Doc: Team's performance "un-Celtic"

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Doc: Team's performance "un-Celtic"

TORONTO Doc Rivers is a patient man.

He lost 18 straight at one time and survived, which is amazing in this NBA world.

But he has his breaking point every now and then.

Consider Rivers, broke.

He can be emotional, but he was in rare form during Boston's 86-74 loss on Friday.

Rivers saw first-hand how so much of the progress made by the C's in the past couple of weeks, was seemingly getting wiped out by the team's performance in the last two games - both losses.

In the first quarter, he called a timeout and then, visibly upset, had to call a 20-second timeout moments later because, "we couldn't even run a play out of our timeout".

"That's focus, or something," Rivers said. "We have to fix that. Because we've been playing too well to go back for this to go back down this road again. We kind of worked out all our kinks, and then all of a sudden these two games, it's returned back out of nowhere. It's part of coaching. It shouldn't be, but it is. You just have to keep finding the right button."

Rivers wouldn't point to any particular player, but he makes it absolutely crystal clear that there are some Celtics players not investing as much time as they should in understanding what they need to do once they're on the floor.

To Rivers, it's simply a matter of being professional.

"Not being a professional, drains energy," Rivers said. "Being a professional is knowing every set you run, knowing your rotations. It's draining for the pros who do know, who do the work."

While those words seem directed at the team's new faces, Rivers said there's at least one newcomer who totally gets what being a professional is all about - Mickael Pietrus.

"He's been here the least amount of time," Rivers said. "He knows every single rotation and every single set. Because he's a pro."

Being a pro also rules out using Thursday night's loss to the Lakers as a reason for Friday's disappointing performance.

Rajon Rondo, among the many Celtics who played poorly on Friday, said he thought there was a connection between the two losses.

"In a way, last night's loss kind of lingered on to this loss today," Rondo said. "I think it's a different story if we win the game Thursday night."

Rivers doesn't believe the two games should be all that interconnected to one another.

"If they want to use the overtime Thursday night (as an excuse for Friday's poor performance), then we are not mentally tough enough to be a winner," Rivers said. "If you're tough, if you're tough, you come in and grind this one out and win it, too. If you're not, then you use Thursday night as an excuse."

Making matters even tougher for Boston was the fact that the Raptors (9-19) would come in even more fired up than usual after their last matchup, a 100-64 Celtics blowout win on Feb. 1.

"We beat them by 1,000 last time we played," quipped Rivers. "And they're grown men. They're going to come back and think revenge. They just played so hard. They wanted it so much."

And his team didn't; not even close to wanting it as bad as they should have, or as bad as they'll need to be moving forward.

Several players will need to improve, including Rondo, who, according to Rivers, was "frustrated at halftime".

Rivers added, "He was like, 'Man, I'm playing like crap.' And I said, 'That's fine. But you gotta just keep on playing. You're going to not play well. But it can't affect your energy and effort.' "

But for too many stretches, it appeared as though his struggles did affect him energy-wise and in terms of effort.

By no means was Rondo alone in that department.

However, his position as the team's lead guard makes it more noticeable.

Meanwhile, Rivers and his staff will continue to look at ways to get more consistent play out of the team.

Rivers is all in for that.

But in terms of trying to motivate players to play harder, Rivers said, "I shouldn't beg you to play hard. It's just un-Celtic."

Thomas excited for reunion with Green

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Thomas excited for reunion with Green

WALTHAM, Mass. -- When the phone rang this summer, Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas had to do a double-take when he saw the name on the caller ID.

It was Gerald Green, his ex-teammate in Phoenix.

Although they only shared a locker room for 45 games in Phoenix, the two became quick friends.

On the court they developed instant chemistry while coming off the Suns bench. And that bond spilled off the court as Green would later spend time with Thomas in the Seattle-Tacoma, Wash. area in the summer months.

They were cool with each other, cool enough to where Thomas knew it wasn’t in Green’s nature to pick up the phone and call just to say hi.

“Gerald doesn’t call anybody,” Thomas said. “When he called I knew something was up.”

Green said Boston, the team that drafted him in 2006 straight out of high school, was interested in bringing him back for a second stint with the club.

“I tried to put my two cents in and he got here,” Thomas said.

There were several factors that led Green back to Boston, with a chance to reunite with Thomas being high on that list.

Green, already in Phoenix at the time the Suns signed Thomas in 2014, was impressed with the way the 5-9 guard carried himself.

“He was a genuine guy, came in really humble,” Green said. “I saw the talent was there. I knew he had the potential to be one of the best point guards in this league.”

Thomas certainly made a case for such lofty praise with how he performed last season, good enough to earn his first all-star selection.

What really stuck out to Green was that Thomas’ mentality and approach to the game was almost a carbon copy of his own.

“When we stepped on the court we had the same mentality,” Green said. “By any means necessary, get a bucket and play harder than the next team; just try and push the first team, make the first team better every day.”

Thomas was coming off the bench, showing lots of potential and promise that he could carry a heavier load if given an opportunity to do so.

