Celtics

Celtics confidence bodes well for success down the road

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Celtics confidence bodes well for success down the road

OAKLAND, Calif. –  Losers in five of their last six games, it would be understandable for the Boston Celtics to be extremely concerned about the direction of their team.

And yet following their 109-105 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, there was nothing but optimism pouring out of the Celtics locker room from both coaches and players.

"The last three games are more of who we want to be,” said coach Brad Stevens.

Even though Boston lost two of those three games, there were indeed a number of positives they can extrapolate from those games.

The two losses were by a combined five points, with the Celtics in position down the stretch to win both of them.

But they failed to make the necessary plays at either end of the floor in the closing moments, that were needed in order to get the win.

More than anything, Boston sees the first three games of this four-game road trip, as another opportunity to learn about themselves and even more important, how to operate more consistently as an elite team which their record this season suggests that they are.

Boston (34-16) has the best record in the Eastern Conference, leading the Toronto Raptors by 1.5 games and the defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers by 5.5 games.  

Kyrie Irving is well-versed in how to navigate effectively in hotly contested road games like the one we saw at Oracle Arena on Saturday night.

Irving’s late-game jumper a couple years ago when he played for Cleveland, lifted the Cavaliers past Golden State for Cleveland’s first NBA title.

But that Cleveland team had a decent number of been-there, done-that veterans who not only understood the moment, but beyond that had a high level of confidence and experience in how to best handle marquee matchups.

While Boston’s young core has played well thus far this season, beating a team like Golden State on their building, whether it’s the playoffs or a regular season tilt, is not easily done.

At one point, Irving looked on the floor and saw Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis – three rookies and a second year player – who are still learning how to be impactful players not only against the best teams in the league, but also in a more general sense.

“They’re just thrown into high level, one-seed versus one-seed, type of battle,” Irving said. “It demands everything from you mentally. You have to bring it; you’re going against the champs. Being in Oracle, they go on their runs. Steph is being unbelievable, the crowd is going crazy. It’s a lot to consider. For us we take it as a learning experience. I told them before the game, ‘just take advantage of the opportunity and stick together and weather the storm.’ They’re an incredible team. We’re a developing young team trying to be great as well. You just have to have that confidence.”

And that confidence comes about with learning from all experiences, good and bad.

“As a group we want to win these games,” said Boston’s Al Horford.  “But for our group it’s more about making sure we’re playing well and we keep improving throughout the season. I felt we took a step forward even though we lost.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Jayson Tatum on overhyped talk: 'I'll stick to my job'

Jayson Tatum on overhyped talk: 'I'll stick to my job'

A story earlier this week from Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes calling burgeoning young Celtics star Jayson Tatum one of the NBA's five most overrated players has expectedly ruffled some feathers in the Boston sports stratosphere. 

But Tatum himself is taking the high road. In a conversation with ESPN's Chris Forsberg centered around his recent workouts with future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, the 20-year-old forward, who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting this past season, said he wasn't bothered by the article:

While Hughes acknowledged that Tatum could be a franchise player, his reasoning for inclusion on the list was that he could be a victim of the stacked team for which he plays, saying, "Kyrie has never been one to take a backseat, and with him back on the floor, it'll be much harder for Tatum to build on his postseason takeover."

As for the session with Kobe? Tatum clearly absorbed a lot:

Hughes also named Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins, Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, Bulls foward Zach LaVine and Suns forward Josh Jackson in the company of overhyped players.

It's been quite a week for Tatum, the former No. 3 overall pick out of Duke University. Earlier in the week, the St. Louis native had his jersey number permanently retired at his high school alma mater.

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Anything is Podable Episode Four: Building the Roster

Anything is Podable Episode Four: Building the Roster

Even with three All-Stars in Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, Danny Ainge and the Celtics knew that, in order to win a championship, the team needed a strong supporting cast of role players.

Episode Four of NBC Sports Boston’s “Anything is Podable” takes a look at how Ainge constructed the rest of the roster and how one word, “ubuntu,” set the tone for a memorable season.

Giving the team a shooter off the bench, as well as another veteran presence in the locker room, Eddie House was perfect for the 2008 Celtics.

“I remember going to a practice when he was a young player,” said Ainge regarding House. “Just watching him shoot, and shoot, and just amazed at what a great shooter this kid was.”

“I saw him have his 56 and 60 back-to-back point games in the Pac-10 and it was amazing.”

Long a fan of House, Ainge went out and got his guy, but he wasn’t finished yet.

James Posey, a veteran wing who had experience both starting and coming off the bench, was nearing a deal with the Nets, but one call changed everything.

“I actually told my agent, I’ll just go to New Jersey,” said Posey. “Then Eddie House called me.”

House convinced Posey to spurn the Nets in favor of the Celtics, giving Boston another veteran off the pine.

With the roster taking shape, what the team needed now was an identity.

Ubuntu.

Mentioned to Doc Rivers at a trustee meeting at Marquette University, the word that means “I am who I am because of you,” became the team’s mantra.

“I looked this word up and I spent, no exaggeration, hours and days on this word,” said Rivers. “Everything about the word epitomized what we had to be.”

Ubuntu was the rallying cry of the 2008 Celtics and it all started with a Board of Trustees meeting at Marquette.

Anything is Podable is a ten-part series diving into the story of the 2008 Celtics and their championship season, with exclusive, never-before-heard interviews with team executives, former players, and media members.

Narrated by Kyle Draper, it’s the perfect way for Celtics fans to pass time this offseason and get excited for 2018-19, a season in which the Celtics have as good a chance at raising their 18th championship banner as they’ve had since that magical 2008 season.

Fans can subscribe to the podcast through the link below and check out the other nine episodes for a look at this exclusive series.