Kevin Garnett works on his signature 18-footer during Nets practice. (Justin Barasso)

Kevin Garnett works on his signature 18-footer during Nets practice. (Justin Barasso)

Paul Pierce knows the postseason as well as he knows Boston.

“This is the playoffs,”€ he said from the Nets practice facility in East Rutherford, N.J. “This is do or die.”

Pierce played 136 playoff games over 15 seasons for the Celtics. His 24,021 points rank second on the team’s all-time scoring list, brought a championship back to Boston in 2008, and also earned the NBA Finals MVP that very same season. The Truth restored meaning to the NBA’€™s signature franchise, so No. 34 still appreciates that Celtics fans are watching his run in Brooklyn.

“There’€™s a lot of fans [in Boston],” he added, “and I’€™m happy for their support.”

Kevin Garnett spent the last six seasons as a Celtic, patrolling the Garden paint and delivering a Bill Russell-esque intensity focused completely on winning. Up until this season, Garnett had played his last 84 playoff games for Boston, providing the interior defense, elbows, scowls and growls that the people of Boston know intimately well.

“€œThis is a different level of intensity,”€ said Garnett, who verified the fans in Boston understand that vigor and fury. “€œA different level of concentration. Some people can withstand that for 48 minutes, and some can’€™t.”

Pierce and Garnett helped Brooklyn split the first two games with the Atlantic Division champion Raptors. Now the Nets head back to play two home games in the Barclays Center, a place Pierce still finds odd calling home. He has registered two playoff games so far for the Nets, and is still getting used to placing his long arms through a green and white jersey before each game.

“I’€™ve already been through the regular 82 games,” said Pierce, who still wanted to know more about the Red Sox win over the Yankees and the Michael Pineda pine tar incident. “So that’€™s helped me get over that.”€

Pierce also admitted he feels significantly better than he did a year ago, when his Celtics lost in five games to the Knicks in the opening round of the playoffs.

“Throughout the regular season, the [Rajon] Rondo injury physically and mentally took a toll on me,”€ said Pierce. “€œI started playing up toward the 40-minute mark in the second half of the season, and I was kind of spent in the playoffs.”

Despite surprising the Association with 48 wins this season, the Raptors were unable to protect the home-court advantage and dropped the series opener to the Nets. Pierce dropped 15 points in the win, including nine straight in the fourth, while Garnett swallowed up the paint on the defensive end in the fourth quarter.

“We understand we have to take this one game at a time,”€ said Garnett. “When you’€™re playing off energy, momentum, adrenaline, and all that wears down and goes out the window, now it’€™s time to use what you know. If you never experienced that, then you’€™re just playing basic basketball.”

Three more victories will give Brooklyn the opportunity to tangle with the back-to-back champion Heat, including longtime Celtics adversary LeBron James. Ray Allen, an integral piece of the C’s championship in 2008 and the new Big Three, chose to take his talents to South Beach and play for the Heat, a fact the two former Celtics in Brooklyn have yet to forget.

Long memories are no issue for veterans like Pierce and Garnett, who remember their time in Boston as a pinnacle of their career.

“I’€™ve only done this one time,” said Pierce. “It’€™s a hard thing to do.”

“I’€™ve never seen a series in Brooklyn before,” added Garnett. “We’€™re about to see what that’€™s like.”

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda has been suspended for 10 games “for possessing a foreign substance on his person” in their 5-1 loss to the Red Sox on Wednesday, the league announced.

Danny Ainge

Danny Ainge

If you’re a Celtics fan, then you know this: Boston has never had lottery luck. This year, the C’€™s tough luck started early. With the lottery still almost a month away, the C’s already lost a coin flip to Utah, breaking the tie for the fourth position.

Here’€™s what losing the coin flip means for the Celtics‘€™ draft selection.

