A heckler's guide to the Spurs

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A heckler's guide to the Spurs

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

Its been three-and-a-half seasons now since the Celtics regained their NBA relevancy, and in that time theyve birthed more rivalries than Shaq has nicknames.

There's the Lakers (of course), the Pistons, Hawks, Magic, Cavs, Bulls, Bucks, Knicks and Heat, just to name a ton. Basically, since the day KG made the move from Minnesota, half the league has at one point considered themselves Celtic rivals. Its apparently the cool thing to do. Or maybe they just bring that out in people. Or maybe . . . I dont know.

But I do know that when making out that excessive list, you cant include the Spurs and thats disappointing, if not completely understandable.

On one hand, what are you going to do?

They play in different conferences. They only play twice a year, and even then, youre lucky if theres one game where both are at full strength. When you talk about the Celtics and Spurs, you talk about the NBAs Uta Pippigs (but far more sanitary); two teams who couldnt be more cognizant of the fact its a marathon, not a sprint. And while they constantly downplay the significance of the regular season, thats the only time they ever play. They make it hard to really get excited. Two teams pacing themselves against each other . . . lets get it!

For last few seasons, its felt like the Spurs were competing in some parallel NBA universe. Theyve been a team Boston fans have respected from afar, but never really feared. Regardless of their championship pedigree, and consistent success, the Spurs were never the team the city of Boston envisioned at the end of the road. It was never, Man, I hope they have enough to beat the Spurs this year. Weve kind of had tunnel vision in that respect, so in turn, CelticsSpurs never took on that extra special meaning; or at least not to the level of most teams of their caliber.

San Antonio and Cs have been like two wily, old great white sharks patrolling the same ocean. Their paths have crossed a few times. On occasion, theyve maybe even bumped heads. But theyve never faced off when theyre both starving for a meal as a seal swims by. As a result, their games sometimes lack that extra edge; they almost give off the vibe of a friendly between two esteemed European soccer clubs. More of an NBA exhibition. A showcase of two of the leagues more refined and presentable teams. The kind of game that shows up on national Sunday afternoon broadcasts. Sundays are PG-13 at best. Rivalries arent built on Sunday afternoons. And this one never was.

CelticsSpurs? Yeah, I get it. It makes complete sense.

But still, against all odds as opposed to the flash-in-the-pan Hawks, Bucks and Knicks rivalries that have haunted this team this is a rivalry that would be worth rooting for.

Between Garnett and Duncan, Rondo and Parker, the age and the defense, the PopovichRivers chess match and the recent history that would be at stake, this would an NBA Finals worth rooting for. And all things considered with the way each team has played, combined with the problems in L.A., the unproven big-game capabilities of Miami, the changing of the guard in Orlando, Caron Butler going down in Dallas and the Thunder still being a year away this really could be the year that it happens. The year Celtics vs. Spurs finally means something.

(Obviously, this whole columnseason rides on how Kevin Garnett comes back from his muscle strain. But for the sake of conversation lets just assume KG is 100 percent in the playoffs)

Of course, this seasons still very young, and no one knows that more than the Celtics and Spurs. But tonights game could very well be the first step in a season long collision course for these wiley, old great whites and Boston needs to be prepared.

If the Celtics and San Antonio are going to take this to the next level, so are the fans.

With that, and a little research, I rounded up some heckleworthy information on Los Spurs; a cheat sheet to cheap shots, if you will.

Please use with caution and please dont take them too seriously.

DeJuan Blair:

Reason to hate: Has done more with zero ACLs than youll ever do with two.

Embarrassing truth: Actually scored a basket for the Celtics last season.

How to get him: Every time he grabs a rebound, offensive or defense, start screaming, Go back up with it! At some point, hell get confused.

Tim Duncan:

Reason to hate: Set the Celtics organization back 10 years.

Embarrassing truth: Has admitted to an intense fear of sharks

How to get him: Jerry Tarkanian costume.

Matt Bonner:
Reason to hate: Will make your heart ache for Scal; was once tossed from a game for an altercation with poor, defenseless Kevin Garnett.

Embarrassing truth: He has a legendary obsession with sandwiches. Check out this blog

How to Heckle: Make the Garden bread free. Pitas, wraps and pockets only. To force Bonner to perform in a stadium void of sandwiches is to ask the impossible.

Manu Ginobili
Reason to hate: The FLOP

Embarrassing truth: Dead ringer for a bald Balki Bartokomous

How to get him: Invite your coosin Larry to the game. Also, be ready with a, Get off the floor, Balki! Last flight to Mypos leaves at 10! after he flops.

George Hill

Reason to hate: Colts fan!

Embarrassing truth: Found Internet fame last season when someone leaked naked photos hed taken of himself with camera phone.

How to get him: Odens filled more megabytes! Odens filled more megabytes!

Richard Jefferson

Reason to hate: The NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs 2002 and 2003

Embarrassing truth: Famously canceled his wedding, over e-mail, a week before the date

How to get him: Right before hes about to take a foul shout, lay a glass underneath some napkins and stomp on it. Lechaim! (Jeffersons Jewish, right?)

