John Calipari loses his star to scary injury

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John Calipari loses his star to scary injury

From Comcast SportsNetGAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- If there were any questions about Florida's status in the Southeastern Conference following a loss at Arkansas last week, the Gators put those to rest Tuesday night.With another lopsided win in league play.And against defending national champion Kentucky, which had freshman star Nerlens Noel go down with a knee injury.Scottie Wilbekin had 14 points and eight assists, Pat Young recorded his sixth double-double of the season and No. 7 Florida handled the 25th-ranked Wildcats 69-52.The Gators (20-3, 10-1 SEC) snapped a five-game losing streak in the series and improved to 12-0 at home.This one solidified Florida's spot atop the SEC."They're an outstanding basketball team," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "They were last year, they are this year. They're well coached, they're talented, they're very physical. Their guards are just jerking balls out of our guys' hands. We couldn't get near the basket on Young. He just physically took away the rim. And they're very active."The Wildcats (17-7, 8-3) lost for the first time in six games, and it may have been costly.Noel, the nation's leading shot-blocker, injured his left knee in the second half and was taken to a campus hospital for tests.Noel, a forward who averages 10.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 4.5 blocks a game, landed awkwardly on his leg with about 8 minutes to play. He screamed in pain as trainers rushed to his side. Teammates carried him to the locker room. After the game, trainers pushed him through the halls of the O'Connell Center in a wheelchair and with his left leg in a brace."I'm physically sick right now for him," Calipari said. "What I'm hoping is it's not the extreme. I'm hoping it's some sort of twist, but we don't know."Florida had a comfortable lead before the injury.The Gators opened a double-digit lead, 31-19, in the first half on consecutive 3-pointers by Wilbekin, Mike Rosario and Kenny Boynton -- backbreaking shots that frustrated Calipari and had his players looking dazed and confused.Florida extended it to 16 points on Rosario's layup. It was the biggest deficit the Wildcats had faced all season.And they did little to erase it.Young and fellow big man Erik Murphy, who was in early foul trouble, carried the load in the second half.Young made a basket with a nifty, up-and-under move, had a reverse layup and added a sweet, left-handed hook. He finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks."When he gives incredible effort and plays with a really good motor, he's capable of getting double-doubles every night," said Florida coach Billy Donovan, who improved to 2-7 against Calipari. "He rebounded. He made great effort plays, kept balls alive. He did a really good job."Murphy drained a 3-pointer after taking a charge on the other end. He also had three blocks.The Gators needed big games from Young and Murphy considering they played a second game without forward Will Yeguete and were undersized against the Wildcats.Nonetheless, the difference was guard play.Wilbekin sliced through the lane at will, creating open shots for teammates and getting Kentucky's players out of position. Noel, Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley-Stein spent time on the bench in foul trouble."I really thought he played an all-around, very, very good game," Donovan said of Wilbekin, who was benched to start Saturday's win against Mississippi State.Fellow guard Rosario finished with 12 points for Florida, which has won every conference game by double digits. Murphy chipped in 10 points, and Casey Prather added 12 points and two blocks and took several charges, proving again to be a capable replacement for Yeguete.Cauley-Stein and Julius Mays led Kentucky with 10 points apiece.The Wildcats shot 42 percent from the field and had 17 turnovers."We just played soft, scared, uptight," Mays said. "We let the pressure get to us. Usually, we're really good with the press. I don't know what it was today, but we just weren't tough enough."Calipari warned reporters Monday that beating Florida would be a difficult task, especially since the Gators have played so well at home and have a much more experienced roster.The most significant disparities came in the paint and off turnovers. The Gators scored 36 points in the paint and 20 points off turnovers; the Wildcats had 26 points down low and just five off Florida's 11 turnovers.Afterward, though, all the talk was about Noel's injury."I don't know what ended up happening, but it was clear from him moaning in pain that he was struggling," Donovan said. "I admire the way he plays and I admire his energy. I don't know how badly he's hurt, but the energy came from a hustle play. It kind of embodies who he is as a player. He's a hustle-play guy, and you just feel sad if there's any kind of length or duration that he's out because everybody admires in this league, coaches-wise, how he plays the game."

Celtics make progress, but was it a successful season?

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Celtics make progress, but was it a successful season?

BOSTON – Success comes in many shapes and sizes, and is not always seen the same by NBA players – not even teammates.

That was certainly the case following Boston’s 104-92 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks which ended the Celtics season.

While Boston won more regular season games (48) than they did a year ago and put up a much better fight than last season's four-game sweep at the hands of Cleveland, having the season end the way it did at home on Thursday clearly left a bitter taste in the mouths of most players.