  • 1. The Celtics get one less combination for a top-three pick than the Jazz. This is the least of Danny Ainge‘€™s concerns. Utah has a 10.4 percent chance at the top pick, and Boston has a 10.3 percent shot. The C’€™s also have 11.1 and 12.0 percent chances at second or third, respectively.
  • 2. The Celtics cannot pick fourth. If both teams miss out on a top-three pick, Utah receives the higher draft spot. As a result, Boston has a 66.6 percent chance of picking between 5-8 if they don’t win a lottery spot.
  • 3. The Celtics’€™ most likely spot to draft is sixth. In fact, there’s a higher chance they pick sixth (34.2 percent) than in the top three (33.4). It’€™s safe to say they’ll be in the top seven, although there’s a 0.3 percent chance they pick eighth.

Until May 20, as I say in every draft piece, nobody can be sure of anything. That being said, let’s pretend the Ping Pong balls fall exactly as they’re suppose to, even if they most certainly will not. Here is my mock draft for picks 1-17 as of April 24, covering both of Ainge’s first-round selections.

  • 1. BUCKS: Jabari Parker (Duke, freshman) — One of the fun things about this draft is that we have no clue who is going to get picked first … or second … or third. But NBA executives believe Parker is the best player in the draft. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported as much. In his poll of 30 NBA execs, 17 would take Parker No. 1 overall (8 said Joel Embiid, 5 went for Andrew Wiggins).
  • 2. 76ERS: Andrew Wiggins (Kansas, freshman) — Wiggins would be a great fit in Philly. They have a young point guard who will soon be Rookie of the Year, and while they still need to find out what Nerlens Noel is, Wiggins would give them the young wing they need to cultivate a star trio.
  • 3. MAGIC: Dante Exum (Australia) — Here’€™s a twist. I’€™m not going to lie; I do not know as much as I would like to about Exum. But I’€™ll tell you what I do know: he’€™s a legit 6-foot-6 combo guard, meaning his size and skill-set are rare to find in the same player. Scouts love him, and the Magic apparently really love him. He has received Penny Hardaway comparisons, which would make Magic fans happy if he avoids injury.
  • 4. JAZZ: Joel Embiid (Kansas, freshman) — Exum’€™s rise makes for an odd pick at four. You absolutely can’€™t pass on a talent like Embiid here, but the Jazz are also stocked with young bigs. They could add him to the rotation, or maybe even work a trade at the top of the draft. As of today, it seems impossible for Embiid to fall past four, and he’€™s still a very likely top-three pick once we see how the lottery plays out.
  • 5. CELTICS: Aaron Gordon (Arizona, freshman) –€“ Somewhat of another surprise here, but Gordon is another player that many feel is on the rise. If Gordon slides further, it is because scouts view him as an NBA ‘tweener. However, Gordon is also seen as a Blake Griffin clone (they even kind of look alike). If that’€™s the case, Gordon is a no-brainer at five. Jared Sullinger and Julius Randle are a tempting combo, but Gordon’€™s defense and versatility makes him a better fit in Boston if they miss out on the top prospects. If the draft were to play out like this, it wouldn’€™t be a surprise for Ainge to trade the pick for a veteran, or even move up to four to get Embiid. If they use it, though, I see Gordon as the best fit.
  • 6. LAKERS: Julius Randle (Kentucky, freshman) — The Lakers have the ability to rebuild through free agency, so this gives them the freedom to simply take the best player on the board. At this point, Randle is most likely just that. If Pau Gasol is re-signed, they can play side-by-side. If Gasol walks, Randle can fill in as his replacement. Or the Lakers could trade the pick for Kevin Love, because they’re the Lakers.
  • 7. KINGS: Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State, sophomore) –€“ Smart has been through a lot of adversity this past season, but there is no denying his talent. The Kings could use a big, strong combo guard, and Smart brings them that. If he keeps his head on straight, Smart has as much potential as almost anyone in the draft.
  • 8. PISTONS: Doug McDermott (Creighton, senior) –€“ The Pistons have a stacked frontcourt, but one of them could be moved this summer. Regardless, McDermott can help them right away. This guy is no Adam Morrison. He can really play. Speaking of Morrison, if for some reason a team jumps Detroit and gets into the top-three (unlikely), this pick goes to the Bobcats. Detroit owns the pick top-eight protected.
  • 9. CAVALIERS: Noah Vonleh (Indiana, freshman) — Vonleh has the talent to be selected higher, but it’€™s hard to argue with the names above him. Vonleh probably has the most upside on the board here, so the Cavs should roll with him. Cleveland is a mess right now, though, so who knows how their offseason will play out?
  • 10. 76ERS: Gary Harris (Michigan State, sophomore) –€“ If the Sixers do add Wiggins to what they already have, they would have a ton of raw talent to develop. Harris gives them more of a sure thing. He’€™s not going to blow anyone away with his game, but he is very solid in all aspects, plays hard and can score the ball.
  • 11. NUGGETS: Dario Saric (Croatia) — Saric is a 6-foot-10 forward that plays inside and outside. He has been called a “point power forward€,” and for a team like Denver with a lot of bangers down low, Saric could bring them some versatility.
  • 12. MAGIC: Tyler Ennis (Syracus, freshman) — Ennis is a perfect pick for the Magic. Jameer Nelson is on his way out, and even though they already have Exum in this draft, the two can play in the backcourt together. The beauty of taking Exum is that they can use him at either guard spot, which keeps their options open with this pick (via the Knicks). Ennis is a real gamer and always seems to keep his cool.
  • 13. TIMBERWOLVES: Nik Stauskas (Michigan, sophomore) –€“ Stauskas is another guy climbing the board, and rightfully so. He can be a very solid off-guard in the league if he reaches his potential. He is a spectacular shooter, and an underrated athlete. He would fit well with the Wolves.
  • 14. SUNS: K.J. McDaniels (Clemson, junior) — McDaniels, believe it or not, is one of the most explosive players in the draft. The Suns had 48 wins this season, so they want help right away for a playoff push next year. McDaniels is 21 years old, and his game should easily translate to the league.
  • 15. HAWKS: T.J. Warren (N.C. State, sophomore) — Another ACC star that gets overlooked. Warren actually beat out Parker for ACC Player of the Year this past season, averaging 24.9 points his sophomore season. Warren could bring the Hawks the wing scoring they need right away.
  • 16. BULLS: James Young (Kentucky, freshman) — At this point, you remember Young for his insane slam over seemingly the entire UConn squad in the championship game. But getting to the rim is just part of Young’€™s game. He is a fantastic shooter, and the Bulls always seem to be looking for wing scorers, especially after the loss of Luol Deng. (This pick is from the Bobcats).
  • 17. CELTICS: Shabazz Napier (UConn, senior) — Call it a hometown pick, but this is a smart one. Napier is more of a sure thing to become a star than any player left on the board, so it really is an easy decision. Whether Rajon Rondo is in Boston or not (I believe he will be), Napier is the guy to take here. Shabazz gets to come home and grow into the star he likely will become. This is a best-player-on-the-board scenario. It just happens to be a hometown guy that plays the same position as your best player.

(Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow)

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

The Celtics split a pair of tie-breaking coin flips but lost the one they really needed, the NBA announced.

The Celtics split a pair of tie-breaking coin flips but lost the one they really needed, the NBA announced.

The Jazz won the first flip, moving into the fourth position in the NBA draft lottery and capturing a 10.4 percent chance at the No. 1 overall pick. The C’s are slotted fifth with a 10.3 percent chance. Utah can pick no lower than seventh while the Celtics could select as low as eighth.

While the two teams have a nearly identical chance at a top-three pick — 33.7 percent for the Jazz and 33.4 for the Celtics — Utah’s luck has more significant ramifications should neither team win a shot at (most likely) Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid. The Jazz have a 9.9 percent shot at the fourth selection, 37.3 percent shot at fifth, 17.6 shot at sixth and 1.4 percent shot at seventh.

More odds

Meanwhile, the C’s cannot get the fourth pick and have a 23.7 percent shot at fifth, 34.2 percent shot at sixth, 8.2 percent shot at seventh and 0.3 percent shot at eighth, according to Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren.

In other words, the Jazz now have a 98.4 percent chance at a top-six pick while the C’s have an 8.5 percent chance at seven or eight. Similarly, Utah gets a 43.6 percent shot at a top-four pick while the C’s are stuck at 33.4 percent.

