Celtics

Rivers, Thibodeau expect smooth adjustment to Boston for Hayward

Rivers, Thibodeau expect smooth adjustment to Boston for Hayward

LAS VEGAS – When you listen to players and coaches whose careers have included a pitstop in Boston, they will collectively tell you the city loves its star athletes. 

And with that love comes expectations of greatness, the kind of greatness that only a select few ever achieve in this town. 

It takes a special kind of talent to weather the sometimes-tumultuous, stormy relationship between fans that comes with being a superstar athlete in Boston, something the newest soon-to-be Celtic Gordon Hayward will learn first-hand. 

Hayward, who agreed to a four-year, $127.8 million contract with the Celtics on the Fourth of July, has never been in a sports vacuum quite like the one he’s walking into. 

An NBA all-star, Hayward was not a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school in Indiana before ultimately signing with nearby Butler University coached by now-Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. 

And when the Utah Jazz drafted him with the ninth overall pick in 2010, he evolved into a star for one of the league’s smaller market franchises. 

Ain’t nothing small about Boston other than its patience level when it comes to its stars.

Some players can handle that pressure with ease, like David Ortiz or Tom Brady. 

Others like David Price … not so much. 

So I asked a couple of NBA coaches (Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau) who have spent years coaching against Hayward who also have an intimate knowledge of the Boston sports scene, just how they saw Hayward adjusting to his new surroundings and with it, the increased amount of pressure to perform at the highest of levels. 

“He’ll handle that well,” said Rivers, president of basketball operations and head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers who spent nine seasons (2004-2013) as the Celtics’ head coach. “I think he’s really humble. His relationship with Brad (Stevens) will help as well, to channel that. You still have Isaiah (Thomas) there to take some of that pressure away. They’re going to be really good.”

Fandom aside, Hayward will ultimately be judged on his play which was on an all-star level this past season when he averaged 21.9 points and 5.4 rebounds, both career highs. 

And for those who have had to coach against him, seeing him head East is a welcomed reprieve. 

“He scores so many different ways,” said Thibodeau, president of basketball operations and head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. “You have to prepare for every situation.”

And even that’s not enough as Thibodeau’s Timberwolves lost three of four meetings against Hayward and the Jazz last season which included the 27-year-old dropping 39 points on Minnesota in late-April shortly before the playoffs. 

“He’s a great catch-and-shoot guy, moves well without the ball, very good off the dribble, very good in pick-and-rolls … he puts enormous pressure on the defense at all times,” said Thibodeau, a former Celtics assistant coach (2007-2010) who grew up in New England and attended Salem State just outside of Boston. “His versatility, that’s probably the biggest thing. And he’s unselfish.”

Thibodeau believes the qualities that he brings to the floor as a player will mesh well with the Celtics and the fan base which Thibodeau knows all too well, can be a tough crowd to please. 

“I think the way they (Celtics) play, who he is … I thought it was a great acquisition,” Thibodeau said. “He’ll fit in seamlessly.”

Knicks, Nets reportedly in mix for Kyrie-Butler combo in '19

Knicks, Nets reportedly in mix for Kyrie-Butler combo in '19

Remember those rumors of Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler teaming up in free agency next year? Well, that buzz is back and Boston isn't the rumored destination.

Two league sources told Business Insider that the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets could be well-positioned to land the two players, with one source saying the chatter is "substantial."

"It wouldn't surprise me if either New York team or potentially both New York teams hit it big next summer," one source said.

That echoes a Chicago Sun-Times report from July which said the Celtics and Timberwolves stars had been talking about how they could team up. Each player can opt out after this season and Irving has made it known he'll be heading to free agency. The Kyrie-to-the-Knicks rumors have been around for a while. 

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Paul Pierce says if Celtics learn to sacrifice, they'll win title

Paul Pierce says if Celtics learn to sacrifice, they'll win title

If there's anyone who knows what it takes to be a champion, it's Paul Pierce. So when the Celtics legend speaks, it would be best for the current team's young stars to heed his words.

According to a report from Boston.com, Pierce touched on what this current squad needs to learn if they want to hang the team's eighteenth championship banner from the rafters of TD Garden.

"When you have that type of talent, they're going to have to learn to sacrifice," Pierce said at a charity event in Brookline on Friday morning. "Not everybody is going to be able to accomplish maybe the individual goals they want to accomplish, but the team's greater goal should be all that matters."

The Celtics, who have made the Eastern Conference Finals the past two seasons but were vanquished both times by LeBron James' Cavaliers, saw perhaps their greatest obstacle in competing for a championship disappear when James signed with the Lakers in free agency. With one of the most talented rosters in the NBA, Boston has built a team capable of getting over the hump and winning a title.

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"You have to sacrifice if you are truly committed to winning a championship," Pierce added. "They're going to win a lot of games, but unless they sacrifice--because we know they're going to be better than probably what their numbers show--if they can sacrifice they'll win a championship this year. Because the talent is definitely there."

If there is one player on the current roster who can show that championship mentality to young stars like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, it's Kyrie Irving. However, much of the talk surrounding Irving, who won a championship with the Cavaliers in 2016, this offseason has been about him potentially leaving Boston after the season in free agency.

"Kyrie is a competitor," Pierce said. "He's won a championship. He knows -- if they win again he'll get whatever contract he wants. He's an extraordinary talent and he knows that winning trumps everything. If you win, everybody wins."

The Celtics start their quest for their eighteenth title on October 16 when they host Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.