Horford, Celtics find motivation in Red Sox

Horford, Celtics find motivation in Red Sox

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Celtics don’t need any additional motivation when it comes to championship desires but, with the region captivated by the Red Sox in the World Series, the local nine are offering a little extra inspiration — and maybe a tiny diversion — as the Celtics ease into a season with their own championship expectations.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has routinely gushed about the Sox’ postseason exploits and players such as Al Horford have made their games appointment viewing. The Celtics are very aware of what’s happening over at Fenway Park.

“I think it’s just something special,” said Horford. “Being in Boston, and just seeing something like that, it motivates me. It motivates us to try to go out and do some special things as well.

“Right now, it's kind of their moment. It’s just good to see their group come together and play at such a high level because — that Houston series, obviously, I was just impressed because Houston’s a really good team. Right now, they’ve had tough games the first two games [against the Dodgers] and [Game 2] was very gritty. I’m just excited to see them doing well.”

Horford’s baseball-playing grandfather instilled a love of the sport and Horford has made friends with many of the MLB stars from his native Dominican Republic. It was the presence of David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez that made Horford a fan of the Red Sox even before he signed in the Celtics and, even though he doesn’t know many of the current Sox, Horford still finds himself screaming at his hotel TV while watching the games.

And it doesn’t hurt that the Sox’ success is providing nice cover as the Celtics work through some early-season growing pains.

"That’s one way to look at it,” Horford said with a laugh. “Fortunately, we’re in October...There’s a lot of expectations for our group. And when you’re not fulfilling them, you’re going to get criticized and that’s fair. We need to play better, that’s no secret.”

Both Horford and Stevens noted how much fun the Red Sox look like they’re having in their games. Celtics players have admitted they might be pressing a bit amid an underwhelming start to the season and players yearn to get back to simply having fun on the court.

“[The Red Sox] just continue to have this unbelievable mentality,” said Stevens. "I haven’t watched every World Series for the past 50 years but, at the same time, I can’t imagine any team looks like they are having more fun than the Red Sox. I think you can see that in their play, how together they are, how many smiles you see, it’s a fun team. And I hope they get it done in the next two games, but at the same time know how hard that’s going to be and you take it one pitch at a time. But, man, they are fun to watch.”

As Alex Cora pushes all the right buttons this postseason, it’s clear Stevens respects the way the Sox manager leads his team.

"He’s such a great guy, and he’s so good with people that’s it’s not a shock,” said Stevens. “You can clearly tell everybody’s on board. And the way they are supporting one another, and the way they are going about their business is a blast. 

"If you’re not from Boston and you’re just watching from afar, you’re looking for a team to root for, they’d be an easy one to pick because of the way they play and the way they pick up each other.”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.


Celtics' Al Horford will rest Wednesday vs. Cavaliers

Celtics' Al Horford will rest Wednesday vs. Cavaliers

BOSTON -- Following the Celtics' Monday night win over the Miami Heat, Al Horford said he was feeling great. 

And one of the main reasons for that has been the ability to provide Horford with “strategic rest” at various points this season. 

We’re apparently at one of those rest stops right now with the team announcing on Tuesday that Horford will sit out and rest instead of playing Wednesday night at home against Cleveland.

By Horford not playing against the Cavs (9-39), who own the worst record in the NBA, Horford will essentially have a week off before Boston hosts two-time defending NBA champion Golden State on Saturday night at the TD Garden.

This will be the 10th game missed by Horford this season, a stretch that included eight in a row due to patellofemoral pain syndrome in his left knee. 

Upon his return, Horford played with a minutes restriction. 

But in the past four games, Horford has been essentially allowed to play the kind of minutes he has grown accustomed to. 

And to his credit, Big Al has delivered in a big way in the past four games - all Celtics wins. 

In that span, Horford has averaged 17.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 65.9 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range in 31.3 minutes played per game.

With Horford out for the Cavs game, look for Aron Baynes to get the start with Daniel Theis, Guerschon Yabusele and Robert Williams III all likely options for coach Brad Stevens off the bench. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

How a Grizzlies rebuild could deliver Boston's next star

How a Grizzlies rebuild could deliver Boston's next star

As the Memphis Grizzlies reportedly entertain the possibility of a rebuild, the Celtics might have found the centerpiece of their next big deal, one that might only bolster their long-term ability to contend for a title.

ESPN reported Tuesday that the Grizzlies, for the first time, will begin entertaining trade offers for stars Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. The Celtics are owed a future first-round pick from the Grizzlies and the protections loosen in coming seasons.

After Memphis won 12 of its first 17 games to open the season, it appeared the pick, which is top-8 protected for 2019, might convey this season. But the Grizzlies are a mere 7-23 since Nov. 21 and have lost 12 of their past 13. 

With the second-worst record in the Western Conference but only the sixth-worst record in the NBA, the Grizzlies seem to be coming to grips with the fact that it might be better to move their aging stars and embrace a rebuild in hopes of a quick turnaround that might take the sting out of the pick they will eventually deliver. In trading their stars, the Grizzlies almost assuredly will collect a top 8 pick this season.

Further out it gets murkier for Memphis. Quick rebuilds do not typically happen. And the Celtics would reap the benefits if the Grizzlies struggle to contend in the aftermath of an overhaul, even if that pick ultimately doesn’t convey for two more years. The Grizzlies’ pick is top-6 protected in 2020 before becoming completely unprotected in 2021. 

Memphis’ willingness to overhaul their roster is no small development for the Celtics, whose assets have been diminishing in value as some NBA rivals outkick expectations. The Celtics are set to collect the Sacramento Kings 2019 first-round pick, if it’s not No. 1 overall, but the Kings are still battling for a playoff spot in the West, sitting 24-23 entering Tuesday’s action.

With a horde of East teams clogging up the bottom of the NBA standings, that means the Kings pick — once dreamed to be a top-five selection — is currently projected to land closer to No. 10 overall. 

The Celtics were staring at the less-than-optimal possibility of collecting all three of their owed first-round picks this season (the Clippers could potentially deliver a non-lottery first-rounder). But the Grizzlies pick pushing into future years gives the Celtics a lot more flexibility in using it a deal.

Not only does the value rise as the protections loosen but the Celtics can dangle that pick as part of a package for a big star — say, Anthony Davis, or his ilk — and it’s more attractive than if the Celtics were forced to make that selection in June.

The Celtics, of course, don’t have to move the pick in a deal but it just seems like the most likely scenario. Boston could also keep the prime selection and try to build young depth to an already talent-filled roster, especially if there’s not a big fish available on the trade market that they desire to chase.

Entering Tuesday, the Celtics projected to collect picks No. 13 (Sacramento), 19 (Clippers), and 24 (their own) based on current standings. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.