Pierce's leadership not wavering amidst C's up-and-down play

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Pierce's leadership not wavering amidst C's up-and-down play

CLEVELAND With a nickname like the Truth, you know Paul Pierce at some point is going to probably keep things more real than some might be comfortable with hearing.

But the Boston Celtics are at a critical point in the season.

Pierce has seen too many highs and lows to shrug off the importance of where the C's stand now.

They are on the tipping over the ledge of mediocrity, and the fall is a painful one.

If not for the Los(t) Angeles Lakers and their woeful play, more attention would be cast on the Celtics and their problems this season.

For Pierce, who has won a title in Boston as well as been a part of a team that lost 18 straight, this season has to rank up there as being one of his most frustrating.

When they lost 18 straight, there was a clear and well-defined reason: that team sucked.

And when they won it all in 2008, that was just as clear: they were smashing teams all season, so winning it all was what they were supposed to do.

But this team, one that was built to be a contender, has been a major letdown. Team Flatline has shown little emotion on the floor or inside the locker room, giving no hint or clue as to whether they understand that there needs to be a heightened sense of urgency.

Right now.

Pierce doesn't know the answer to why this team continues to be so inconsistent, but he wouldn't rule out them lacking an understanding of how important these regular season games are for them to be a team that can go deep into the playoffs.

"A lot of guys on this team never won, been deep in the playoffs," Pierce said. "Don't understand the building process it takes. That's me, Rajon and Kevin's job to help them understand."

Leadership comes in various forms, obviously. And that has been among the many issues that the Celtics have been dealing with this season.

But like most of their problems, it's not on one player or one group or one unit to make it all better.

It has to be a collective turn-about, otherwise it will fail.

About the only positive the Celtics can take from their play this season, is that there's still time to make a strong finish and position themselves well for the playoffs because no one in the East has truly separated themselves yet.

Despite all the up and down play, Pierce remains confident that this group as they are assembled, is still good enough to make a run even if their play suggests otherwise.

"I know we got the pieces in here," Pierce said. "I know we can compete with anybody in the East, anybody in basketball. I'm looking around the league and there's no clear cut team that you can say that just stands out. You can say Oklahoma, maybe them. We played them and showed we could play with them, we beat them on our home court. Miami has their issues. We feel like we can play with them. So that's the frustrating part; how wide open this thing is this year. For us to be sitting (around) .500, this is the point in the season when you want to start making a run, start developing consistency."

And no sooner did the words roll off his lips, Pierce responded, "every time I say it we take steps forwards and then steps back. It's too far in the season for that now."

He's right.

And Tuesday's loss to Cleveland was yet another game in which the C's had their chances, only to squander them away down the stretch.

It is far and away one of the most trying times in Pierce's career, as he tries to get his teammates to see this squad as a work in progress and not a team that's going to continue to get worked over every night.

"I just have to continue to try and lead by example," Pierce said. "Show them on a daily basis how hard it is, how hard you have to work. On top of telling them and explaining ... keep them confident; that we can play with anybody. We know we can do this. Some of these guys sometimes get discouraged. But you have to keep pounding in their head, 'we can beat anybody.'"

Draper: Better financial option for Durant to stay in OKC one more year

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Draper: Better financial option for Durant to stay in OKC one more year

A. Sherrod Blakely and Kyle Draper discuss the chances the Boston Celtics land Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler or DeMarcus Cousins.

Celtics begin working out draft prospects Wednesday

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Celtics begin working out draft prospects Wednesday

BOSTON – The Celtics’ practice facility will become a basketball port-of-call in the coming weeks as some of the best young talent passes through, all with the goal of doing their best to impress the Celtics’ brass.

Austin Ainge, the Celtics’ director of player personnel, said Boston will begin working out players on Wednesday with the first group consisting of six players - two guards, two forwards and two big men.
 
“We’ll put them through a lot of different situations,” Ainge, who declined to identify the six players working out on Wednesday, told CSNNE.com. “We’ll see how bigs are at guarding guards, and guards defending bigger players, some of the roles they would have to play if they were Celtics…We’ll get a good look at what they can do in a lot of different scenarios.”
 
With eight draft picks [three in the first round and five in the second], the list of players making the rounds will likely be longer than usual.
 
