T.J. McConnell recalls how Brad Stevens, Celtics embarrassed him in NBA debut

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T.J. McConnell recalls how Brad Stevens, Celtics embarrassed him in NBA debut

Life as a rookie in any professional sports league is going to come with its bumps along the way. Opposing players and coaches can sense blood in the water, and they'll go after the inexperienced player until they prove they can handle it.

That's exactly what happened to 76ers guard T.J. McConnell, who made his debut against the Celtics in October 2015. McConnell relayed how Brad Stevens and the Celtics attacked him right from the get-go in an appearance on the "Woj Pod" with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

"It was one of the most embarassing moments of my life, and one of those gut-check moments where Isaiah Thomas, in my opinion one of the most unguardable guys that I've played against, and you got a coach like Brad Stevens — they called a play as soon as I checked in and Isaiah came off, scored. I come back down, Boston brings the ball back down, I look over at Brad [Stevens] and he goes ‘Again.’

"And Isaiah gets someone a lob. We go back down, don’t score and I look over at Brad and he goes ‘Again.’ I'm like 'Oh, my goodness gracious.' And Isaiah scores again.

"I think I got subbed out after that and I was like ‘Welcome to the NBA.’"

Thomas saw Woj's tweet about McConnell's story and had some kind words for the Sixers guard, treating him way better on Twitter than he did on the court that night at the TD Garden.

McConnell scored just four points in that debut game, a 112-95 Celtics victory, and it kicked off a pretty brutal stretch to kick off his NBA career. Philadelphia started that 2015-16 season with 18 straight losses, and hit Christmas with a ludicrous 1-30 record.

Now McConnell is the last remaining member of that squad, which ended the season with a 10-72 mark, and he's enjoying playing for one of the top teams in the East. But he won't forget that debut appearance when Stevens and Thomas left a lasting memory by torching the rook.

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Kemba Walker injury: Danny Ainge gives update on Celtics star's knee

Kemba Walker injury: Danny Ainge gives update on Celtics star's knee

Boston Celtics point guard Kemba Walker has missed four consecutive games with a left knee injury, including Wednesday night's 114-103 win over the Utaz Jazz on the road.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge gave an update on Walker's knee during his weekly Thursday morning appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich" show, and he doesn't seem too worried about the situation.

“We’re just taking it day by day, and we’re being very cautious with Kemba,” Ainge said. “We feel like we need Kemba to be his best self, and right now, we don’t think that he can sustain what he wants to do. But we are confident that his knee is going to be fine and that he’ll be ready to go at some point in the near future.”

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

A lot has been made of Walker playing in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 16. Walker was among the game's starters for Team Giannis, and he played nearly the entire fourth quarter as the matchup became ultra competitive. Ainge downplayed the impact playing in Chicago has had on Walker's absence.

“I think the All-Star Game is a little bit of an overblown situation,” Ainge said. “I mean, if he plays 20 minutes or he plays 29, I’m not sure it really makes that much of a difference, especially since it’s one game over a six or seven-day period. So, I don’t really have any regrets about that. I think that this has been an issue that has been lingering a little bit from before the All-Star Game and I think that nobody really knew to what extent, and we’re just being really cautious with him right now.”

The Celtics are fortunate to be in a situation where they don't need Walker to rush back. The C's are building a comfortable distance between themselves and the No. 4 seed, so it's looking increasingly likely Boston will earn at least the No. 3 seed. Given the Toronto Raptors' difficult schedule to finish the regular season, getting the No. 2 seed also is a pretty realistic goal for the Celtics. 

It's not crazy to be a little concerned about Walker. He is one of the team's most important players, and the Celtics no doubt are at their best when he's in the lineup. The Celtics taking a cautious approach is absolutely the right decision. It's much better for Walker to miss games in February than be sidelined in April and May when the playoffs are in full swing.

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Kendrick Perkins gives Celtics guard Marcus Smart the ultimate compliment

Kendrick Perkins gives Celtics guard Marcus Smart the ultimate compliment

There's little doubt Marcus Smart is the heart and soul of the Boston Celtics.

Whether it's great leadership, All-NBA caliber defense, 100 percent effort and hustle on almost every play, or carrying the load offensively when needed, Smart gives the Celtics a boost in so many areas. 

Smart's presence was felt at both ends of the floor in Boston's 114-103 win over the Utaz Jazz on the road Wednesday night.

His defense was fantastic. Jazz players shot 4-for-12 from the field, including a lackluster 1-for-8 mark from 3-point range versus Smart. He also made an impact offensively with 17 points, including a couple clutch baskets in the fourth quarter. He had nine assists, too.

Smart's all-around play received a special shotout on Twitter from former Celtics center Kendrick Perkins, who paid the C's guard the ultimate compliment.

Well said, Perk.

Smart embodies all of the qualities that have made the Celtics the premier NBA franchise for more than 50 years. His performance at both ends of the court, as well as his leadership, are so valuable to this Celtics team. If the C's make a deep run in the 2020 NBA playoffs, you can bet Smart will be a driving force behind that success.

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