Celtics

Bad blood brewing between the Celtics and Raptors

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Bad blood brewing between the Celtics and Raptors

BOSTON – The NBA has been the No Baller’s Angry league most of this season, with an occasional rift here and there between players.

But as we saw down the stretch on Saturday in Boston's 110-99 win over Toronto, there’s a piping hot dish of disdain brewing between Boston and Toronto … and I like it!

Because let’s be honest.

While it’s great that there are so many teams in the East that are showing their potential to be a really good team sooner rather than later, who doesn’t like a good ol’ rivalry?

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And as we’ve seen, the first step often comes in the form of increased physicality.

In Boston’s 110-99 win over Toronto, we saw this often as we got closer and closer to its denouement. 

Terry Rozier drove to the basket in the fourth quarter and for a moment, Scary Terry had us all freaking out when he didn’t bounce back up immediately after referees whistled a foul on DeMar DeRozan.

Celtics fans have seen too many of those fear-filled falls that sadly, have often been a precursor to a serious injury.

But Rozier eventually rose to his feet while being serenaded with “Ter-ry, Ter-ry!” chants.

Things really heated up when Marcus Morris was fouled by C.J. Miles with 18.7 seconds to play and Boston ahead by 10 points at the time. 

Morris took offense to the foul coming so late in the game and the score being what it was., and didn't mince his words in letting Miles know. 

That led to a few other players for both teams chiming in with the end result being Morris being tossed after being whistled for two technical fouls - an automatic ejection -  with Miles being called for one.

“I just thought the game was over and the foul was just a little too much, being down ten with 20 seconds left, so it got a little heated,” Morris said.

And considering these are the top two teams in the East record-wise with a Wednesday matchup potentially having the top seed in the East at stake, an unavoidable head-on collision between these two will be a sight to see for sure.

Rivalries of course have to develop over time, but they have to start somewhere right?

Saturday night was the first salvo thrown in what should be a regular occurrence between a pair of teams that will be in the title hunt for years to come.

And for the Celtics, there is no better initiator of such of rivalry than Morris.

He has proven himself to be one of Boston’s more talented players who also provides a high level of toughness, mentally and physically.

The same can be said for Terry Rozier who knows what we saw at the end of Saturday’s game was just the tip of the iceberg in this blossoming battle between teams that’s only going to be more intense, more physical, more worthy of a rivalry on the rise, when these two meet on Wednesday with the stakes even higher.

“It’s pretty obvious (Toronto) is number one and we’re number two,” Rozier told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We have to see them twice in the week, and we know it’s going to be a battle, but I say we don’t let standings dictate anything. We just go out there and we play and we go to war. That’s what happened (on Saturday).”

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Dwyane Wade breaks silence on Paul Pierce debate, takes high road

Dwyane Wade breaks silence on Paul Pierce debate, takes high road

Everyone seemed to have a take on the Paul Pierce vs Dwyane Wade debate, except Wade himself. 

On Sunday night, the Miami guard finally broke his silence in response to a fan on Twitter. 

The debate started when Pierce claimed he had a better career than Wade towards the end of his final season in the NBA. Intense internet debate followed, while most fans did their best to tear down the accomplishments of either player. 

Pierce said the debate didn't bother him, but former teammate of both players, Ray Allen, was disappointed with how it manifested because it allowed people to take away from what Piere accomplished in his career. 

Wade seemed to take the high road with his response, so hopefully, that puts an end to all of the madness. Both players will be first-ballot Hall of Famers, and their rivalry proved to shape the landscape of what the NBA is today. 

Unfortunately for some, one of them has to be overrated for the other's status to be solidified. 

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Celtics Exit Interviews: How did it all change with Kyrie Irving?

Celtics Exit Interviews: How did it all change with Kyrie Irving?

What’s going to happen with Kyrie?

I’ve heard the question probably a thousand times since the Boston Celtics’ season ended with a whimper earlier this month in Milwaukee. I’ve heard it from family, friends, mailmen, random Celtics fans at the airport, and baristas at Starbucks. I’ve heard it from people around the NBA and I’ve heard it from people that couldn’t name another player on the Celtics roster.

The answer, if we’re being honest, is that your guess is as good as mine. We spent the season adamant that, at the end of the year, Irving would survey his options and realize he has a pretty good situation in Boston. But, certainly, the way it ended — Kyrie in full “let it fly” mode as the Celtics got steamrolled four straight games by the Bucks, then not exactly owning his playoff struggles — wasn’t a particularly inspiring look. So usually I’ll volley the question.

Do you want Irving back?

Most of the time there’s a hesitation, a sign of the internal debate that a lot of Celtics fans seem to be having having while weighing the All-NBA talent against Irving’s leadership flaws. Maybe it’s simply a very vocal minority but we’ve been surprised by the amount of fans that have suggested that maybe it would be best for both sides to move on.

