Celtics

Horford and Tatum return to practice

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Horford and Tatum return to practice

WALTHAM, Mass. – The extra days of practice could not have come at a better time for the Boston Celtics, with key players sitting out to rest their bumps and bruises leading up to Tuesday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Both Al Horford (left knee/calf injury) and Jayson Tatum (left knee) returned to the practice floor on Monday after missing practice on Saturday.

“It’s responding better,” said Horford who plans to play against the Pelicans on Tuesday. “I’m excited for the game tomorrow.”

Tatum echoed similar sentiments.

“It’s feeling a lot better. I just tweaked it in the game in London,” said Tatum who like Horford, confirmed he too planned to be in Boston’s lineup against New Orleans. “And on a long plane ride, it got stiff. We had a few days off from practice. They just told me to rest the other day in practice.”

Monday was Boston’s second practice since returning to town following their five-day London stay which included an 11-point win over Philadelphia last week which extended the Celtics’ winning streak to seven in a row and improved their East-leading record to 34-10.

The added time in between games will provide Boston an opportunity to tighten up a couple areas of slippage that, while haven’t factored heavily in terms of wins and losses, has made finding success tougher than needed.

In their 114-103 win over Philadelphia on Jan. 11 at The O2 Arena in London, Boston trailed by as many as 22 points before rallying in the second half in which they led by as many as 19 points.

Horford had 13 points and eight rebounds in the win over the Sixers, while Tatum had 16 points – 11 coming in the third quarter.

Both played key roles in last week’s win, and their value remains high heading into Tuesday’s game against the Pelicans.

The timing of Tatum and Horford’s injuries not being serious comes when the Celtics are just starting to become whole.

Terry Rozier is playing some of his best basketball of the season lately. Daniel Theis and Aron Baynes are steady contributors defensively as well as on the boards.

And Marcus Morris, who has spent most of this season either injured or playing with a minutes restriction, played with no limitations last week in London and delivered one of his best games of the season.

Morris came off the bench to score 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting to go with eight rebounds in helping Boston come away with the win.

“It really is about the five on the court,” Baynes told NBC Sports Boston. “No matter who they are, we all know we got a job to do and we do it well, really well, together.”

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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.”

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LeBron James savors first opportunity to build NBA roster

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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.”

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