Garnett held team meeting prior to All-Star break

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Garnett held team meeting prior to All-Star break

CLEVELAND The Boston Celtics were as undermanned as we've seen them all season in a 15-point loss at Oklahoma City to close out the pre-All Star break portion of their schedule.

No Jermaine O'Neal (wrist). No Brandon Bass (left knee). No Chris Wilcox (groin)

But Kevin Garnett, one of only three bigs (Greg Stiemsma and JaJuan Johnson were the two others) still left, didn't care.

Explanations are one thing; excuses, another.

And the C's, as long as he's been with the franchise, were not about making excuses.

So before the team would venture off into the abyss that we know of as All-Star weekend, Garnett held an impromptu team meeting with a clear and very succinct Garnett-esque message.

If you're not ready to step your game up the second half of the season, step aside and don't come back because he doesn't want you and the Celtics don't need you.

Keyon Dooling, who like a number of Celtics has missed games due to injuries, felt Garnett's message could not have come at a better time.

The Celtics (15-17) had lost their fifth straight, and Garnett could sense that coddling - not exactly a strength of his, anyway - was not needed.

He spoke the way he plays; in a strong, but firm and consistent tone.

"We understand what's at stake," Dooling told CSNNE.com. "We have to start, here and now."

The Celtics are looking to reverse their losing ways, beginning on Wednesday against a Cleveland team that's just 1.5 games behind them for the No. 8 and final playoff spot.

"They're playing great," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "Kyrie Irving has put an entire franchise on his back in some ways, and has proven his pick was a pretty good pick."

Irving, the No. 1 overall pick in last June's NBA draft, was named MVP of the Rising Stars competition during all-star weekend that featured the top rookies and second-year players. It was a fitting award considering he's the odds-on favorite now to win the league's rookie of the Year award.

Rivers acknowledged a number of Cavaliers players in addition to Irving, are playing well.

"But I don't worry about that, I worry about us," Rivers said. "If we play well, everything will take care of itself. If we don't, it won't."

And if the C's don't play well, you can rest assured it won't have anything to do with a lack of leadership on the part of Garnett.

"Yeah, Kevin doesn't say much in the sense of being vocal," Dooling said. "He usually lets his play do the talking, and he always does. But it was perfect timing; every time he says something, he has the respect of our guys and it's always good to hear him get in our ears a little bit."

Ortiz: Yankees fans' booing 'wakes up the monster in me'

Ortiz: Yankees fans' booing 'wakes up the monster in me'

In his 1-on-1 interview with CSN Red Sox Insider Sean McAdam, David Ortiz thanks Yankees fans, ahead of his final series at Yankee Stadium, for the motivation they’ve given him throughout his Red Sox career. 

He expressed a similar sentiment in this post on The Players' Tribune website.

 

Stevens’ first practice observation: ‘We’re going to be able to fly around’

Stevens’ first practice observation: ‘We’re going to be able to fly around’

WALTHAM, Mass. –  Before the Celtics fully stretched prior to their first practice of the season, coach Brad Stevens had his players go 5-on-5 in a not-live breakdown while going at about 30 percent full speed or similar to what they would do in a walk-through.

“If that was 30 percent, we’re going to be able to fly around,” said Stevens. “I think it was just a misjudging of what 30 percent is. They were flying early on in practice. We have to be able to fully rotate, we have to guard different positions, you gotta be able to read the game instinctively and obviously there’s an athletic component that allows you to do so effectively.”

Regardless, the Celtics are a team that will rely more on their athleticism in past seasons in order to be effective and live up to the lofty expectations so many have for them this season.

“We have a real good team, real athletic at a lot of spots,” Celtics forward Amir Johnson told CSNNE.com. “We definitely got a couple more high-flyers in the building this year.”

He’s speaking about Gerald Green, a former Slam Dunk champion, and Jaylen Brown, who is considered one of the more athletic players among this year’s rookie class.

And that athleticism was indeed on display in the early moments of the team’s first practice of the season.

But what makes the Celtics a team that could potentially be a major player in the East, is that the increased athleticism is now married to a team whose skill level is underrated.

Talent and athleticism is certainly a bonus for any team.

But the Celtics know the road to being among the game’s elite is long and winding, a journey that they are just beginning to embark on right now.

And while there are plenty of directions that Stevens can put a greater focus on in these early days, it doesn’t appear the Celtics' leader will go that route.

“We’ve got a lot being installed,” Stevens said. “We’ll keep the emphasis on being a blue-collar team and playing together.”