Celtics

New Cavs know they need to play up to par

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New Cavs know they need to play up to par

BOSTON – You hear players who find themselves teamed up with LeBron James talk about how great it is to play with arguably the best player on the planet.

But when you’ve won at the levels James has for so many years, there’s an unspoken expectation of success and contributions he expects from those around him.

It’s pretty obvious those expectations weren’t being met, which led to Cavs GM Koby Altman triggering a mass exodus via trades of the roster that James and the Cavs began the season with.

And while there’s going to be some time needed for the new Cavs to find their footing in a new city with a new cast of teammates, they already know the most important relationship to develop is one with James.

George Hill, among the new additions by Cleveland at the trade deadline, has been at both ends of the success spectrum. Drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 2008, he understands the nuances of being part of a franchise with a winning culture, the kind that Cleveland has tried to cultivate since James returned three years ago. And having been traded to Cleveland from Sacramento (consistently one of the worst teams in the NBA), Hill knows for this to work requires players to buy into whatever role they’re called upon to play.

And when LeBron James is one of your teammates, that role is pretty clear.

"We have one of the best players in the history of the game, I'm sure he's going to dictate the tempo and things like that," Hill told reporters on Saturday. "We just got (to) do our job, be the best role players we can possibly be. He's the Batman, and we got to be all Robins. We got to figure it out."

Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into this pivotal matchup between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers.

TRIPLE-DOUBLE JAMES

With a roster that has been in a state of influx recently, LeBron James has carried an even heavier load for the Cleveland Cavaliers. And the result has been back-to-back triple doubles coming into today’s game. He has 10 triple-doubles this season, and will try and make it three in a row today which would be the second time this he put together three straight triple-doubles.

SEASON SERIES

It’s hard to believe but we’re only a couple months away from the start of the playoffs, and this game may become a difference-maker in terms of playoff seeding. While Boston has a comfortable 6.5 game cushion over Cleveland, the winner of today’s game will win the head-to-head series which is the first criteria used in breaking a tie.

BEST, WORST OF TIMES FOR ROZIER

This past week or so won’t be forgotten anytime soon for Terry Rozier. He tallied a triple-double in his first start, then followed that up with a career-high 31 points. However, his recent stretch of play includes a 1-for-11 shooting performance in Boston’s 97-91 loss to Indiana on Friday. It was the worst shooting performance of the third-year guard’s career so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of bounce-back performance he’ll have today. And remember, Rozier had a game-high 20 points in Boston’s 102-88 win over the Cavs earlier this season. 

ANTE ZIZIC

Who would have guessed Ante Zizic would be the last man standing in Cleveland as part of the trade with Boston that made Kyrie Irving a Celtic, and sent Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Zizic and a pair of draft picks to the Cavs. Thomas was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers while Crowder was shipped out to Utah (the same team Crowder’s dad played for). Meanwhile, Zizic, drafted with the 23rd overall pick by Boston in 2016, has appeared in 13 games this season for the Cavs while averaging one point and 1.2 rebounds per game.

TODAY IS A GOOD DAY

Players don’t really notice it that much, but there’s usually one day of the week where wins seem to come at a higher clip than others. For the Celtics, that would be Sundays. This season, they have a 5-1 record on the last/first day of the week (depending on your calendar) with the lone Sunday setback being a 103-95 home loss to Orlando on Jan. 21.

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

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.