Is Philadelphia Boston's next big rival? Eh, not yet


Is Philadelphia Boston's next big rival? Eh, not yet

Philadelphia is on our minds this week. Not just because the Celtics have the 76ers on Thursday, but because Philly’s doing its best in multiple ways to take spots typically reserved for Boston teams. 

Carson Wentz, the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, is Tom Brady’s prime competition for NFL MVP. His 10-1 Eagles are the the favorites to face the Pats in the Super Bowl. Then there are the 76ers, who can only hope their ongoing “process” will make them the best team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference for the next decade rather than the Celtics. 


Yet before you go thinking Philadelphia is becoming the next great rival for Boston across all sports, consider a few things: 


Wentz is in his second season and is having an MVP-caliber season. If the Eagles are 10-1 with a young quarterback now, what might they look like if they draft well and put a supporting cast with staying power around him? 

Really good, but you’ll forgive Boston fans to not identify the Eagles as their NFC counterpart just yet. After all, we’re just one season removed from the Cowboys looking like the 13-3 Cowboys, led by a rookie quarterback, to be the kings of the NFC for years to come. Dallas is 5-6 this season. 

Most importantly, even a few seasons of dominance might not get the attention of a Boston fanbase that has been spoiled rotten by the Patriots. Nobody in either conference has been able to match the Pats’ staying power, so Boston will have to see prolonged dominance before they actually believe it.


Having picked first overall in two straight drafts and third overall in the previous two, the 76ers could very well grow a terrific nucleus of young talent to challenge the Celtics in the coming years. Yet with the injuries they’ve already faced (Ben Simmons missing all of last season; Joel Embiid being eternally day-to-day, Markelle Fultz being a physical and mechanical mess so far), it’s hardly a sure thing. 

Simmons and Embiid are both elite players. There’s no question there. But Embiid’s health will always be a question and we haven’t seen anything good from Fultz yet. So far, it seems the Celtics smoked them in that trade. If Fultz ends up being a player, this could be a tremendous rivalry. It still seems like a big “if.”  


There have been great cross-conference rivalries (the Celtics and Lakers an obvious one), but they can be a bit tough given the infrequency with which the teams play. The Red Sox are in a different league than the NL’s Phillies, while the Pats and Eagles can only play each other in the regular season every four years because of the NFL’s scheduling. Not much heat there. 


Right, the other teams. The Phillies finished last in the NL East last season, so even if the Red Sox corrected their course to a World Series berth, it sure as hell wouldn’t take them to Philadelphia. 

The Bruins and Flyers have always had a good rivalry, but it’s seen better years given where the teams currently stand. The Flyers have missed the playoffs in two of the last four seasons and currently sit below .500. The Bruins, coming off their first playoff berth in three years, are on pace for the third playoff spot in the Atlantic but will have to fight for it. 


Real quick: Who is the Eagles’ head coach? There’s no shame in not knowing it’s Doug Pederson off the top of your head. I’m guessing a lot of Patriots fans don’t. 

If that’s the case, it’s probably a product of the infrequency with which the teams play each other. But even with the 76ers, is there really anyone Celtics fans should despise? Not yet. 

Boston and Philly could eventually become rivals across all sports. It’s probably just early to say it’s already begun. 


Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

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Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

CLEVELAND - Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence from the team to address health issues that have included chest pains and loss of sleep.

Lue said Monday in a statement that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is and offered no timetable for his return. The coach said he feels he needs to step away "and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation" from which to coach the rest of the season.

Here's a portion of Lue's statement:

I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is.

"While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team. I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season," Lue said. "My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the championship we are all working towards."

A stress-filled season for the Cavs has taken a toll on the Lue, 40, a former Celtics assistant under Doc Rivers who led them to the 2016 NBA championship after taking over for David Blatt midway through that season. They are j40-29, third in the Eastern Conference, behind the second-place Celtics and East-leading Toronto Raptors, and have endured roster shake-ups, injuries and other distractions as they try to return to the NBA Finals.

Now they will play without their coach. The NBA playoffs begin April 14. 

"We all want great players, we all want the best teams, but with that comes a lot of pressure as well. And what Ty Lue has had to go through this year with that team, with the trades and the injuries and the pressure, it's unrelenting," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "So I hope that he gets healthy and is able to get back in time for the playoffs and help that team win as many games as possible."

Lue spent the second half of Cleveland's victory in Chicago on Saturday in the locker room because of an illness, the second time this season he left a game because he wasn't feeling well. The former NBA guard also sat one out against Chicago at home in December.

