Celtics

Ortiz, McDonald enjoy mutual support

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Ortiz, McDonald enjoy mutual support

By JessicaCamerato
CSNNE.com

It has been just over a year since Darnell McDonald was called up to the Boston Red Sox last April and took a seat a few feet away from David Ortiz in the clubhouse.

In that short time, the lockermates have developed such a strong friendship that Ortiz considers McDonald family. Ortiz refers to him as D-Mac, an abbreviation of McDonalds name; McDonald calls Ortiz Big Pun, a reference to the rapper Big Punisher.

Even though the designated hitter and reserve outfielder do not spend much time together on the field, their time spent away from the game has helped them both.

D-Mac is like a brother to me, said Ortiz. I knew him from before the Red Sox but we started getting to know each other since we started playing together. But it doesnt take too long to get to be familiar with a guy like him. Hes cool as hell, and on top of that, he hits you with what you want to hear.

McDonald had looked up to Ortiz for years before joining him on the Red Sox. It didnt take him long, though, to sense there was something off about his new teammate.

At the time of McDonalds call-up, Ortiz was in a slump (he batted .143 in April 2010), and McDonald wanted to help him get out of it.

When I watched Big Papi on TV, he always has the patented spit in the gloves, clap, he recalled. He stopped doing it and I told him, When kids watch TV and theyre doing your stance, theyre doing the spit in the gloves and the clap. Weve got to get you going again, got to get your swag. Youre Big Papi.

He was acting like Little Papi.

McDonald offered Ortiz encouragement while he enjoyed success of his own. He hit a homerun in his first at-bat with the Red Sox and made a name for himself by stepping up in an injury-hampered outfield. After playing in over 1,300 Minor League games since 1998, McDonald relished in his opportunity in the majors.

His positive attitude was infectious and Ortiz fed off of it. Ortiz broke out of the rut and finished the season batting .270, thanks in part to the support of his friend who was in his corner the entire time.

Hes always there for whenever anybody needs them," said Ortiz. Theres not a better teammate.

This season Ortiz got off to a solid start, but unlike last year, there have not been as many opportunities for McDonald. The Red Sox outfielders, including Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron, have been healthy and, as a result, McDonald has not seen as much playing time. This season he has appeared in 18 games, batting .150, compared to hitting .270 in 117 games last year.

Youve got to just try, said McDonald. Baseball is a humbling game, a lot of failure. Getting down about it isnt going to make it any better. Just watching how Pun goes about it every day, that helps everyone out because he doesnt panic.

This season Ortiz has been there to share his encouragement just as McDonald did for him.

I always offer support to Darnell, he said. I just tell my man to stay sharp. Hes going to have a hard time getting in the lineup because of the situation we have. Last year he played more because of the all the injuries and stuff. I dont know how he does it, though. I dont think Id be able to play like that because Im used to the everyday play.

While McDonald keeps a positive outlook himself, he appreciates the words of kindness from Ortiz. His advice cliques with McDonalds never too high, never too low mentality and means a lot to McDonald coming from a proven All-Star.

He taught me just be the same every day. Whether things are going good or bad, come to the field with the same approach every day, said McDonald. It means a lot. Thats Big Papi, you know? If Big Papi tells you something, you listen. Hes been around a long time, done a lot of things, so he always has some words of wisdom, always encouraging.

Its fun for me to come to the field every day and be right here next to Pun.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter athttp:twitter.comjcameratoNBAShe can bereached at jessicacamerato@gmail.com.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Hawks in Atlanta. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C's defense looks to keep up historic pace

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C's defense looks to keep up historic pace

As the wins continue to pile up for the Boston Celtics, so does the praise and adulation from others throughout the league. 

It’s a double-edged sword if you think about it. 

Acknowledging how good the Celtics are, is indeed a sign of respect. 

But it also means Boston plays every game with a large target on its back unlike any of Brad Stevens’ previous Celtics teams. 

And that means every game they play, even those like tonight’s matchup at Atlanta where they will be heavily favored, are dangerous matchups.

Because for some teams, the next best thing to competing against the champ (Golden State) is facing the team with the best record who just knocked off the champ. 

That will be one of the dynamics at work tonight when the Celtics (14-2) kick off a three-game road trip against a trio of sub-.500 teams beginning with the Hawks (3-12).

Boston has shown tremendous focus and attention to detail during their 14-game winning streak. But in that span, the Celtics have never had a trio of teams right behind each other that struggled as much as the Hawks, the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks have this season. 

Not including games played on Friday, Boston’s next three opponents are a combined 11-33. 

All three of those teams would love to be the one to knock off the Celtics, the kind of victory that could significantly shift the direction of their respective franchises from their current downward spin. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will look to continue to play with the kind of defensive temperament that has catapulted them to the top of the NBA’s defensive standings in several categories. 

“The way they’re beating teams it ain’t pretty,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “But they win. Last I checked, that’s what matters most.”

And that success has to a large degree, put a bigger bullseye on the Celtics than ever. 

“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

Especially if they continue to defend at a level we haven’t seen in years. 

Boston has a league-best defensive rating of 95.4. A key component in Boston’s strong play defensively has been their ability to win the battle of the boards. They come into tonight’s game with a .530 rebounding percentage which is second in the league to Portland (.539).

And that defense, while praised for how it functions collectively, it also consists of some pretty good individual defenders as well. 

Among guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game, Boston has four players ranked among the top 10 in defensive rating (Marcus Smart, 93.5 defensive rating, 2nd); Jaylen Brown (93.6, 3rd); Terry Rozier (95.0, 5th) and Kyrie Irving (96.4, 8th). 

When you look at forwards, Brown headlines a trio of forwards that includes himself, Al Horford (94.2, 3rd) and Jayson Tatum (96.1, 7th). 

Aron Baynes has the best defensive rating (90.6) among centers, followed by Horford (94.2).

“Our guys are locked in and really trying and again we can really play some pretty ugly basketball at times,” Stevens said. “But I do think that we are competing which is really good.”