prominent roles, it is unusual to see everything seemingly come together so quickly.
 
“They utilize their length appropriately,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “They’re both long for their positions; that helps. So, you’re not playing Jaylen at the 3 (small forward) as much, and Jayson (Tatum) at the four (power forward) as much. You’re playing them at the two (shooting guard) and three (small forward) a lot. So, they can use that length rather than try and have to battle.”

Irving points out there’s added incentive to play at a high level defensively without fouling.

“If you don’t, you’ll be on the bench,” Irving said. “Brad has made that very clear. If the effort isn’t being put out there, and you’re not paying attention and you’re not preparing the way all of us should be preparing, that goes from the head coach all the way down to the 15th guy, if you’re not preparing the way you should and not perfecting your craft outside the game and that’s being very diligent, understanding what we’re trying to do in strategy, understanding our system, why it works, and why we’re doing it, then why the hell would you expect to play? So, he made it very simple. All the guys understand that. We’re a young team, but what we’re trying to accomplish will take a lot of energy and effort and focus. They understand that at a very young point in the season.”

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Stevens: Celtics haven't played well enough to make streak 'valid'

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Stevens: Celtics haven't played well enough to make streak 'valid'

You know who else - besides Charles Barkley - isn't impressed by the Celtics' 14-game winning streak?

Their coach. 

MORE CELTICS:

At the shootaround in Atlanta before the Celtics attempt to make it 15 in a row tonight against the Hawks, Brad Stevens told reporters, including ESPN's Chris Forsberg, that his team hasn't played well enough to make the streak "valid." 

“We haven’t played well enough to consider this win streak to be valid in my opinion,” Stevens said."We’ve figured out ways to win games. We gotta play a lot better.”

The Celtics have come back from double-digit deficits a number of times in the streak. Stevens said they're fortunate those rallies have kept the streak going.  

"We've got to be better, and we know that," Stevens said. "We can't get so caught up in the results of all these games and ride that emotion. We've been fortunate to win a lot of the games in this streak, including Thursday night [92-88 over the defending champion Golden State Warriors]. If we dig ourselves a 17-point hole every other game, it's not going to be as much fun as we've had recently."