Digging the Draft

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Digging the Draft

The excitement. The drama. The picks. The trades. The genius. The idiocy. The uncomfortable interviews. The hilarious entourages. The gut-wrenching Green Room. The suits designed by Stevie Wonder on LSD. My God, the UPSIDE!

Ladies and gents, its the NBA Draft. And if youre a sports fan, theres nothing like it.

Its not drawn out over four Chris Berman-burdened days like in the NFL. Its not jam-packed with hundreds of high schoolers who will never make it or wont be heard from for years like in baseball and hockey. Its one night, two rounds, 60 players all looking to make an immediate impact. All ready to realize a lifelong dream, and change the course of their lives and this game as we know it.

OK, maybe thats an overstatement, but who cares? Especially since for the first time in a long time, Celtics fans dont have to live vicariously through the excitement of others.

Lets face it: Its been a while since weve had reason to get excited about the draft here in Boston. That's what happens when you have great teams, with few needs and crappy draft positions; when the immediate future of your franchise is already set in stone.

But this year is different. Regardless of what happens with Kevin Garnett, the future of the Celtics is cloudier than it's been since Draft Day 2007. Sure, the page hasn't entirely turned on this era of excellence (although KG could change that), but it's getting close. Throw in Boston's two first rounds picks and a draft class that's deeper than Michael Sweetney's belly button, and we're all expecting the Celtics to make some noise.

How, and with whom? Your guess is as good as mine. You've heard the same names, watched the same highlights and scoured the same mock drafts: Royce White. Jared Sullinger. Andrew Nicholson. Terrence Jones. Fab Melo. Quincy Miller. Jared Cunningham. Tyler Zeller (Oooh! I like that kid, says every Celtics fan over 45). Acie Earl. Joe Forte. They're all on the Celtics radar. They all might help in some way, shape or form. Then again, they all might be off the board by the time Celtics pick. In a way, that takes some of the wind out of our sails. But on the other hand, it just adds to excitement.

That as much as you and I and everyone outside of the Celtics war room will spend the next eight hours trying to makes sense of what might happen, we just don't know. And on top of that, the Celtics don't know either. They can fall in love with as many players as they want. They can make promises or not make promises or build a high-speed bus to cruise Royce White around the country. No matter who the Celtics want, if one of 17 teams Houston, NO and Portland all have multiple picks before Boston want him first than the C's are SOL. It's a scary proposition, but creates so much anticipation. It will leave us at home, on the couch, remote in hand, slamming on the fast-forward button, just begging for a way to make it all happen faster.

And then there are trades. We haven't even talked about trades! With the Celtics there will always be trades, or at least rumors of trades. When you consider Danny's pension for wheeling and dealing, and Doc's proven reluctance to rely on younger players, there's nothing close to a guarantee that the Celtics stay where they are in the draft. Adrian Wojnarowski is already reporting that Boston's aggressively trying to move up into the lottery and turn the potential for two quality young players into one big time baller. And the reports won't stop there. We'll be hearing rumors right up until the moment David Stern creeps up to the podium for the 22nd time.

It's going to be chaos.

It's going be awesome.

Despite months of preparation, and weeks of speculation, for two-plus hours we'll watch the Celtics future unfold, unscripted and in real time. No doubt the results will leave us talking to tomorrow, and will be felt for years to come.

It's the NBA Draft. It's time to get excited.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

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But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.

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Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.

Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.

“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”

And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.

“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”

And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.

“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday night’s game.

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.

Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.

STUDS

Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.

DUDS

Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.