Celtics

Marcus Smart gets up shots, details Mike Tyson-like pain

Marcus Smart gets up shots, details Mike Tyson-like pain

INDIANAPOLIS — Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, sidelined by a torn oblique, accompanied the team to Indiana and got up shots following the team’s morning shootaround.

Smart engaged in some light shooting under the watch of assistant coach Jay Larranaga. He didn’t spend much time on the court, putting up flat-flooted shots from around the blocks and the free-throw line.

“It feels good [to shoot]. It’ll be two weeks this Sunday. We’re coming up on the two-week mark, and once again, I said earlier in the week, I’m still very ecstatic with the progress that I made,” said Smart, who was expected to miss 4-6 weeks before being able to return to basketball activities. 

"I’m obviously nowhere near coming back but to be able to get back on the court, get some shots up, and be able to do a little more things actively is great progress for me.”

Smart cautioned against getting overly excited about the sight of him back on a court.

"It definitely still hurts. It does hurt,” said Smart. "It doesn’t hurt as much as the initial injury or as much as it did a couple days ago. But it’s definitely still some pain here, with some scar tissue and obviously the tear and everything. So we’re not trying to rush anything. We’re trying to keep a baseline with what I’m doing, and we’re pleased with the progress.”

Smart said he’s been able to walk fluidly more in recent days but doesn't plan to start jogging for the next couple weeks. He deemed himself “ahead of schedule” in terms of doing everyday tasks like walking and breathing normally, but admitted there’s still a lot of recovery ahead before even thinking about playoff basketball.

Asked to describe the pain from the initial injury, Smart offered a telling comparison.

"I’m sure nobody would know but you could probably imagine getting hit by Mike Tyson with a body blow,” said Smart. "That’s how painful it was. It took me down, instantly. When I got back up it knocked the wind out of me and I thought I was OK. I’ve been hit before. And then the second time it felt like someone shot me. There’s nothing I could do on that one. 

"I literally just collapsed and just told them to get me back to the back. There was so much pain going through my body that I didn’t know what was going on. It makes sense now with the MRIs and everything coming out to see that the oblique was torn. Now it makes sense why I was in so much pain. But it definitely felt like I was in the ring with Mike Tyson for about 10 seconds.”

Smart joined the team on the bench for Game 2 in Boston and was able to dispense advice to teammates, who said he offered defensive tips during most timeouts. Smart said that, not being able to help on the court, he felt he needed to be in Indiana to assist from the sideline.

"That was one thing Danny [Ainge] emphasized with me, being able to coach from the bench and really help these guys out, because, for some of these guys, it’s their first time taking on bigger roles,” said Smart. "They’re used to playing with or without people this year and unfortunately injuries happen. Stuff happens and they’ve been put in the fire. So being able to help those guys in certain things on this team is big for me, because they trust me to do that.”

Coach Smart has been diving into the film hoping to give his team hints about what might be coming.

"Just plays I know they’re going to run, plays I picked up on or were scouted,” said Smart. "The plays they like to run that we watch on video. And just trying to give those guys an extension of [coach] Brad [Stevens] on the floor. Only so much Brad can do — he has all these players to manage, and I’m watching those guys on the court. I can see a lot more things than Brad probably could because he’s watching something else. Just try to keep them in the right place and guide them off the court.”

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Dwyane Wade breaks silence on Paul Pierce debate, takes high road

Dwyane Wade breaks silence on Paul Pierce debate, takes high road

Everyone seemed to have a take on the Paul Pierce vs Dwyane Wade debate, except Wade himself. 

On Sunday night, the Miami guard finally broke his silence in response to a fan on Twitter. 

The debate started when Pierce claimed he had a better career than Wade towards the end of his final season in the NBA. Intense internet debate followed, while most fans did their best to tear down the accomplishments of either player. 

Pierce said the debate didn't bother him, but former teammate of both players, Ray Allen, was disappointed with how it manifested because it allowed people to take away from what Piere accomplished in his career. 

Wade seemed to take the high road with his response, so hopefully, that puts an end to all of the madness. Both players will be first-ballot Hall of Famers, and their rivalry proved to shape the landscape of what the NBA is today. 

Unfortunately for some, one of them has to be overrated for the other's status to be solidified. 

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Celtics Exit Interviews: How did it all change with Kyrie Irving?

Celtics Exit Interviews: How did it all change with Kyrie Irving?

What’s going to happen with Kyrie?

I’ve heard the question probably a thousand times since the Boston Celtics’ season ended with a whimper earlier this month in Milwaukee. I’ve heard it from family, friends, mailmen, random Celtics fans at the airport, and baristas at Starbucks. I’ve heard it from people around the NBA and I’ve heard it from people that couldn’t name another player on the Celtics roster.

The answer, if we’re being honest, is that your guess is as good as mine. We spent the season adamant that, at the end of the year, Irving would survey his options and realize he has a pretty good situation in Boston. But, certainly, the way it ended — Kyrie in full “let it fly” mode as the Celtics got steamrolled four straight games by the Bucks, then not exactly owning his playoff struggles — wasn’t a particularly inspiring look. So usually I’ll volley the question.