Associate head coach Larry Drew coached the second half of Saturday's game, the finale of a six-game, 11-day road trip. Cleveland is back home to host Milwaukee on Monday.

"We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues," general manager Koby Altman said.

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford also left his team to address his health this season. He took six weeks off. Medical tests revealed that the 56-year-old Clifford did not have any internal problems, but the doctor's diagnosis was the coach was suffering from severe sleep deprivation.

AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

© 2018 by The Associated Press


Where are the Celtics' points going to come from?

Where are the Celtics' points going to come from?

BOSTON – It was a short, two-game road trip for the Celtics and the results – one win, one loss – were akin to how things have been for them lately - seemingly every success has been balanced with some sort of struggle.

And because of that, it’s hard to get a read on how they will bounce back following a 108-89 loss at New Orleans in a game that reinforced one of Boston’s biggest struggles most of this season – scoring points.

Boston averages 104.3 points per game, which ranks 20th in the NBA.

Since the All-Star break, Boston has averaged 110.7 points per game, which ranks 12th in the NBA.

But the team Boston fielded right after the break isn’t the same one we see on the floor now as the Celtics try to make the most of a roster that has been decimated by injuries in recent weeks.

And while there’s plenty of areas in need of improvement, Celtics coach Brad Stevens knows he has to figure something out for an anemic offense that has been a major factor in Boston losing three of its past four.

“We’re going to have moments where we’ll struggle to score with this group right now,” Stevens said. “And we just have to play a more concerted game, a more intentional game.

Stevens added, “this is a hard team for us to match up with, in full. You knew there were going to be some issues otherwise. There were some times where were probably let go of the rope in the second half and it cascaded on us.”

Here are five other takeaways from the loss to New Orleans:

There’s no getting around the fact that Al Horford has to play better than we saw on Sunday, even with an Anthony Davis on the opposite bench. With a pair of starters (Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown) out as well as a key reserve (Daniel Theis), he’s the lone member of Boston’s current Big Three whose health is not an issue. And while we praise Horford for all the intangibles he brings to the game, Boston needs him to keep doing that and then some, as they try to navigate their way through the end of this regular season and hopefully have a close-to-full complement of players when the postseason arrives.

Sunday was one of Jayson Tatum’s more aggressive performances of late, as he attacked the rim off the dribble, hit the open jumper and maybe most significant, consistently kept an opponent on their heels. He led the Celtics with 23 points, but you had the feeling he could have gone off and had an even more impressive game. With so many core guys out with injuries, Tatum has to look for his shot more often. There are few players so young in the NBA with such a varied skill set that appears to be expanding before our very eyes.

There were many things that jumped out from the loss, but few stand out like the string of free throws missed by Abdel Nader. With Boston trailing by six points early in the fourth quarter, Nader was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer. And on the same play, the Pelicans were whistled for a technical foul. Nader, a 72 percent free throw shooter going into the game, missed all four free-throw throw and followed that up by missing the first of two free-throw attempts afterward. Fans may be down on Nader, but he still has the confidence of his head coach. “I believe in all these guys,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day, Abs has been a very good free throw shooter his whole career. He was going to step up and have three right after (the technical foul free throw), and I thought he could step up and make the first one. So, I told him the next time we’re on the court I’m going to tell him to (shoot the technical free throw) again because I believe in him.”

There’s no question Greg Monroe is becoming a lot more comfortable with the Celtics’ system and the role they need him to play in it. But Aron Baynes’ status as the team’s starting center remains on strong footing. The Celtics have been the top team defensively in the NBA most of this season, and the play of Baynes has been a key to that success. Monroe matching up with backups off the bench, more nights than not, is a favorable advantage for the Celtics.

?And when he has it going a bit which was the case against the Pelicans, those are the nights when he’ll see more time than Baynes which happened on Sunday as Monroe played 25-plus minutes compared to just 14 for Baynes.

We love the “Next Man Up” approach that the Celtics have been about all season. No Celtic has benefited more from this, than Terry Rozier. There is a level of confidence that he plays with that would not be present if it weren’t for the additional opportunities he has been given to become more of a leader with Kyrie Irving missing games from time to time, as well as the extended absences of Marcus Smart. Against the Pelicans, he had 13 points on 6-for-16 shooting. He grabbed seven rebounds while dishing out five assists with just one turnover. He’s had better games, obviously. But those numbers are becoming the kind of numbers he puts up with more consistency which bodes well for Rozier and the Celtics with the playoffs less than a month away.