Celtics out of practice after breakneck schedule


Celtics out of practice after breakneck schedule

BOSTON – Without giving it much thought, the Boston Celtics have gone from game to game with little thought or time for anything beyond that.

Now with their schedule easing up to where they can blend in more practice days along with game preparation, it sounds like a simple transition, but . . . 

“We gotta re-learn that to make that part of your daily way,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “We need to maximize this time. We need to be building to become better and better down the road. So that’s what you utilize this time for.”

Boston will get plenty of time to work on its practice game this week with the team leaving for London today for a game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

The Celtics will get two practice days in before facing the Sixers, and won’t play again until they host the New Orleans Pelicans on Jan. 16 which will likely afford them at least another day or two of practice.

You would be hard-pressed to find another Celtic who has been looking forward to this stretch of the season more than Kyrie Irving who is well aware of how different things will be schedule-wise for the Celtics going forward. 

The Celtics played their first 41 games in 70 days. The next 41 games will cover 99 days.

“That’s a hell of a difference,” Irving said.

Getting through those first 41 games came down to one thing for Irving.

“Just survival, man; just survival,” Irving said. “You learn a lot about your body and your mind. You can always kind of figure that stuff out. But it’s how consistent do you want to be with that. That’s the mark of good and great teams, that separation, how much are you willing to sacrifice and give of yourself, being a professional every single moment and not taking anything for granted. It’s a true test, but if you really want it, dive into it.”

And to the Celtics’ credit, their ability to not only play through a daunting schedule but thrive in it, is commendable.

Boston (33-10) has won six in a row which is the longest current winning streak on top of having the best record in the Eastern Conference.

And for rookies like Semi Ojeleye, this impending shifting down of the schedule is just the latest learning experience for him and his fellow first-year players.

“The thing is, you have to stay ready regardless of the schedule,” Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston. “Because as you see with our team, you never know when your opportunity is coming.”

Or how to shift from lots of games to more of a balancing act with games and practice.

It sounds simple but it’s one more thing that players, particularly young ones, have to adapt to in order to get the most out of practice time and added preparation they will have in the second half of this season to get ready for games.

“The older guys have been through this. They know how to go about it,” Stevens said. “They know every minute is planned to the nth degree. Sometimes young guys have to be brought up to speed on that stuff. That’s something that’s always going to be an emphasis.”


Bean: Fact is, LeBron took escape route away from Boston

Bean: Fact is, LeBron took escape route away from Boston

Jayson Tatum's Game 7 dunk did not influence LeBron James' decision to leave the Eastern Conference, no matter how much I will continue to say it daily. 

The truth, as we've all realized, is that LeBron's mind was made up long before Tatum boomed him right in the face. 

But while it wasn't about that specific play, it kind of was about Tatum dunks. And Jaylen Brown dunks. And Al Horford dunks. And these heartbreakers:

For as much as we talk about the Celtics having a wide-open path to the NBA Finals now, the truth is they had that anyway if LeBron stayed with Cleveland. The ever-careful superstar had to know his options were to either stay in the East and get smoked by the Celtics or go out West and get smoked by the Warriors. If the results are the same, he might as well experience them in a nicer city. 

James' decision to go to the Lakers clearly wasn't about winning. If it were, he would have explored options like the Celtics, Rockets or taken the 76ers seriously.

His decision to leave the Cavaliers, however, had to at least be partially about winning. Just being home for Cleveland isn't enough; it was the fact that it could be a winner that got LeBron to return in the first place. With it no longer a title contender because of the Celtics' roster, staying in Cleveland was probably no longer worth it for James. 

What's interesting is that the Celtics knew it, too. Jaylen Brown's comments last week about wishing LeBron stayed in Cleveland were bang-on. Now that LeBron's gone, the Celtics' waltz to a Warriors matchup will be accompanied by talk from dumb people that they weren't able to do it when LeBron was in the conference. 

Here's why it's a smart move PR-wise on James' part: If LeBron stayed in the East and got beaten by the Celtics every year, people -- dumb people, but people nonetheless -- would talk about a torch being passed and how James was no longer dominant because he wasn't winning. 

The West presents a different narrative. Do you know what you're considered to be if you lose to the Warriors in the West? A victim. A victim of a super team and a victim of Kevin Durant's cowardice (the dumb people's words, not mine). 

So LeBron made an easy choice to leave Cleveland and the Celtics had to factor into it at least a little. If Kawhi Leonard eventually joins him, perhaps he can see the Celtics in the NBA Finals one of these years. That's a big "if" considering what we just saw Paul George do, but the fact of the matter is that LeBron's road to the finals was blocked whether he was in Cleveland or Los Angeles. 

Did LeBron run away from the Celtics? Not necessarily, but he clearly saw the effect the Celtics would have had on him if he stayed in Cleveland. It wasn't as pretty as L.A. 


Get to know the newest Celtic, Walt Lemon Jr.

Get to know the newest Celtic, Walt Lemon Jr.

BOSTON – Walter Lemon Jr. has agreed to a two-way contract with the Boston Celtics, becoming the third player ever with such a designation for the Celtics.

He played four years at Bradley before taking his game overseas to play in Hungary, Istanbul, Greece, Germany and later returning to the United States to play for the Ft. Wayne Mad Ants of the Gatorade League.

But what do we really know about the newest member of the Celtics family?

Here’s a look at five facts about Lemon who, as a player with a two-way contract, will spend up to 45 days with the Celtics while the rest of his time will be spent with Boston’s G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws:

*Despite being 6-foot-3, Lemon Jr. is comfortable playing above the rim. That’s evident by him competing in Slam Dunk contests both in college (2014 and 2015) and in the G-League (2016).

*Finished his career at Bradley ranked among the school’s top-10 in scoring, assists, and steals.

*Best scoring game in the G-League last season was a 40-point outburst against the Maine Red Claws, the team he will be playing with most of this upcoming season.

*Became the first player in school history to be named the Missouri Valley Conference Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2014.

*On July 26 he will turn 26 years old.