Celtics

Celtics-Sixers preview: Two teams that 'trust the progress'

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Celtics-Sixers preview: Two teams that 'trust the progress'

LONDON -- Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown has had enough of trusting the process.

He has seen too much growth, too much steady improvement by his players. Not only in terms of win total, but also when it comes to an increased compete level.

Which is why Brown, for now, is all about trusting the progress.

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And, like Philadelphia, the Celtics are also looking at Thursday's game as a means to get better with a highly successful team whose core consists of several young players in their early to mid-20s.

The Sixers have a young core as well, although admittedly not quite as accomplished as the Celtics.

Boston is led by 25-year-old Kyrie Irving, with strong contributions  from Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who are 21 and 19 respectively.

That’s among the reasons Brown is hesitant to view this game as a battle between upcoming stars in this league.

“We don’t yet have stars. We don’t have any championships, we don’t have any All-Stars,” Brown said. “We’re very much at the foundation of trying to get [there]. There’s a difference between popular and championships. That’s my version of a star. Are you able to get your teams to win, and win championships?"

Brown added, “This is the challenge. Ben Simmons and Joel [Embiid], that’s my mission for them, that’s my mission for all of us, to grow champions. Right now we’re just scratching the surface. I want to say, ‘Trust the progress and not the process,' and we’re doing that. We’re moving forward; there is progress.”

The same can be said for Boston (33-10), which comes in with a six-game winning streak, the longest active streak in the NBA. 

Having managed to rack up a nice string of wins lately, you have to wonder if a change of scenery might have an impact on the team’s recent run of success.

 “We do a great job of preparing as a group,” said Irving. “Doing what’s needed to get wins and feel good about ourselves. But it really starts when cameras aren’t rolling, how we prepare and demand excellence from one another. And it carries on to the floor.”

One of the Celtics' strengths has been their top-rated defense, which has a defensive rating of 99.7. Boston is also allowing a league-low 97.4 points per game.

But the Sixers aren’t too far behind when it comes to defense. They are currently ranked seventh with a defensive rating of 103.3.

And while there has been a lot of talk here in London about how Boston and Philadelphia are going to be powers in the East sooner rather than later, Celtic players have stayed in the moment.

“It’s cool being here, see some nice, touristy stuff and all that, but we have a job to do and that’s beat Philly,” Marcus Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “That’s what has to happen for us to leave here feeling good about this trip.”

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Pierce details mental-health struggles after stabbing

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Pierce details mental-health struggles after stabbing

Jackie MacMullan's deep-dive look at the mental health stigma in the NBA on Monday wasn't without a few Celtics anecdotes.

One of the biggest sections of the stories was former Celtic Paul Pierce talking about his struggles after he was stabbed outside a Boston night club in 2000.

"I was stabbed 11 times," Pierce tells ESPN. "I felt like I was trapped in a box. I couldn't go nowhere. I battled depression for a year. The only thing that saved me was basketball."

Pierce played all 82 games after surviving the incident, but that was also a product of his anxiety in the ensuing months.

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"I think that's the reason I got back on the court so fast. Me sitting at home thinking about [the stabbing] didn't work. I went to every practice, sat on the sideline for hours, because that's where I felt safe. I didn't want those practices to end because then I had to go back out there in this world that really scared me."

The Celtics offered consulting with a mental health expert, and Pierce is quoted saying he wished he took the advice.

Celtics general manager Danny Ainge is quoted as well, saying "We can offer all the services in the world, but if they won't use them, we can't help them. Too many of these guys don't realize how badly they need help until it's too late."

The piece also follows Cavaliers center Kevin Love and his mental health struggles in the past year.

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Anything is Podable Episode 6: The games behind-the-scenes

Anything is Podable Episode 6: The games behind-the-scenes

It’s hard not to be intense when Kevin Garnett is on your team. For the 07-08 Celtics, that fire extended beyond the court and into every waking moment they spent together.

Episode 6 of NBC Sports Boston’s “Anything is Podable” goes behind-the-scenes with the members of the world champion Celtics to get a never-before-heard glimpse into the games and competitions that brought them all closer together.

“Everything is about competition and we, as a staff, understood that early,” said Doc Rivers. “For practices, if there was no score, it was a bad practice. All you had to do was put a winner and a loser and the practice went from here to here. It was just that type of group.”

Whether it was on road trips, at practice, or in the weight room, everything about the team revolved around competition and an innate desire to win.

“Everything was competitive,” stated Rajon Rondo. “The boxing gloves came out in the weight room.”

As is the case with every great team, the bonding off the court was essential to finding success on it. Anything that could possibly be turned into a competition, was.

Arm wrestling? Check.

Push-upsYou bet.

On a road trip in Miami, Paul Pierce challenged Glen Davis to eat a large piece of bread in under one minute.

“Have you ever tried to eat a piece of bread like that?” Davis asked. “It gets dry. You can’t swallow it. It sounds easy, but people don’t know how dry bread is...I almost like choked and died.”

“You’re talking about a guy who loved to eat,” Pierce joked.

“I couldn’t do it,” Davis responded.

Competition off the court breeds competition on the court and, while the talent helped, little games like the ones played on road trips were vital to the Celtics achieving their ultimate goal.

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.