Celtics searching for goldMORE: Bobby V. vs. Youk -- does it matter?

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Celtics searching for goldMORE: Bobby V. vs. Youk -- does it matter?

Back in 1992, Larry Bird represented the Celtics in the Olympics.

Maybe youve heard about this.

And if so, you probably also know that its now been 20 years and counting since the C's have had another Olympic participant.

Of course, at one point or another, theyve employed a ton of former Olympians: Future Celtics Gary Payton and Shaquille O'Neal won gold in 1996. Payton, KG, Ray Allen and the one-and-only Vin Baker won the 2000 Gold Medal in Athens. Stephon Marbury helped Team USA bring home the bronze in 2004. But Larry Bird is still the only active Celtic to play in the Olympics, and he retired less than 24 hours after winning the gold.

So what gives?

In the time since Bird, I guess there's really only been two legit opportunities. I'm not counting Antoine Walker because he was never really Team USA material. Instead I'm talking about two current C's: Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo.

Pierce was still coming into his own when Team USA went to Sydney in 2000. In 2002, he played for the US in the World Games, but it didn't go well. For one, because the team went 6-3 and finished sixth. For two, because Pierce not the most mature 24-year-old the league has ever seen butted heads with George Karl and Gregg Poppovich. As a result, he was left off the 2004 squad. In 2006, he was named to the National team again, but dropped out of training camp because of elbow surgery. In 2007, he missed out because of shoulder surgery. By 2008, Pierce's Olympic ship had sailed. Call it a combination of bad luck, bad timing and a bad attitude, but it's fair to say that Pierce will leave the game before grabbing the gold.
As for Rondo, we're still unsure of exactly what happened last summer. Did he not make the team because of his bad attitude? Did he have a bad attitude because he wasn't going to make the team? Did he simply not care about representing his country, instead preferring to kick back at home and relax with his family? Whatever the reason, Rondo's not on USA's radar, and with guys like Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving and John Wall not going anywhere soon you wonder if he ever will be.

And that's too bad. As great as it is to watch these guys every season, just once it would be fun to have a Celtic go for the gold. It sucks that Boston has to miss out every fourth summer. But everyone once in a while, we're reminded that it's not so bad. That there are a few advantages to being left out of the Olympics.
Los Angeles Clippers @LAClippers PRESS RELEASE: @blakegriffin surgery scheduled >> nba.comclippersnews 16 Jul 12 Reply Retweet Favorite Yeah, so it's not much, but it's a small consolation knowing that Rondo, Pierce and company will spend the summer resting up and getting healthy instead busting their asses on the other side of the world. Still, just one of these year's it would be nice to have an Olympian.

Maybe Avery Bradley for Brazil in 2016?

Yes, Avery Bradley for Brazil! I'll start the petition.
Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

NBA Question of the Day: Who will be the MVP?

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NBA Question of the Day: Who will be the MVP?

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From now until training camps open, we'll be asking questions about the NBA and the upcoming season. Today: Who will be the NBA MVP?

BOSTON – It’ll be months before we have a feel for who the best players in the NBA will be this season.
 
But it’s never too soon to start looking at potential NBA candidates, is it?

This year’s MVP race will have plenty of contenders of course, some being familiar faces while there’s likely to be at least one or two who emerge as the season progresses.
 
Here’s a look at five players who should emerge as league MVP candidates this season:
 

5. Damian Lillard, Portland
 
Only 26 years old, the former rookie of the year award winner has been selected to a pair of All-Star games. But that’s not what will make him an MVP candidate this season. He plays for the Blazers, a team whose rebuild following LaMarcus Aldridge’s departure to San Antonio, has taken off quicker than expected.
 
Expectations were extremely low for a Portland team that shocked the NBA world and finished with the fifth-best record in the West and advanced to the second round last season.
 
Terry Stotts emerged as one of the league’s better coaches and guard C.J. McCollum garnered the league’s Most Improved Player award.
 