We’ve already told you why you should be careful what you wish for. From the standpoint of Boston remaining a legitimate title contender, it’s almost certainly best that Irving is back. Maybe it’s just an overly emotional aftermath to a maddening season, one in which Irving might be catching too much of the flak for Boston’s overall struggles. But a lot of fans remain conflicted.

All of which made us think: How exactly did we get here? Fans were downright giddy about the possibility of a long-term future for Irving here and he put up the best statistical season of his NBA career. But Boston’s struggles left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth.

We begin our postseason Exit Interviews series with a spotlight on Irving.

"If you’ll have me back, I plan on re-signing here"

When Irving stood before fans at the team’s season-ticket holder event before the season and verbally declared his intent to return, it took almost everyone by surprise. And, even if all parties involved were quick to stress that nothing could be truly agreed upon until the summer, Celtics fans were elated — and eager to rub the news in the faces of Knicks fans. 

Over the past seven months, however, things got weird. The Celtics struggled out of the gates and Irving compounded matters with missteps in his quest to be the team’s vocal leader. Even when he was well-intentioned — like publicly declaring how he called LeBron James for advice — the effect was sometimes more bad than good. When the Celtics’ struggles continued, and Irving’s future was deemed more uncertain than his preseason declaration might have suggested, Irving brooded and it further impacted the team negatively.

If you’re looking for a point where the tide of public opinion swung, it’s probably Feb. 1. Irving’s future had been dragged into the public spotlight in the aftermath of Anthony Davis requesting a trade. While it became rather obvious that Irving was merely a pawn in the quest of some to get Davis to Los Angeles (by planting seeds of doubt about whether Boston might still be player in the Davis sweepstakes this summer), Irving didn’t help matters with his angry reaction to the rumors.

“Somebody else is asking for a trade and I’m throw into that,” Irving fumed at a shootaround before Boston’s visit to the Knicks that day. “Uncertainty comes back on me.”

But Irving didn’t flat out deny the suggestion that he might be having second thoughts. He said simply that, “Boston’s still at the head of that race,” but that suggested, for the first time since before his October declaration, that it was still a race.

Two soundbites in particular went into heavy rotation: “Ask me July 1,” and “I don’t owe anybody s---.”

Maybe if the Celtics were sitting atop the East at that point, then all the noise would have gone away. But Boston could never quite get things right. When Irving and Kevin Durant were taped talking outside the locker room at the All-Star Game in Charlotte — the same All-Star Fame that Irving played in despite missing two games before the break with a knee sprain — the speculation only snowballed about whether the two would join forces in New York.

By the end of February, Irving began suggesting that his focus was on the playoffs. Asked why the postseason would be different than the regular season, Irving brashly suggested because he was here.

Then he endured one of the worst shooting slumps of his career and the Celtics got unceremoniously bounced from the Eastern Conference semifinals in five games. When he dismissively stated, “Who cares?” when asked about his shooting woes after Game 4, it drew the ire of already frustrated Celtics fans who screamed at their TV that they, most certainly, cared.

There is little debate about Irving’s talents. He averaged 23.8 points while shooting 48.7 percent from the floor and 40.1 percent beyond the 3-point arc this season. The Celtics owned an offensive rating of 112.8 when Irving was on the court, and it plummeted by 7.7 points per 100 possessions when he was on the bench.

Irving remains one of the most spellbinding ball-handlers and finishers in the NBA. His room-for-growth checklist would focus more on leadership and accountability than anything on the court (though his defensive intensity and focus could improve, as highlighted in the Milwaukee series).

Ultimately, the question is whether Irving desires to be back. Does he yearn to make amends for his own missteps? Does he want another crack at getting this thing right (albeit, with a cast that could be very different)? 

If Irving does elect to return and the Celtics continue to build around him, how can he win back the fan base? He could show the self-awareness that often evaded him last season. He can own his failures and express a desire for redemption. He can stress again his appreciation for the franchise and the opportunity to wear Celtics green. The city will embrace him; Boston loves nothing better than a redemption story.

You know what else would help? Winning. Winning cures all. irving and the Celtics didn’t do enough of it this year to mask their issues.

And it’s ultimately the reason why the offseason begins with so much uncertainty about Irving and his future. It’s in Irving’s best financial interest to return, with Boston able to offer him a five-year, $190 million maximum salary extension, or about $50 million more than any other suitor.

What’s going to happen with Kyrie? Nothing would surprise us. But it’s hard to imagine just how much has changed in seven months.

It feels a lot like "Game of Thrones": It’s a tantalizing journey that deserves a better ending than what we’ve got at the moment.

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