After waiting a week to play, Monroe shines for Celtics

After waiting a week to play, Monroe shines for Celtics

WASHINGTON – Greg Monroe’s last game prior to Thursday night’s debut with the Boston Celtics, was Jan. 29, a span of more than a week.

Despite the lay-off, Monroe wasn’t any worst for wear in helping Boston escape Washington with a 110-104 overtime win against the Wizards.

Monroe, who signed his one-year, $5 million deal with the Boston just hours before Thursday night’s tip-off, didn’t have to wait long before head coach Brad Stevens called his number (it’s 55 by the way).

Stevens, who said prior to the game that he wasn’t sure if he would play Monroe tonight, turned to the 6-foot-11 veteran in the first quarter.

And to Monroe’s credit he didn’t disappoint, scoring five points to go with six rebounds and two steals while logging just under 20 minutes of court time for the night.

More than anything else, Monroe had a presence about him that as you go up and down the Celtics roster, has been lacking this season.

“It felt good to be on the court,” Monroe said.

And it was good for Boston, as Monroe’s first made basket came at a timely point in the game.

In the second quarter, Monroe scored while being fouled which turned into a 3-point play that put the Celtics ahead 37-36 with 8:17 to play in the first half.

Brad Stevens has seen Monroe play better than what we saw in his first game with Boston. However, the fifth-year coach was encouraged by Monroe’s overall play just hours after officially becoming a Celtic.

“For him to come in and, you know, we simplified what we're doing for the most part just to certain actions that we had talked to him about,” Stevens said. “I thought he did a really good job. We'll continue to get more used to playing with him." 

Boston went with a big lineup that included 6-2 Terry Rozier at the point, surrounded by 6-7 Jaylen Brown, 6-9 Marcus Morris, 6-9 Daniel Theis and Monroe who is 6-11.

That is the lineup that began the second quarter and ultimately put the Celtics ahead at various points in the second.

Not only did that five-man unit make plays, but maybe just as important was their ability to be effective with Al Horford and Kyrie Irving on the bench resting.

Said Stevens: “One of the things you think about when adding Greg is, that’s time that you don’t have to stagger Kyrie and Al. And so that’s a positive moving forward.”

And with Monroe’s ability to play multiple positions – he plays both power forward and center – the Celtics  will continue to be able to effectively make switches defensively when needed.

“That’s one of the positives we have on our team, our versatility from our wings to our bigs,” Irving said.

And with Monroe, Boston has yet another talented, versatile player in the fold.

“It’s incredible,” Irving said. “Brad has more weapons to work with now. We’ll see how it works going forward.”


Kyrie gets the last laugh against Horford and Team Steph

Kyrie gets the last laugh against Horford and Team Steph

LOS ANGELES – Kyrie Irving and Al Horford were on different teams for the NBA's All-Star game pitting Team LeBron vs Team Steph, so somebody was coming back a loser.

But considering how competitive the game was for longer stretches than usual, both players came away feeling good in a relatively close all-star game that ended with Team LeBron edging Team Steph 148-145.

LeBron James led all scorers with 29 points along wit 10 rebounds and eight assists and walked away with Game MVP honors for the third time.

Irving, who played for Team LeBron, had a near double-double with 13 points and nine assists along with seven rebounds.

And Horford, who came off the bench for Team Steph, had six points and five rebounds along with two assists.  

“This was pretty fun,” Irving said. “I think that we showcased that tonight with an incredible competitive spirit. The game was kind of getting away, but I think a few of us took it a little personal that we wanted to keep the game still competitive and at a high level. Fans and everyone across so many different countries want to see the best players in the world showcase their talent.”

Horford echoed similar sentiments about the game which had a different format this year, with LeBron James and Stephen Curry each picking the two teams from the 22-player pool of players from both the Eastern and Western Conferences.

“Early, guys were making (defensive) plays,” Horford said. “Guys were making a point, they weren’t going to let it be a dunk fest.

Horford added, “Even last year and the year before, there was a lot of heat on how bad the game was. I felt like this game was, it was good.”

Irving, a five-time all-star, also acknowledged how he and some of the players wanted to change the perception of the all-star game as being nothing more than a glorified lay-up line.

“I think we all took it kind of personal,” Irving said. “Individually we wanted to come out and be competitive. Last year it was (192-182), tat’s just not as fun as communicating with guys that you don’t necessarily play with every single day, bouncing ideas off in the time-outs. It’s just that competitive fire that we all share.”

And then there’s the payday for winning.

Not only will various charities benefit from the game – LeBron James’ charity of choice gets $350,000 because his team won and Steph Curry’s charity of choice gets $150,000 – but the players on the winning team get a pretty nice check as well.

The winning team members each get $100,000 while the players on the losing team come away with $25,000.

“There was something that, something that we could look forward to if we got the win,” Irving acknowledged. “You know, they’ll probably bring up the cash prize, but … $100,000 to $25,000, I think everybody in this room would be doing the same things we were doing.”


LeBron James savors first opportunity to build NBA roster

USA TODAY Sports Photo

LeBron James savors first opportunity to build NBA roster

LOS ANGELES – LeBron James had been mum on the process he used in selecting Team LeBron … until now.

Following Team LeBron’s 148-145 win over Team Steph, James revealed how he went about assembling is roster which included Boston’s Kyrie Irving who asked for a trade out of Cleveland last summer.

“I took Kevin (Durant) first, then I took (New Orleans) Anthony Davis, and I followed that with Kyrie and DeMarcus (Cousins).”

While this year’s all-star game had been billed as the ultimate pick-up game, it was clear that James put a tremendous amount of thought into assembling his team akin to what an NBA General Manager might do.

“I know who I like watching and I had a draft board,” James said. “I had a process. Some of it went to … it almost went according to plan. A couple of them fell through, but I was satisfied and happy with all the guys that I got.”

A reporter later asked James where was this draft board.

“Ain’t none of your business,” said James, grinning. “You’re going too far, man.”