Odds

As for the good news, the Nets won their tie-breaker over the Wizards, so the Celtics will pick 17th instead of 18th.

 

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach
We wrap up the Celtics season by speaking with Celtics president Danny Ainge about this past season and the team's future.

The NBA season came to a close on Wednesday night. After six consecutive playoff runs, the Celtics might have had their longest season in recent memory. Not in terms of games played, but in terms of how dreadful it was to watch drag on. The Celtics were here in 2007, and they were unconventionally rewarded, we’€™ll see if they are so lucky this time.

Following a 118-102 blowout loss to the Wizards on Wednesday, the Celtics finished the 2013-14 campaign with a record of 25-57. Just one victory better than the 24 wins that landed the Celtics the second-highest lottery odds in ‘€™07. Of course, they got the worst pick possible (fifth overall), but we all know what happened from there. This season’€™s 25 wins are good for a tie for the fourth-highest lottery position with the Jazz — meaning they split the odds of the fourth- and fifth-worst teams. Essentially, Boston owns the 4.5th spot in the draft.

Here is how this all shakes down: The draft lottery will be held on May 20, but Friday will be the first important date to mark on your calendars. A coin flip will take place, in which the winner between Boston and Utah will have a fractionally higher shot at winning a top-three pick. However, the more important aspect of the coin flip is that if both teams fall outside of the top three, the winner will pick one spot higher than the loser. This scenario is not out of the question after what we witnessed in ‘€™07.

The Celtics’€™ official odds of landing the top overall pick in the draft are 10.3 percent. They maintain a 33.5 percent shot at selecting in the top three. This leaves the rest of the odds pointing to the C’€™s picking between fourth and seventh, unless they lose the coin flip, and miss out on a top-three pick along with Utah. In this unlikely scenario, Boston would be left picking somewhere between fifth and eighth.

So now that the season finally comes to an end, here is the clarity we are left with: The Celtics can select anywhere between first and eighth in the draft ‘€“ or seventh by Friday if they win the coin flip. The point? Although it is nice to know their final percentages, none of it actually matters until they pull the ping pong balls on May 20. That is when the certainty will be revealed.

One certainty we do have the luxury of knowing: The Celtics will hold the 17th pick in the draft, courtesy of the Nets. The Nets recently dropped from the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference to the sixth, most likely for playoff matchup purposes. But Danny Ainge will take it, as it moves the C’s up a pick and gives them a pretty solid mid-round selection. As many begin to question the headline players in the draft, the undisputable truth remains that this is a deep draft class.

In the meantime, decisions still are being awaited from Jabari Parker and Julius Randle. Otherwise, 17 of the consensus top-20 prospects already have declared for the draft, making the 17th pick nothing to spit at. Randle and Parker could lift that number to 19 of 20, while Willie Cauley-Stein is the only one returning to school for sure, somewhat surprising.

Rebuilding typically is a long process. But it is tough to find a team that has begun a rebuild with as many assets as the Celtics. Their biggest asset, aside from maybe Rajon Rondo, will be determined in this year’€™s lottery. After 82 games, we know the probabilities. Now we begin to discover the certainties.

It’€™s going to be an interesting summer, Celtics fans.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

Brad Stevens saw a lot in his first season in the NBA as a head coach.

After the 57th and final loss of the season, he gave some insight as to what he learned from his maiden voyage in the pro ranks of basketball.

Brad Stevens saw a lot in his first season in the NBA as a head coach.

After the 57th and final loss of the season, he gave some insight as to what he learned from his maiden voyage in the pro ranks of basketball.

“I think the best thing I learned is that this is not fun to not win but it doesn’t define who you are or how you go about your business. One of the things that I’m probably most happy about with our team is that they didn’t change necessarily who they were. They didn’t let the losing or the multiple losses affect them or their approach, and I hope that I was the same way.”

The best advice for what would be a long season came at the start of the season, when Celtics assistant coach and long-time NBA veteran coach and scout Ron Adams offered some perspective on patience.