He averaged 15.2 points, 3.7 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 25.7 minutes off the Suns bench in 46 games. Even more significant was that when Thomas did play for the Suns, they were 26-20.

In the games without him, they were just 13-23.

Green was admittedly disappointed they traded away Thomas, believing that season would have had a very different outcome had they not sent him to Boston.

And just like Green recognized Thomas’ skills and how much his team could have benefited from keeping him around, Thomas speaks in glowing terms about Green and what his return to Boston means for the team.

“We needed someone like him; a guy that could shoot the ball, a guy that could space the floor; instant scorer whether he starts or comes off the bench,” Thomas said. “Where the he starts or come off the bench. He’s going to really help us.”

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

WALTHAM, Mass. – When the news came out that Al Horford was going to be a Boston Celtic, Amir Johnson couldn’t wait to meet his new teammate.

He didn’t have to.

Johnson soon found himself on plane headed to Atlanta to not only work out with Horford, but also try and work out some of the kinks that tend to come up among new teammates in those early days of training camp.

“I took it upon myself when I saw Al was part of the team, I automatically wanted to go down to Atlanta and work,” said Johnson who added that he brought his daughter along for the trip and they went to dinner with Horford’s family during the visit. “I thought it was great just to get that chemistry going. I just wanted to get to known him, make him feel comfortable.”

It’s still early in training camp, but Johnson and Horford seem to be meshing quite well on the floor. 

“The chemistry’s definitely coming along,” Johnson said. “I know when Al wants to roll or pop, and just working my way around it. Al’s more of a popper and eventually he’ll roll. It’s up to me to read whether I stay up or work the baseline.”

Johnson has been in the NBA long enough to know that often the keys to success are subtle nuances that may be overlooked by fans and spectators, but players know are essential to them being successful.

Being able to not only understand a player’s game but figure out how to play well with them, are critical to teammates being successful.

Last season, Johnson was Boston’s primary rim-protecting big man which is a role the 29-year-old Johnson has been cast in the last few years he was in Toronto. Horford brings a similar set of defensive skills to the table which gives Boston a true 1-2 defensive punch along the frontline.

“It’s big time,” Johnson said. “We communicate to each other. It’s all about communication out there; just knowing he can hold it down and he trusts me to hold it down. It’s key.”

GREEN INJURY UPDATE

Gerald Green is expected to get a few more days to rest his hip flexor injury which he said on Thursday was feeling better.

The injury should keep the 6-6 wing from participating in the team’s Green-White scrimmage on Friday, but it isn’t considered serious.

Still, Green is eager to get back and return to full contact work which is why he is getting a steady diet of treatments during the day and returning in the evening for more treatments from the Celtics’ medical staff.

“It’s almost like a precautionary thing; make sure it doesn’t get worst,” Green said.

The injury occurred earlier this week but Green could not pinpoint exactly what he did to suffer the injury.

“I don’t think I stretched properly,” Green said. “I’m not 25 no more. Just try to come out there and go at full speed. Those are things I’ve got to learn now I’m in my 30s.”
Indeed, one of the many benefits of being older now is that Green sees the big picture of things better now, which is why he isn’t trying to rush back to the floor too quickly.

As a veteran, it’s a long season,” Green said. “You’re not trying to do too much to make it worst. Training camp is important, but being healthy at the beginning of the season is even more important.”

RUN, YOUNGSTERS, RUN

Near the end of Thursday’s practice, the Celtics had a full court game of 3-on-3 involving some of the team’s rookies and end-of-the-bench training camp invitees like Jalen Jones of Texas A&M. The 6-7 undrafted rookie had a dunk over Jordan Mickey, a 3-pointer and another strong, uncontested flush at the rim in a matter of minutes. He’s likely to wind up with Boston’s Developmental League team, the Maine Red Claws.

With Thursday morning’s session being the team’s fifth practice this season, head coach Brad Stevens thought it was a good idea to get some of the team’s younger players on the court.

“It was good to play some 3-on-3,” said Stevens who added that it was good for their conditioning since a lot of the running at this point involves trying to get the starters and the likely rotation players as acclimated and familiar with one another as possible. “We try to do that occasionally even through the season just to get everybody up and down.”

TURNOVERS? WHAT TURNOVERS?

Five practices in the books and there’s only one thing that really has stood out to the eyes of Isaiah Thomas.

It’s turnovers.

Apparently the Celtics haven’t committed too many thus far.

“We haven’t turned the ball over as much as teams usually do the first couple of days,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to learn the system, trying to get everybody familiar with what we do. But we’ve been playing well together. Guys are playing hard. Guys have gotten better, worked on their game.”

Ball-handling will be one of the areas to watch during the preseason as the Celtics look to find a replacement for Evan Turner (Portland) who has been one of the team’s best ball-handlers the past couple of seasons.

The Celtics were middle-of-the-pack last season with 13.5 turnovers per game which ranked 14th in the NBA.

Low turnovers often serve as a common trait among playoff teams. Just last season, eight of the top-nine teams in fewest turnovers committed, were in the playoffs.