Blakely: Celtics-Sixers preview


Blakely: Celtics-Sixers preview

BOSTON From their big-time stars to their bench players, the Boston Celtics enter their second round playoff series against Philadelphia a team with lots of concerns - most related to their health.

Ray Allen has a bum right ankle injury and is questionable for Game 1 tonight. Paul Pierce (left knee) says he's good to go, but there's no telling if his sprained MCL injury will become bothersome enough to limit his effectiveness.

There are others, many others, who have health-related issues that make their impact highly questionable going into this second-round series.

Even with uncertain status of some Celtics players, Boston is still the overwhelming favorite against a Philadelphia team that won two of the three regular season matchups.

With the quick turn-around from their first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, Celtics coach Doc Rivers makes no secret about how tough it will be for his team to move past the Sixers.

"It's a challenge because of our bodies," Rivers said. "The Sixers are pretty healthy right now; we're not. So that's the challenge."

Rivers usually gives his team the day off in between games, but he made somewhat of an exception following Thursday's series-clinching win over Atlanta.

The team returned to the basketball court Friday afternoon, although Rivers said they would not practice. Instead, they gathered at the practice facility to start their video preparation for the Sixers in addition to installing parts of their defensive game plan.

"Ray is struggling today (physically), Paul is struggling today (physically)," Rivers said. "The advantages we have is we don't have to get in a plane. Our guys can sleep in (their own) bed and get some rest."

Rest is exactly what Pierce can't get enough of right now.

As far as his sprained MCL injury being a factor in Game 1, Pierce was succinct when asked about how he's feeling.

"Good enough to play (tonight)," said Pierce, who added that it won't get better until he gives it a chance to rest when the season is over.

While there's little doubt that Pierce will be in the starting lineup, how effective will he be is another matter.

The sprained MCL injury in his left knee impacts a part of Pierce's game that, frankly, is a huge part of what makes him one of the league's better one-on-one scorers.

"It really doesn't bother me when I walk around or when I jump straight up," Pierce said. "It's more if I turn the knee in a certain position, it sort of re-aggravates it. I don't have a problem getting up and down the court. It's just there are certain parts of the game where you get into the lane, the physicality of the game, to where you're turning the knee. That's why I'm wearing two knee braces just to kind of prevent that. As far moving up and down laterally, that's OK."

Health is always a factor in the playoffs, but is getting more attention than usual because of 1) the fact that this season was shorter because of the lockout, and 2) we have already seen one team (Chicago) eliminated from the playoffs due to being without their best player, Derrick Rose.

The Sixers will not make any apologies - nor should they - for beating the Bulls and advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

They came into the postseason as an eighth seed in part because one of their key players, Spencer Hawes, went down early in the season with an Achilles Tendon injury. While Philadelphia eventually figured out how to win in his absence, his return disrupted the team's flow and the end result was an end-of-the-season swoon that had many wondering if the Sixers could win a game, let alone the series, against a Chicago team even without Rose who suffered a torn ACL in his left knee near the end of Game 1 in the series.

In the Bulls series, the Sixers' confidence seemed to only grow with each victory that moved them one step closer to joining one of the most exclusive clubs in the NBA - eighth-seeded teams to knock off a top-seed.

Philadelphia became just the fifth team to knock off a top-seeded Goliath, the kind of feat that's sure to get the attention of any team - especially the team that you're about to face in the next round of the playoffs.

"They play with a lot of energy; they play together," said Kevin Garnett. "They know who they are. They're a young team, and they're playing with a lot of confidence."

It should be even higher when you consider the success they had over Boston, even if the C's were on the back end of a back-to-back in all three matchups this season.

"I'm a little happier that they beat us in the fashion that they did during the regular season," Allen said. "Beating them 3-0, if we did in the regular season, you come in a little too cocky and arrogant. But since they beat us, the two times out of three, we know this team is capable and they've had our number. We have to really zone in and focus on beating them and taking care of all those things that we didn't do well in playing them."