Do you want Irving back?

Most of the time there’s a hesitation, a sign of the internal debate that a lot of Celtics fans seem to be having having while weighing the All-NBA talent against Irving’s leadership flaws. Maybe it’s simply a very vocal minority but we’ve been surprised by the amount of fans that have suggested that maybe it would be best for both sides to move on.

We’ve already told you why you should be careful what you wish for. From the standpoint of Boston remaining a legitimate title contender, it’s almost certainly best that Irving is back. Maybe it’s just an overly emotional aftermath to a maddening season, one in which Irving might be catching too much of the flak for Boston’s overall struggles. But a lot of fans remain conflicted.

All of which made us think: How exactly did we get here? Fans were downright giddy about the possibility of a long-term future for Irving here and he put up the best statistical season of his NBA career. But Boston’s struggles left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth.

We begin our postseason Exit Interviews series with a spotlight on Irving.

"If you’ll have me back, I plan on re-signing here"

When Irving stood before fans at the team’s season-ticket holder event before the season and verbally declared his intent to return, it took almost everyone by surprise. And, even if all parties involved were quick to stress that nothing could be truly agreed upon until the summer, Celtics fans were elated — and eager to rub the news in the faces of Knicks fans. 

Over the past seven months, however, things got weird. The Celtics struggled out of the gates and Irving compounded matters with missteps in his quest to be the team’s vocal leader. Even when he was well-intentioned — like publicly declaring how he called LeBron James for advice — the effect was sometimes more bad than good. When the Celtics’ struggles continued, and Irving’s future was deemed more uncertain than his preseason declaration might have suggested, Irving brooded and it further impacted the team negatively.

If you’re looking for a point where the tide of public opinion swung, it’s probably Feb. 1. Irving’s future had been dragged into the public spotlight in the aftermath of Anthony Davis requesting a trade. While it became rather obvious that Irving was merely a pawn in the quest of some to get Davis to Los Angeles (by planting seeds of doubt about whether Boston might still be player in the Davis sweepstakes this summer), Irving didn’t help matters with his angry reaction to the rumors.

“Somebody else is asking for a trade and I’m throw into that,” Irving fumed at a shootaround before Boston’s visit to the Knicks that day. “Uncertainty comes back on me.”

But Irving didn’t flat out deny the suggestion that he might be having second thoughts. He said simply that, “Boston’s still at the head of that race,” but that suggested, for the first time since before his October declaration, that it was still a race.

Two soundbites in particular went into heavy rotation: “Ask me July 1,” and “I don’t owe anybody s---.”

Maybe if the Celtics were sitting atop the East at that point, then all the noise would have gone away. But Boston could never quite get things right. When Irving and Kevin Durant were taped talking outside the locker room at the All-Star Game in Charlotte — the same All-Star Fame that Irving played in despite missing two games before the break with a knee sprain — the speculation only snowballed about whether the two would join forces in New York.

By the end of February, Irving began suggesting that his focus was on the playoffs. Asked why the postseason would be different than the regular season, Irving brashly suggested because he was here.

Then he endured one of the worst shooting slumps of his career and the Celtics got unceremoniously bounced from the Eastern Conference semifinals in five games. When he dismissively stated, “Who cares?” when asked about his shooting woes after Game 4, it drew the ire of already frustrated Celtics fans who screamed at their TV that they, most certainly, cared.

There is little debate about Irving’s talents. He averaged 23.8 points while shooting 48.7 percent from the floor and 40.1 percent beyond the 3-point arc this season. The Celtics owned an offensive rating of 112.8 when Irving was on the court, and it plummeted by 7.7 points per 100 possessions when he was on the bench.

Irving remains one of the most spellbinding ball-handlers and finishers in the NBA. His room-for-growth checklist would focus more on leadership and accountability than anything on the court (though his defensive intensity and focus could improve, as highlighted in the Milwaukee series).

Ultimately, the question is whether Irving desires to be back. Does he yearn to make amends for his own missteps? Does he want another crack at getting this thing right (albeit, with a cast that could be very different)? 

If Irving does elect to return and the Celtics continue to build around him, how can he win back the fan base? He could show the self-awareness that often evaded him last season. He can own his failures and express a desire for redemption. He can stress again his appreciation for the franchise and the opportunity to wear Celtics green. The city will embrace him; Boston loves nothing better than a redemption story.

You know what else would help? Winning. Winning cures all. irving and the Celtics didn’t do enough of it this year to mask their issues.

And it’s ultimately the reason why the offseason begins with so much uncertainty about Irving and his future. It’s in Irving’s best financial interest to return, with Boston able to offer him a five-year, $190 million maximum salary extension, or about $50 million more than any other suitor.

What’s going to happen with Kyrie? Nothing would surprise us. But it’s hard to imagine just how much has changed in seven months.

It feels a lot like "Game of Thrones": It’s a tantalizing journey that deserves a better ending than what we’ve got at the moment.

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