But the engine that makes the Blazers go is Lillard.
 
The 6-foot-2 guard’s ability to score from the perimeter, off the dribble and all points on the floor, makes him an extremely difficult cover.
 
And while the addition of ex-Celtic Evan Turner will help take some of the playmaking pressure off Lillard, this is still his team and will go only as far as he can lead them.
 

4. LeBron James, Cleveland
 
As we saw in Cleveland’s run towards the franchise’s first NBA title last season, James can become the most dominant player at both ends of the floor when the game matters most. And while those qualities will certainly make him one of the best in the game, James isn’t likely to be as dominant as we’ve seen in past years.
 
And the reason can be summed up in two words: Kyrie Irving.
 
Irving really had a coming out of sorts in the NBA Finals when he outplayed two-time league MVP Stephen Curry which was one of the biggest reasons for Cleveland’s championship aspirations coming to fruition.
 
And let’s face it.
 
James can win this award every year and those who vote for him would have plenty of legitimate reasons to do so.
 
But this season, James will likely be sharing more of the limelight than ever with Irving who may be called upon to pick up more of the offensive slack depending on how things play out with free agent J.R. Smith.
 

3. Stephen Curry, Golden State
 
As the reigning league MVP each of the past two seasons, it will be difficult for Curry to do enough to garner a 3-peat.
 
When he won his first MVP award, Golden State was poised to win its first NBA title in 40 years. And last season’s MVP hardware came at the tail-end of an unprecedented season in which Golden State became the gold standard for regular season success with 73 wins.

But this regular season will be one in which Curry’s numbers are likely to take a dip with the arrival of Kevin Durant.

Still, Curry will continue to be the player most of the league’s shooting guards are measured against and far more often than not, fall short in their efforts to be as good as Curry.
 
The addition of Durant will certainly shift some of the immense on-the-floor attention Curry usually gets, which should make for an easier time for Curry.
 
But here’s the thing.
 
Just like opponents will be focusing more attention towards Durant, the same holds true for the media and fans which means Curry may in fact become a more efficient player this year with fewer folks actually recognizing it.
 

2. Paul George, Indiana
 
With a year back in the game following a horrific knee injury, Paul George is poised to re-enter the league MVP race with a vengeance.
 
The 6-9 George comes into this season with a number of factors working out in his favor to at least give his candidacy a legitimate shot of getting started.
 
For starters, he’s as healthy as he has been in years. In the past few years, that has been one of the biggest factors that has kept him from being in the league MVP conversation. Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird has assembled a talented group whose collective strengths work well with what George brings to the game.
 
And speaking of the Pacers, those additions along with George’s ability should lift Indiana into being among the top five or six teams in the East. The closer to the top they finish, the better George’s chances become.
 

1. Kevin Durant, Golden State

Even though Durant has joined a Golden State team that has been to the NBA Finals each of the past two seasons, he will come in and immediately become the alpha male of this team.

Durant probably won't wind up winning a fifth scoring title, but he will still be among the leagues’ top scorers and lead the Warriors offensively.
 
And while the success of Golden State will hinge heavily on the contributions of many, their regular season success will be credited in large part to the addition of Durant which can only enhance his chances of winning league MVP for a second time in his career.
 
He will be the first to tell you that his focus going into this season has absolutely nothing to do with being the NBA’s MVP.
 
And I believe him.
 
Durant signed with Golden State to win a championship; it’s that simple.
 
And in doing so, he bypassed the comfort of staying with Oklahoma City or penning a new narrative in his basketball journey by joining a team trending towards a championship but not quite there yet.
 
But for him to win a championship, it would mean continuing to be a dominant force while meshing his skills with an even more talented group of teammates.
 
For Durant to put up numbers similar to those he has in the past AND win more games towards a title, will be more than enough to assert his place among the game’s top players.
 
It’s what you would expect from the MVP.