Celtics

As series progresses, LeBron's getting tired of Celtics

As series progresses, LeBron's getting tired of Celtics

BOSTON -- One of the reasons the Celtics came into this series against Cleveland more confident than most teams was due to their depth at the wing position.
 
Boston has played a solid eight-man rotation in this series, and all but 6-foot-2 Terry Rozier has the size, length and athleticism to at least slow down LeBron James from time to time.
 
The plan from the very beginning was to wear down the perennial All-Star, something both sides acknowledged played a role in Boston's 96-83 Game 5 win.

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James had a strong double-double of 26 points on 11-for-22 shooting to go with 10 rebounds and 5 assists. But he couldn't muster up enough in the fourth quarter to take over and dominate play, scoring just two points in the fourth while missing three of his four shot attempts.

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue was asked whether James looked tired.
 
"He looked a little tired to me, yes," Lue said.


 
 Boston's Marcus Morris reiterated Lue's sentiments about James.

"Yeah. I seen it," said Morris when asked if he saw James tiring as the game wore on. "We threw a lot of different bodies at him. He has to do a lot for that team. Everybody knows these games are coming pretty quick; games are coming fast."

Morris added, "At the end of the day . . . I'm tired. Everybody else is tired. You still gotta play. I would think he would get a little tired."
 
James, playing in his 15th NBA season, played all 82 regular-season games and led the NBA in minutes played (36.9) per game. Among teams still in the postseason, James is averaging a league-high 40.6 minutes per game in the playoffs.
 
Throw in the fact that he nearly always plays until mid-June -- he's been to the NBA Finals each of the last seven seasons -- and it stands to reason that at some point, fatigue would become a factor.
 
And the Celtics, to their credit, have not made it easy on him. We have seen James defend Boston's perimeter 1-2 punch of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, a pair of young, athletic wing players who have been aggressive going at James and his teammates.


 
One of the best conditioned athletes in the NBA, James acknowledged that there were moments in Game 5 when fatigue became an issue for him.
 
"I had my moments," he said. "But I think everybody at this point is tired or worn down or whatever the case may be."
 
That said, his stat line speaks to how James was still a dominant force for the Cavs.
 
"Still trying to make plays to help our team win," James said. "Put us in position to win. We had moments. We had an opportunity, but we didn't make enough plays."
 
The key for James is recovery time, something he and the rest of the players in this series haven't had much of lately.

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After the three-day gap between Games 2 and 3, each of the remaining games in this series have been, and will be, played every other day -- something that probably benefits the younger Celtics more than James and the older Cavs.
 
But at this point in the season, while all acknowledge that having some level of fatigue is just a reality of where this series is now, no one's using it as an excuse. And certainly not James.
 
"I'm fine," he said. "I'm fine."
 

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2020 NBA restart: It's OK for players to vocalize bubble concerns

2020 NBA restart: It's OK for players to vocalize bubble concerns

Even after Jayson Tatum very eloquently detailed his apprehensions about entering the bubble, there are some who continue to roll their eyes whenever a player expresses even the tiniest bit of concern about their sport’s resumption of play.

Listening to Boston Celtics players explain their various issues over the past week, I found it refreshing. I found it human. These players are leaving their families and risking their safety to bring us a tiny slice of normalcy with the return of pro sports.

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Yes, most are handsomely compensated — but they are also being thrust into an unprecedented situation with restraints they never signed up for, all largely for our entertainment.

What’s more, most recognize this. Tatum admitted it would be callous of him to sit out the restart solely in fear of compromising future earnings at a time when unemployment numbers are so outrageously high.

But if players want to vocalize their concerns — big and small — I’m all ears. There is no playbook for what players are about to endure inside this bubble and how they handle it all is a big part of the story.

When Tatum bemoans being apart from his 2 ½-year old son for as much as three months, I get it. FaceTime and Zoom make the world smaller but they are not substitutes for daily interaction between child and parent. When Gordon Hayward is adamant he will depart the bubble, and deal with the obstacles of reentering, to be there for the birth of his first son, I get it.

Life events, particularly those that could not have reasonably been expected to interfere with one’s work schedule, should not be ignored because it might temporarily hinder a team’s quest for a trophy.

At a time when all of our lives have already been altered, players are being asked to sacrifice even more of their typical freedoms.

It’s fair for them to be skeptical. It’s fair for them to voice concerns, even if others don’t believe they are as much of a hindrance as that player might be suggesting. We’d go so far as to suggest it would be weird if players didn’t have concerns about how this is all going to work, or offer emotional reactions to the infancy of their bubble stay.

We’re guessing many of the anxieties and inconveniences will likely dissipate as players settle into the bubble. Eventually, the return of games and competition should offer a much-needed jolt of normalcy in an otherwise bizarre living situation.

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If a player expressing their concern somehow diminishes your excitement for what’s ahead, I’m not sure what to tell you. To expect robot-like enthusiasm from athletes is misguided. To fret that players might vocalize genuine human emotion instead of simply reciting boring sports clichés flies counter to what we constantly yearn from our athletes.

There is a delicate line to walk. And players bemoaning 5-star hotels and pre-packaged meals won’t sit well in all corners. But I don’t mind the glimpse it offers if a player wants to share his knee-jerk reaction.

The guess here is that when Celtics players put on their uniforms and see the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo on the other side of the floor, competition will take center stage and the NBA will deliver a product much like the one we’ve yearned for since everything paused in March.

Sure, it's fair to wonder how the early scrimmages and seeding games will look, as each team will have different motivations in the ramp-up to the postseason, but the playoffs should have much of the excitement that we’re used to from those games. Let the famed Dream Team scrimmage be a prime example of how the absence of a crowd doesn’t always affect the intensity on the court.

This is all wildly unique. If being away from his son affects Tatum’s play, I want to hear about it. If Jaylen Brown worries that the return of games stunts the momentum of the social justice movement, I want to hear him vocalize that.

The human element is a major storyline to this wild experience.

2020 NBA restart: Top 22 players headed to the Orlando bubble

2020 NBA restart: Top 22 players headed to the Orlando bubble

With players already filing into the Disney World Bubble for the NBA to resume this season, the league’s restart has a much more realistic feel to it now.

As much as attention will be paid to the 22 teams on site, the league’s restart will be no different than any stretch of the season when it comes to what matters most — the players. 

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And while some players have decided to not participate in the league’s restart for health concerns or to continue to stand up and speak out on societal issues that have taken center stage in recent weeks, the overwhelming majority of the league’s star power will be back on the court in the coming weeks. 

But because the league return will only consist of players from the top 22 teams, any kind of power rankings of the top players should be limited to — you guessed it — the top 22 players. 

Here’s a glimpse at the top players in the NBA who are part of the league’s return to play which will officially kick off later this month.

Click here for the gallery.