Ainge said he anticipated the Celtics will work out 80-100 players, which is slightly more than they usually do.
 
“With trades, you just never really know,” Ainge said. “So we try to work out players all the way through 60.”
 
Speaking of trades, Ainge anticipates the Celtics will be on the phone more than past years because they have so many picks and, by all indications, do not plan to use them all.
 
If Boston can’t package some of their picks to acquire more talent, the Celtics will look even closer than usual at drafting players from overseas with the intent that they don’t join Boston’s roster for a couple of years.
 
Because Boston has so many picks, you would think they would be in position to be more selective than past years when it came to who they brought in for workouts.
 
“With our picks, it is in a player’s best interest to work out for us,” Ainge acknowledged. “But for us, we want to see as many players as possible so that we can draft the best fit, the best player that’s available.”
 
The draft lottery later on May 17 will determine exactly where the Celtics will be selecting with the pick they acquired as part of the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce trade with Brooklyn in 2013.
 
Boston acquired three picks as part of the trade. They used the first one to draft James Young two years ago.
 
This past season, Brooklyn (21-61) finished with the third-worst record, which gives Boston a 15.6 percent chance that the Nets pick it receives will be the No. 1 overall selection. 
 
If Boston lands one of the top-two picks, a workout with LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram – the consensus top-two players in this year’s draft – is likely. And if the Celtics wind up with the No. 2 pick, they might work out Dragan Bender who is the top overseas prospect in this year’s draft.
 
In addition to the Brooklyn pick, which will be no worse than the sixth overall selection, Boston has another pair of first-round picks (16th and 23rd overall), along with five second-round picks (31st, 35th, 45th, 51st and 58th), at their disposal.

 

History of third-best odds in NBA draft lottery

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History of third-best odds in NBA draft lottery

The NBA draft lottery is two weeks away, which means only two more weeks of hitting the “sim lottery” button on our computers while we should be doing work.

Since the weighted lottery system was modified before 1994 giving the team with the worst record a 25-percent chance at the No. 1 pick, the worst team has ended up with the No. 1 pick just three times, most recently the 2015 lottery to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The 25-percent chance, in short, means that out of 1,000 ping pong ball combinations, the worst team going into the lottery has 250 of those combinations. If one of those 250 combinations is pulled, the No. 1 pick goes to that team.

The number of combinations drops per team from worst team in lottery down to the best at No. 14. Since 2005, there are 16 playoff teams and 14 lottery teams. Where the lottery teams rank in record determines how many chances they have at a winning combination. The No. 14 team in the lottery has five chances.

The Boston Celtics go into the lottery holding the Brooklyn Nets’ pick. The Nets finished with the third-worst record this season, giving them 156 combinations, or a 15.6-percent chance at the No. 1 pick.

Combinations are pulled for the top three picks. After that, teams fall into place based on record.

The Celtics have a 46.9-percent chance at landing a Top 3 pick. Picks 1-3 break down virtually equal, at 15.6-percent for the No. 1 seed, 15.6-percent for the No. 2 seed, and 14.7-percent for the No. 3 seed.

Because three teams could leapfrog them (remember, combinations are chosen for just the top three picks), they could fall to as low as the No. 6 seed, but no further. Boston’s chances to land the No. 4 or No. 5 seed actually increase from the first three picks, as they have a 22.6-percent chance at No. 4 and a 26.5-percent chance at No. 5. A No. 6 seed would be extremely unlucky, as there’s just a 4-percent chance at that.

So the question you want to know: How many No. 3 seeds have ended up with the top pick? Since 1994, it’s happened five times, though based on teams with the same record that season, ping pong ball combinations varied. (Example: in 1994, the Bucks were tied with two other teams for the second-worst record, giving them 163 combinations. I included them as one of the five “No. 3 seeds” previously mentioned even though technically they weren’t - it’s close enough.)

The No. 3 seed has never gotten the second pick. It’s gotten the third pick three times, the fourth pick four times, the fifth pick nine times, and the sixth pick once.

Since 2005, the No. 3 lottery team has won the lottery twice (2009, 2013). Let’s take a look at every third-seeded lottery team since then, where there they ended up picking, and who ended up going third in that draft.

Click here for the complete breakdown of each lottery since 2005.