Tony Parker

Reason to hate: Spent three years married to Eva Longoria

Embarassing truth: Screwed things up with Eva Longoria

How to get him: Everyone sitting behind the basket throws on a Rays jersey, You should try Evvvvaaan . . . You should try Evvvvaaan . . .

And the Celtics should try winning. And thankfully, unlike last year, you can be 100 percent sure that they will. And if these two ageless contenders can keep their eyes on the prize and their bodies in one piece for the next few months, we may have a rivalry on our hands.

Thank God, too, because it's been at least 10 minutes since the C's had a new one.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Roethlisberger takes aim at young Steelers teammates after loss to Patriots

Roethlisberger takes aim at young Steelers teammates after loss to Patriots

FOXBORO – Ben Roethlisberger rolled some teammates under the bus Sunday night but it was hard to tell exactly which ones had the tire tracks to prove it.

“It just at times almost felt like it was almost too big for some of the young guys,” said Roethlisberger after the Steelers were sent home sucking on a 36-17 loss.

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

He could have been talking about young receivers Sammie Coates and Cobi Hamilton, each of whom had deep balls slide through or past their hands.

Or he could have been talking about Antonio Brown, who within a week, went from being the star of his own Facebook Live broadcast to being bottled up by the Patriots secondary (seven catches, 77 yards).

While Coates and Hamilton didn’t come up with “combat catches,” a Steelers term that both Roethlisberger and head coach Mike Tomlin employed, Brown launched the Steelers week of preparation by depantsing Tomlin and the rest of the Steelers veterans with his tone deaf self-promotion.  

Roethlisberger may have been talking about the on-field product when he said the following, but it just as easily could be applied to Brown.

“Hopefully this is a learning game for guys to understand that this isn’t promised to anybody,” said Roethlisberger. “Tomorrow’s not promised to any of us and just to make the playoffs isn’t enough to get to this championship game. A lot of guys have been in this league for a long time and haven’t been to any of these or have been to very few, so I hope that they understand the importance and relish the opportunity if it comes again.”

Asked if he thinks the younger players understood that, Roethlisberger said, “I don’t know. That’s a good question. That’s probably a question for other guys, but I know I did.”

Brady on Hogan after record-setting night: 'He's been incredible'

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Brady on Hogan after record-setting night: 'He's been incredible'

FOXBORO -- Someone told Chris Hogan before the AFC Championship that it would be a game he'd look back on 30 years from now and remember in perfect detail. 

That may be difficult for him given the sheer volume of plays he made in Sunday's 36-17 win over the Steelers. Hogan finished the game with nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 12 targets, surpassing Deion Branch for the franchise record for receiving yards in a postseason game. 

"It'll be something that definitely I'll remember for the rest of my career," he said, "and probably for the rest of my life . . . I'm happy for everyone in this locker room, all these guys in the locker room, the coaches. We've worked so hard to get here, and I was just happy that I was able to help this team get a win tonight."

Hogan did more than that. He was pivotal during New England's first touchdown drive of the night, catching passes on three consecutive plays for a total of 41 yards, and then reeling in an easy 16-yard touchdown when the Steelers defense lost track of him in the right half of the end zone. 

"I moved a little bit to the left because they were pressuring up the middle, and the pocket kind of collapsed," Brady said. "So I kind of slid to the left and I had good vision. They kind of bit down on Julian [Edelman] pretty hard, and then Hogs just was standing there in the back of the end zone."

Hogan's other catches were generally more contested than that one, but several were made without a Steelers defender harrassing him. And when they let him be, he made them pay. 

The flea-flicker pass that resulted in Hogan's second score of the day was a kick in the gut for the Steelers defense, putting the Patriots ahead, 17-6. Brady initially needed a reminder of how Hogan scored his second touchdown of the night, saying, "Oh, the flea-flicker. How could I forget that?"

"We ran one earlier in the year against, I think it was Baltimore, and it worked," Brady added. "I hit Hogan on that one too, on a crossing route. Those were well-executed plays. It's nice when you can take advantage of some of those plays, nice to gain some chunks that way when you kind of get some misdirection or double-pass, flea-flicker, something like that. It's a big spark for the team."

At that point Hogan already had racked up a career day. He had never scored multiple touchdowns in an NFL game coming in, and he set his own career-high for receiving in the postseason with 117 yards. In his first and only playoff game the week before, he had 95 yards on four catches. 

Hogan suffered a thigh injury in that game that limited him in practice and made him questionable against the Steelers. But he played, and he gave his team an early boost, helping force the Steelers to play catch-up for the vast majority of the night.

And the injury didn't appear to slow him down all that much. Though there were times when he was slow to get to his feet after being tackled, he showed the kind of speed that allowed him to put himself near the top of the list in the NFL when it comes to yards-per-catch (18.7). Among  receivers with at least 20 catches, he trailed only Sammie Coates (20.7) of the Steelers. 

"He's been incredible," Brady said. "I mean, to lead the league in average yards per catch is spectacular. He's made big plays for us all season. He made big plays in the biggest game of the year for us."

It's one that he'll remember for a long time, but he's hoping to add to that happy memory in two weeks.

"We've grinded throughout this entire year, this is what we worked for, and this is what we wanted to get to," Hogan said. "It's a special moment for all of these guys in this locker room. We'll enjoy this and get back to work because we've got one more."