“I learned a lot about the NBA game and how it’s played,” Stevens said. “It’s a different kind of basketball. Ron Adams told me at the beginning of the year, ‘If I went and coached high school after 22 years coaching in the NBA, I wouldn’t know what’s going on. It’s 32 minutes, no shot clock. I’d really have to adjust to that.’ I think that’s probably true no matter which way you go. But it is an adjustment. The part I felt most comfortable was in the game, once we got used to the time outs, the 24-second clock and all that other stuff.”

All that other stuff for Stevens starts and ends with better and more consistent defense. It’s what separates talented teams from winning teams in the NBA. It’s what separates teams that can close out games and protect leads from those – like the 2013-14 Celtics – who lose close games time after time down the stretch. Stevens very rarely called his team out after games of this lost season, with a notable exception coming after a lackluster home loss to the Sixers on April 4. But after the final game Wednesday, he delivered a clear and present message to any player that might return next season.

‘€œSo there’€™s a couple different ways to look at it: are you going to get better in your role, or are you going to expand your role? What I mean by that is: are you going to get better at what you do well, or are you going to get better at some other things that make you, that give you the chance to instead of be the eighth guy be the fifth guy, instead of be the fifth guy be the third guy. We have a lot of great data to be able to share and subjective thoughts as well, and I think we can get better with the guys in the room. I think we clearly are going to need to add to our team to be better, but I told them at halftime, I said, ‘€˜We can start it on October 1st or we can start it right now.’€™ That is, we’€™ve got to have a defensive DNA to start next season at a little bit different level than I thought we did at the end of this season. I thought we tried to compete defensively early-on in the year; I didn’€™t think we made the strides that I would’€™ve liked to have made.’€

Stevens took the time Wednesday at halftime of a game in which they surrendered 38 points in the first quarter and 68 points in the half to remind his team of exactly what he will expect going forward.

‘€œAt halftime, I was obviously disappointed in our defensive effort,” Stevens said. “I knew, just look out there, we were undermanned a little bit, but I thought we could play better defensively and it thought we came out in the second half with a great deal of spirit and fight, a little bit more aggressiveness, and it was great until we were worn out. And I thought we wore out and we didn’€™t have any juice in the last 10 minutes or so, prior to that little run at the end. Credit them; they put us in a world of hurt in a lot of different match-ups. It’€™s a good basketball team who’€™s playing well right now, who, as I said earlier, is really sitting pretty for the future because they’€™ve got really good players at the one and the two that are both very young, that have a chance to be elite at their positions.’€

The one player Stevens praised for his work ethic all season was Brandon Bass, the winner of the Red Auerbach award.

“I just told him this in front of the team, he’€™s as good of a pro as we have,” Stevens beamed. “He shows up every day, he’€™s the first one to the gym on the road, he’€™s the first one to the gym at home, he takes care of his body as well or better than any of our players on our team nutrition-wise, stretching-wise, in the weight room. And his individual workouts are deliberate to what applies to making his game good. And I don’€™t think everybody that works on the game anywhere in the world do those things as well as some of the best pros, and I think we need to really embrace that deliberate work-ethic all around the way and Brandon Bass is a great example of that for our team.’€

His lasting impressions from this group?

“I think we can get better, I think we can get better,” Stevens said. “Unlike, you would think at the end of a season like this, I’€™m not concerned that we aren’€™t going to strive to get better, if that makes sense. I think we will work, I think their work-ethics are good, I think their coachability is pretty good, and I think that the one thing that they never really did, you know maybe here or there, there was a line or two, you all know better than I do because you’€™re the ones asking them, they never really splintered.

“Things like this is can splinter you pretty easily, and they stayed together pretty well as far as standing up for one another and being a team and not pointing blame, and it’€™s been a pretty good group from that regard, and that gives you a chance to improve. You know, it’€™s the old adage that you can’€™t improve without accountability, so that gives you a chance moving forward.’€

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

How would you rate Celtics coach Brad Stevens' first NBA season? (AP)

Before the season started, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge offered this caveat: "I guess just realistic expectations is what I preach to the fans." And, realistically, the C's weren't all that good. In fact, by most statistical measures, they were terrible.



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