Whether this was a successful season is open to debate.

But what’s abundantly clear for the Celtics is this team did indeed make progress from where they were a year ago when they were swept out of the playoffs by Cleveland in the first round.

“You go from 40 (wins) – under .500 and barely making the playoffs and kind of eeking  in at the end by winning six straight to being in the mix for being a top-four seed in the East,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And so yes, there’s progress.”

But as far as this being a successful season, that’s not nearly as cut and dry.

“Of course it’s only going to be one team to have a successful year and that’s’ when you hold that trophy up,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “So, until we do that, it’s not a successful season. We are going to keep building, keep working.”

Celtics guard Marcus Smart had a slightly different opinion on the matter.

“I don’t look at it as a failure, for sure,” Smart said. “We did a lot of great things this season. We’re a young team. That’s good for us coming back. We have a lot of work to do obviously, but I don’t look at the season as a failure. So I guess you can say it was a success for us.”

But looking at how this season ended, while disappointing, serves as a reminder as to how Boston remains a team with talent but plenty of room to grow.

“People have told me all along there’s two really tough tasks, right?” Stevens said. “One is getting to be a very good, competitive team at a top 10-15 level on offense and defense and give yourself a chance to be in the discussion we’re in right now. And that’s been a path in the last three years to get there. And the next one is tough. And that’s been communicated before to me and we’re learning a lot. We learned a lot through this playoff series, but one of the things that I’ve learned is we’ve got to get better. And you know what? That starts with me. I’ve got to get better, and then I think each of our players will look at that accountably as well and we’re all going to be better the next time we take the court.”

And in doing so, look to build off the progress made this season and inch closer towards having a successful season which around here more often than not, means competing for an NBA title.

That’s why for Jared Sullinger, one of the few remaining players from the Big Three era of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen when deep postseason runs were an expectation and not a goal, he doesn’t see this season as being a successful one for the Green team.

“If we’re thinking making it to the playoffs is a successful season, then we’re going in the wrong direction,” Sullinger said. “If you look in this locker room, you see everybody’s down. We didn’t want it to end like that; we wanted to make a run. It’s tough losing like that.”

Sullinger added, “last year we were glad to make the playoffs. This year, we wanted to make a run, we wanted to make some noise. Unfortunately, our noise got cut short.”

C you next season?: Future is unclear for several Celtics

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C you next season?: Future is unclear for several Celtics

BOSTON – There are few guarantees when it comes to the NBA and the Boston Celtics, but one thing’s for certain: change is going to come next season.

This is especially true for the Celtics whose season ended with a 104-92 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, sending the C’s home for the season with a second straight first round exit.

“That’s just the business of the NBA,” said Isaiah Thomas who had a double-double of 25 points and 10 assists which were both game highs on Thursday. “One thing I do know, I ride with these guys until the wheels fall off; I mean this was a special group.”

But whether they stay together remains to be seen.

Among those who could be on the move is Evan Turner, an unrestricted free agent this summer.

He will be among the more heavily pursued Celtics this summer, in large part because of his versatility as both a playmaker and scoring guard off the bench.

Several teams will come hard after Turner, among them being the New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic who are desperate to add talented, proven veterans to their young rosters.

The second year of Jonas Jerebko’s contract becomes fully guaranteed if he’s still on the roster after July 3. Considering the way he played in the postseason as well as his steady presence during the regular season, the Celtics are more than likely to keep him around for next season.

Boston has a pair of restricted free agents in Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger. It is unclear what the Celtics will do with them because it remains to be seen what type of offers (if any) they receive from another team.

“This season didn’t go exactly how I would have wanted it to,” Zeller told CSNNE.com. “But I like it here, I like the coaching staff and the players. So we’ll see what happens this summer. But yeah, I’m definitely open to the idea of coming back next season.”

There’s a certain amount of uncertainty surrounding Amir Johnson who could potentially become a free agent this summer if the Celtics decline to pick up the second year on his contract which is worth $12 million.

When I asked Johnson if he felt he had done enough to have to his second year picked up by the Celtics he told CSNNE.com, “I hope so.”

Johnson added, “We never quit even when we were down big at the end of the game. I feel there’s stuff we can clean up and be better, from the coaching staff to the players to the front office. But there’s something about this team, we don’t have no quit in us. I feel like we can definitely go far if we just put the right pieces together.”

And as far as his future in Boston, “I definitely want to here.”

Only time will tell just how many of Boston’s potential free agents will be riding with the Green Team next season, or be swept away and wind up on another roster in what will surely be an offseason of change.