Celtics

We need more Jaylen Browns and Enes Kanters in quest for positive change

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We need more Jaylen Browns and Enes Kanters in quest for positive change

Jaylen Brown made a 15-hour drive to his native Georgia and, with a Celtics cap on his head and megaphone in his hand, led a peaceful protest Saturday in Atlanta.

Fresh off his own 15-hour drive back to Boston, Enes Kanter joined protesters outside the Massachusetts State House on Sunday and, in his No. 11 Celtics gameday jersey, told a crowd that, “change cannot wait.”

Those were two powerful images. Two basketball players using their platform in hopes of combating racial injustice in a peaceful, positive way.

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What made these individual moments even more powerful was having the support of the Celtics organization behind them. As teammates Marcus Smart and Vincent Poirier joined Boston protesters on Sunday night, the Celtics released a statement noting, “We stand with our players, employees, partners, and fans in being committed to championing the change we need.”

As much as the Celtics organization is regarded for its winning tradition, being at the forefront of social change has likewise been a hallmark for the team and its players. This past weekend conjured memories of Bill Russell at the 1963 March on Washington fighting for civil rights.

In a time when many need strong, non-divisive voices from those in leadership positions, Celtics players — and the organization as a whole — answered the initial call.

Coach Brad Stevens explained the team’s approach in 2017 when Celtics players were pelted with questions in the aftermath of Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem.

"We talk about trying to use our platform to have positive discussion to talk about things like uniting,” said Stevens. “We talk all the time about, leaders unite and inspire people and misleaders divide. So, ultimately, if we can be a team that uses that in a positive way, if we can be individuals that use that in a positive way, we can create a good message that unifies, you’re doing your small part with the platform you’re given.”

The “Shut Up and Dribble” suggestion was always preposterous. NBA players have a stage to positively influence the millions that watch their game and it should be embraced when they use it in a positive manner.

This writer's two young daughters are struggling to understand the senseless death of George Floyd and the emotions that have spilled out in the aftermath. Being able to show them images of Celtics players, something they can connect to, trying to bring people together peacefully and use a horrendous situation to spur positive change makes those conversations a little easier.

We need more athletes to use their stage and amplify their voice. We need more sports teams to stand behind their players when they do such.

We need more Jaylen Browns and Enes Kanters.

2020 NBA Restart: How would Celtics fare in playoff series vs. Heat?

2020 NBA Restart: How would Celtics fare in playoff series vs. Heat?

Miami is always a tough opponent come playoff time, but the Boston Celtics have every reason to feel confident they would prevail if the two were to meet in the playoffs in Orlando. 

In their two regular season matchups, the Celtics won both by an average of 13.5 points. 

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Making the victories even more impressive was Boston playing without some top players, as Marcus Smart (illness) missed the Celtics’ 112-93 win at the TD Garden on Dec. 4 while Jayson Tatum (groin) and Enes Kanter (hip) were both sidelined for the rematch, a 109-101 Celtics win, in Miami on Jan. 28. 

In both wins, Jaylen Brown was the one player the Heat had no answer for containing. After dropping a season-high 31 points on Miami in the first matchup, Brown was just as dominant in the second meeting when he scored 25 points, only to be outshined by Gordon Hayward’s 29. 

For the Celtics, both wins came down to their ability to force Miami into the Jimmy Butler show while limiting the overall impact of those around him.

But the Heat team Boston could see in the playoffs will be better than the squad that the C's faced earlier in the season. Miami has been a notoriously bad three-point shooting team for years. But after the All-Star break, the Heat averaged 15.5 made threes per game, which was fifth-best in the league. And their 40.8 percent shooting on threes after the break was tops in the league. 

The Celtics' starting five has been strong all season, and will look to continue along that path if the two meet up in the playoffs.

For Miami to pull off the upset, look for the Heat’s bench to play a major role. Miami’s second unit averages 41.3 points per game which ranks seventh in the NBA. They would face a Boston squad that’s allowing a league-low 33.6 bench points per game. Part of that strong defense after the break has been Boston’s board work. After the break, they have a rebounding percentage of .510 which ranks ninth in the league, while the Heat’s .496 rebounding percentage ranks 20th. 

PREDICTIONS FOR CELTICS-HEAT PLAYOFF SERIES

A. Sherrod Blakely: Miami is a better team now than it was during either of Boston’s two regular season wins. But Jayson Tatum’s meteoric rise combined with a healthy Kemba Walker will be too much for the Jimmy Butler-led Heat.

Prediction: Celtics in 5 games

Chris Forsberg: The Heat look a little different than the team Boston toppled twice in the regular season and added veteran, playoff-tested experience in Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder. While Jimmy Butler has a penchant for the big stage, he wasn’t able to get a loaded Philly roster out of the second round a year ago.

The task will be even more difficult here and Miami’s younger players will be challenged to maintain their regular-season production. If healthy, the Celtics have more pure talent overall and match up well against Miami’s small-ball ways.

Prediction: Celtics in 5 games

DJ Bean: We've seen Jimmy Butler's numbers drop in the postseason before, and while Bam Adebayo's a stud, they'd have the same problem virtually every team in the East will have: they just don't have the sheer number of stars Boston does. 

Prediction: Celtics in 5 or 6 games

Kara Lawson writes heartfelt tribute to Celtics after landing Duke job

Kara Lawson writes heartfelt tribute to Celtics after landing Duke job

Kara Lawson was only on the Celtics' coaching staff for one season, but it was clearly a special experience both for her and the team.

On Sunday, C's head coach Brad Stevens and some of the Celtics players both congratulated Lawson on her new job as head coach of the women's basketball team at Duke and described how much of an impact she made in her limited time in Boston.

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Marcus Smart was effusive in his praise for the former Olympic gold medalist, saying, "she became more than just my shooting coach, she became a longtime friend and somebody I know I can talk to if I ever need advice.”

On Wednesday morning, it was Lawson's turn to express her appreciation for the Celtics in an emotional social media post, writing, "These men have changed my life. I have loved my time with the Boston Celtics. Our players are authentic, intelligent, creative and passionate men. They motivated me every day to be my best for them."

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It’s been an emotional few days for me. And, while I couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity in front of me at Duke University, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the team I’m leaving behind. These men have changed my life. I have loved my time with the Boston Celtics. Our players are authentic, intelligent, creative and passionate men. They motivated me every day to be my best for them. They surprised me last night by all wearing @DukeWBB T-shirts for an incredible show of support before I head to Durham. I cried. They would probably laugh and tell you I’ve cried a lot these last few days but I will tell you having relationships with players that move you to those kinds of emotions is the most meaningful pursuit one can have as a coach. I love them and I will miss them.

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Seeing the entire C's contingent decked out in Duke women's basketball shirts makes you realize the genuine affection and appreciation the players built for Lawson in such a short time — and it's no surprise that Jayson Tatum is front and center in the picture as Lawson heads to Durham.

Enes Kanter, always a consistent presence on social media, summed up the photo with a perfect one-word caption: FAMILY.

With Lawson leaving the Orlando bubble, the Celtics are replacing her on the traveling coaching staff with Brandon Bailey, who is also in his first season as a Celtics assistant.