Celtics

The All-Star rosters are in: Did LeBron pick 'The Kid'?

The All-Star rosters are in: Did LeBron pick 'The Kid'?

LOS ANGELES – The ultimate pick-up game is on, folks. 

The NBA announced the all-star rosters Thursday night, teams that were picked by Cleveland’s LeBron James and Golden State’s Stephen Curry who were the top two vote-getters among fans.

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The actual voting order was not made public, but we did know in advance that James would have the first pick having received more votes from fans than Curry.

What we do know is that James did in fact select Irving, his former teammate who asked out of Cleveland in the offseason and, let’s be real, is looking pretty damn smart right now for doing so.

In addition to Irving, Team James’ starters include Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. 

For Team Curry, the starting five consists of Curry, DeMar DeRozan, James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid.

Boston’s Al Horford, selected as an All-Star reserve, is also a member of Team Curry.

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What C's need to do heading down the stretch

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What C's need to do heading down the stretch

LOS ANGELES -- This season has been like one of those choose-your-adventure books for the Celtics, with seemingly no idea of what’s coming next other than to know every change is somehow connected with one another.

And as the Celtics gear up for the final 23 games of the season, there will be developments in the coming months that will go far in determining this team’s fate.
 
Here are five storylines to keep tabs on as the Boston Celtics begin their post All-Star break schedule.

JAYSON TATUM

One of the early leaders for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award, Jayson Tatum now finds himself a distant third at best, behind Donovan Mitchell of Utah and Ben Simmons of Philadelphia. It’s not so much that he’s now all of a sudden started playing poorly. But there's no mistaking Tatum’s impact on winning games now isn’t what it was earlier this season. He’s averaging 13.5 points, which is sixth among rookies, and is shooting 42.7 percent, which is tops among all first-year players. Since Jan. 1, Tatum has averaged 12.3 points while shooting 33.3 percent on 3s. Those are decent numbers, but Tatum has shown he has more to offer. The All-Star break should benefit him not only in terms of providing some mental relief, but also allow that his dislocated pinkie injury added time to heal. He says it hasn’t affected his shooting, but the numbers suggest otherwise. Prior to the Dec. 21 injury, Tatum shot better than 50 percent from the field and from 3-point range, while averaging 13.8 points per game. Since then, his scoring average took a slight dip to 13.2, but his field-goal percentage (44.0 percent) and 3-point shooting (32.5 percent) each dropped off noticeably. We’ll see just how a little in-season rest will be enough for Tatum.

MARCUS SMART

When it comes to Marcus Smart, there’s two very distinct opinions. You either love him despite his obvious basketball flaws (shooting), or you can’t stand him and pray that the Celtics find a player who helps them more. I hate to break it to Smart’s naysayers, but his value to the C's may not be any higher than it is right now. They've lost four of their last five games, and the defense has been the main culprit. Boston had problems defensively even when Smart was healthy, so why does his return matter so much? Because we’ve seen the next-man-up mantra play out and more often than not, it works. But there comes a point in time when the players being thrust into more prominent roles remind us that consistently, more than anything, is the difference between them and the players whose absence they're trying to fill. Smart has a defensive rating of 98.9 this season, tops among all players in the NBA averaging 30 or more minutes played. That kind of elite defense for such an extended period of time is among the many reasons why his return after the All-Star break will be worth keeping an eye on. 

MARCUS MORRIS

After a slow start because of a sore left knee that kept him in and out of the Celtics lineup, Morris seemed to finally be healthy enough beginning with Boston’s Jan. 11 matchup in London against Philadelphia, in which he scored a then-season high of 19 points.
 
That would be the first of 11 straight double-digit scoring games for Morris, which was a first for him. More than the points, Morris’ availability has been huge. Including the Jan. 11 game against the Sixers, Morris has played in all but two games since then.

Boston will need Morris to continue along those lines, with the only question lingering around him is a pretty simple one: Will he continue to be healthy enough to contribute?

GREG MONROE

No one expected Greg Monroe to hit the ground running, with 20 points and 20 rebounds a game. But after four games, the early returns aren’t exactly overwhelming. Monroe has scored a total of 20 points and grabbed -- you got it -- a total of 20 rebounds.    
 
At the same time, it’s still too soon to know what he’s going to bring to this team. A low-post scoring threat for sure, Monroe has also shown himself to be a decent defender. However, Boston will need Monroe to put his imprint on games in a more significant fashion going forward.

That doesn’t mean he has to score a ton of points or grab a huge haul on the glass. But he has to make his presence felt,. Otherwise his signing will have done little to move Boston towards best positioning itself for all possible scenarios that may come its way in these final regular season games as well as the playoffs.