Celtics break ground on new practice facility


Celtics break ground on new practice facility

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- When it comes to finding ways to attract the best talent, colleges and universities often seek to upgrade their training facilities as an enticement to prospective players.
So why should it be any different at the pro level?
The Boston Celtics had a groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning for The Auerbach Center at New Balance Headquarters.
“When you think he was hired in 1966 and they’re still honoring him, it’s very humbling,” said Randy Auerbach, Red’s daughter.
New Balance officials echoed similar sentiments about the legendary Red Auerbach, the architect of arguably the greatest dynasty in professional basketball.
“Red Auerbach was a true entrepreneur whose passion for winning and dedication to the sport of basketball and the Boston Celtics was equally matched with his commitment to people and his local community,” said Jim Davis, Chairman and Owner at New Balance.  “New Balance is extremely proud to join with the Boston Celtics in honoring his professional achievements and personal values through ‘Red’s House’ at our Boston world headquarters.”
Celtics president Rich Gotham cited several benefits to moving the team to a state-of-the-art practice facility closer to Boston.
Among the reasons given was the potential for the practice facility to be a potential enticement for free agents.
“Players spend more time in the practice facility than they do in the arena they play in certainly, and maybe more than they do at home,” Gotham said. “So having a place where they feel comfortable, a place where they want to spend time to improve themselves across the board … it’s all coming together in a pretty big way. The best players know it’s integral to their success that make sure that support is there, that infrastructure is there. So when we’re out talking to a player, we’re going to be talking about this practice facility we’re building. Because we do think it’s an important part of our story.”
Some of the features of the new practice facility will include:
·  Two state-of-the-art parquet floor basketball courts where the team will practice
·  Leading edge audio-visual technology throughout the facility
·  Expanded strength and conditioning, training, and recovery facilities
·  Best-in-class locker rooms and players’ lounge
·  Physical therapy areas including hydrotherapy pools
·  Sports science and nutrition facilities
·  Expanded media work room, press conference and broadcast facilities
·  A flexible hospitality area designed for community relations activities, partner gatherings and other guest events
·  Work space for the team’s coaching and basketball front office staffs
While the facility will have all the bells and whistles you would come to expect in a new facility, Gotham said there will be a balance of sorts struck between that and the franchise’s longstanding history.
“What will be clear is it will be … at that intersection of, which is a strange intersection, of innovation but honoring our tradition,” Gotham said. “This will be a building that’s state-of-the-art, moving forward. But at the same time, I think one of the things we’re lucky to have is this treasure trove of great guys who came before us who left great wisdom and great quotes. You can see a lot of that built in. Coach Stevens is big on having motivational phrases around for the guys to see every single day when they come in for practice. If those come from Red Auerbach and Bill Russell, all the better. You’ll see us incorporating those kind of things.”   

Celtics waive R.J. Hunter as James Young makes roster


Celtics waive R.J. Hunter as James Young makes roster

BOSTON – One way or another, R.J. Hunter or James Young was not going to be a Boston Celtic by the end of the day Monday.
The Celtics made their choice by waiving Hunter just hours before the NBA deadline to trim their roster down to 15 players.
Hunter began to show signs of coming around near the end of training camp, but his improved play would eventually be too little too late.

This is certainly good news for Young, who like Hunter, made it clear that he wanted to remain with the Celtics. But it by no means should be seen as a victory for Young who is entering his third NBA season.
The 21-year-old is now part of the 15-man roster, but it still doesn’t address the issue of him playing better to where the Celtics might actually use him with some degree of regularity.
If not for Kelly Olynyk’s shoulder injury, which will keep him out of action until next month, there was a decent chance that Young would begin the season on the inactive roster. But to Young’s credit, he showed a level of dedication to the game that the Celtics had not seen before. He spent most of this past summer in Boston working on his game, trying to get physically stronger. During the preseason, his level of commitment to improving was noticeable as well.
And when he did get a chance to play in the preseason, he did a lot of little things really well, showing the kind of improvement that ultimately put him a leg up on Hunter whom the Celtics drafted last year with the 28th overall pick.
If Hunter isn’t claimed, he becomes an unrestricted free agent who can then sign with any team of his choosing. Do not be surprised if Hunter is claimed off waivers by a team which then assigns him to their Development League affiliate, similar to what the Celtics did with Ryan Kelly over the weekend.