REBOUNDING

Most of us approached this season anticipating the worst when it comes to the Boston Celtics and rebounding. The Celts havs been a bad rebounding team for years and the moves they made in the offseason didn’t spark any hints things would get better. But they did . . . a lot better. And as the wins piled up, so did the rebounds which had the Celtics regarded as one of the league’s better rebounding teams.

And then they hit a swoon and have since been trying to get back to being a good rebounding team. The results of late, have been mixed. Lots of variables go into winning; rebounding for the Celtics is one of the bigger ones. In victories this season, they averafe 4.6 more rebounds per game than they do in losses. Improving their lot in this area not only provides a chance to improve their win total, but also allows their defense to be better, play at a tempo more to their liking and just overall, be a better team.

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Celtics notebook: In All-Star Game, LeBron James asserts his command

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Celtics notebook: In All-Star Game, LeBron James asserts his command

LOS ANGELES – With the All-Star Game a thing of the past now, those who participated in the game will get a couple days of rest before the NBA grind of a season starts back up.

Meanwhile, their teammates and the rest of the league will return after nearly a week without games, seemingly enough time to recharge and re-focus for the remainder of the season.

All-Stars like Stephen Curry will try to maximize the next couple days which will serve as their all-star break.

“I think that’s kind of a double-edged sword of being an All-Star,” Curry said. “It’s an amazing accomplishment, an amazing honor, but if you’re thinking about it in the perspective of getting rest and really taking advantage of the full slate of All-Star break, it doesn’t really start for us until (after Sunday’s game).”

But it’s not just getting a chance to recharge physically, Curry said. 

“That’s a big part of it too,” Curry said. “Not even just your body, but get a refresh mentally to know that when you get back to practice on Wednesday that that’s when the real grind starts.” 

A 'HORFORD-LIKE' ALL-STAR GAME

It wasn’t a big shot or a dunk or any other offensive play that decided the outcome in Team LeBron’s 148-145 all-star game win over Team Steph.

On the final play, it was a game decided by the little things such as a last-second double team or a clutch rebound or a “hockey assist,” the kind of plays that we often see made by Al Horford which made Sunday’s all-star game on some levels, have a Horford-like feel.

“Guys were looking for each other. It was good to see,” said Horford, playing in his fifth all-star game. “It was good basketball. You obviously have your one-on-one plays. But probably for the first time I’ve played in this game, I felt it was more of a game. So that was fun to see.”

OH SO CLOSE . . . 

If Team Steph had held on for the win over Team LeBron, there was a very good chance that Compton, Calif. native and USC alum DeMar DeRozan would have been the game’s MVP.

When told of this, DeRozan replied, “You just want to break my heart some more, huh?”

He added, “Hey, just being out there was a blessing, man, honestly. Just being able to be part of that. I’m just happy to be out there competing with them guys.”

However, being so close to home did make for a special weekend.

“I mean, it was a dream come true,” said DeRozan who had 21 points and six rebounds. “This is one of the moments that I’m going to forever live with. Being able to be a part of this, to come from where I come from and come out here and be a starter for an All-Star game in my hometown, it definitely was a dream come true.”

JAMES TAKES PRIDE IN BODY, NOT PROVING HE'S STILL A GREAT PLAYER TO YOUNGSTERS

LeBron James remains a commanding figure in the NBA, showing no signs of slowing up even at a time when most players his age are slowing down.

And while an influx of young talent has certainly come into the league and made their mark, there’s no getting around the fact that James can still dominate games on several levels.

“What I take pride in is taking care of my body,” said James, who is 33 years old. “Taking care of my body. Making sure I’m available every night and continue to get better and better. I don’t really take it as a young guy, okay, I need to show him I’m still able to do this. I need to continue to show myself, you know, because every night I step on the floor I have to lead my guys or prove to myself that I’m still able to play at a high level. I feel great.”

RAPTORS' CASEY: COACHING VS. LOWRY, DeROZAN 'WAS TOUGH'

Dwane Casey was happy to be the head coach of his first all-star game, but there was a definite downside to it: coaching against his best players, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.

With the new format, Casey was coaching Team LeBron while DeRozan and Lowry played for Team Steph.

“That was tough, that was tough,” Casey said. “You look out there and you’re yelling at guys to get up on them, to push them, and to play DeMar’s left-hand or right-hand, and push him left. All those things you fight as a coach.

Casey added, “Those are the things that you feel bad about, but, again, those two have carried us and pushed us, and taken us in the conversation of being one of the top teams in the league. I love both of them as sons, and I’m proud of them for where they came from, and they’ve made themselves into multi-time all-stars.”

For DeRozan, this was his third straight all-star selection and fourth overall, while Lowry made his fourth straight all-star appearance.

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