OFFSEASON

Pietrus says Game 7 means 'fighting for your jersey'

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Pietrus says Game 7 means 'fighting for your jersey'

WALTHAM Despite all the chatter about the Boston Celtics and their edge in experience over the Philadelphia 76ers, few outside of the Big Four understand what a playoff Game 7 feels like.

Mickael Pietrus does.

In fact, his lone Game 7 experience came at the expense of the Celtics in 2009, when he played for the Orlando Magic and they came into the Garden and left with a 101-82 win.

That would serve as the lone Game 7 loss at home during the Big Three era.

Pietrus remembers that game vividly, a game in which he scored 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting.

Now that he's a member of the Celtics, he'll bring a similar approach -- win at all costs -- to Saturday's Game 7 matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers, with the winner moving on to the Eastern Conference finals to face the Miami Heat.

"I'm fighting for my jersey," he tells CSNNE.com. "I'm coming to protect my jersey. I wear a Celtics jersey. I have too much pride. I'm not going to let them have it easy. I'm going to fight for my jersey; fight for my teammates; fight for the Celtics."

And that, more than anything else, is what Game 7's are about.

It is a brutal slugfest between teams that are well aware that their season has literally come down to this one game.

"Whoever steps out on the that court, understands this is it, this could be the season," said Paul Pierce. "We have to play like a desperate team, regardless of if we're home or not; whoever wants it the most, is going to get it."

Pierce has delivered a slew of big-game performances in his career, but few were better than the 41-point effort he had in the C's 97-92 Game 7 win over Cleveland in 2008.

"I like challenges; I like being in pressure situations," said Pierce, who will be playing in his seventh Game 7 on Saturday -- more than any other Celtic except Ray Allen, who has already played in seven. "Game 7, I been there before. I understand what it takes, and I'm ready for it."

For Pietrus, Game 7's in Boston mean more - a lot more - than others.

"Whatever it takes, fight for your jersey," he reiterated. "That's what the Celtics are about; it's all about fight. It's not about how many points you score. It's not about who scores. You fight; you fight to win. That's what it means to be a Celtic."

As much as this game is about the playoff survival, there's no mistaking that for players like Pietrus, pride is also a factor.

"This is a special franchise; even when you play elsewhere, you kind of have that in mind when you talk about the Boston Celtics," guard Keyon Dooling told CSNNE.com in an earlier interview. "There's a brotherhood here that's really special and unique; we're always pulling for one another and pushing each other to get better. It really is something special."

That's why while disappointed, the Celtics are far from devastated at the news that Avery Bradley had to have season-ending shoulder surgery which robs them of their best on-the-ball defender.

"We've been through this all year," said coach Doc Rivers. "Stuff happens; you deal with it and move on. That's what we've been, and that's what we'll have to be (in Game 7)."

Rivers has raved all year about how this group of C's is one of the best teams he has ever coached.

Not necessarily because of their talent or ability to win.

But more because of their fighting spirit, the ability to persevere when the odds are stacked against them.

"They have a way of being ready," Rivers said.

Pietrus believes he has a good feel for why the Celtics have been able to overcome a season filled with injuries and other assorted setbacks.

"It comes down to how hard are you willing to fight for your team," Pietrus said. "That's what it takes. I'm ready . . . and so are my teammates. Let's go!"

OFFSEASON

Top 5 free agent wings Boston Celtics could target

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Top 5 free agent wings Boston Celtics could target

BOSTON – If there’s one thing we can expect from the Boston Celtics, it’s that they will take a lot of shots.

In fact, last season they led the league with 89.4 field goal attempts per game. Getting shots off is a good thing.

Making them?

Even better.

And it is this latter point that serves as the motivation for the Celtics to give serious thought to adding another wing player to a roster that’s already guard-heavy.

Despite leading the league in shots taken, the Celtics ranked among the bottom-10 (25th overall) in field goal percentage.

That said, here are a handful of wing players who are on the Celtics’ radar this summer with free agency beginning on Thursday.

 

5. DeMar DeRozan, SG, Toronto

One of the better scoring wing players in the NBA, DeRozan did not plan to talk to any other teams during free agency other than the Toronto Raptors despite rumors during the season that the Los Angeles Lakers would make a run at the former USC standout and Compton, Calif. native. DeRozan has averaged at least 20 points each of the last three seasons which includes a career-high 23.5 points this past season. And unlike most wing scorers, DeRozan does not look to shoot 3s often. But as we saw last season when he shot a career-best 33.8 percent, it is becoming a more reliable shot that compliments his strength of attacking the rim. The Celtics would love to have a crack at him, but they know better. DeRozan isn’t going anywhere.

 

4. Evan Fournier, SG, Orlando (restricted)

Whatever chance teams thought they might have had at landing Fournier, took a hit when the Magic traded away Victor Oladipo to Oklahoma City. Do not be surprised if the Magic and Fournier’s camp work towards getting a deal done as Fournier averaged a career-high 15.4 points last season. The four-year veteran has improved his scoring average every season and shot a career-best 40 percent on 3s last season. Fournier’s shooting and deceptively solid ball-handling make him a vital cog in Orlando’s chances at success going forward. As for Boston, the Celtics like Fournier’s game but like DeRozan, understand it will be extremely difficult to pry him from his current team.

 

3. Arron Afflalo, SG/SF, New York

The nine-year veteran is one of the more under-rated free agents on the market this summer. An above-average defender, Afflalo has averaged double digits scoring each of the last six seasons in addition to being a career 38.5 percent 3-point shooter. Those two qualities make the 30-year-old Afflalo a player that one could easily see fitting in quite well with the Boston Celtics. However, acquiring him would likely involve moving at least one of the team’s younger guards just to create a clearer path to playing time. Because at this point in his career, Afflalo is very interested in being part of a winning situation in which he gets decent court time which is something that’s far from a given considering how the Celtics’ roster is currently constructed.

 

2. Jared Dudley, SG/SF, Washington

Dudley is one of the few free agents who has made no secret about wanting to play for the Celtics, and actually has something to offer. The 30-year-old Dudley is a career 8.4 points per game scorer who has embraced his role in this league as a key reserve off the bench. He is a near 40 percent (39.9) shooter from 3-point range for his career and shot 42 percent last season for the Washington Wizards. The challenge is figuring out what role he would play for a Celtics team that’s extremely deep with perimeter talent. But Dudley’s 3-point shooting, desire to don the Green and White, and experience are all factors that make him an attractive free agent to Boston.

 

1. Evan Turner, SG/SF, Boston

There may not have been any player on the Celtics roster that head coach Brad Stevens trusted more than Evan Turner, something that should not be taken lightly when it comes to Turner’s free agency and how he handles what should be a decent amount of suitors. His career was at a crossroads when he came to Boston two years ago. Now he’s considered one of the best reserves in the NBA, a player whose multi-faceted skillset fits in well with the direction that most teams are looking to go with their roster. Turner’s price tag should be north of $10 million per season, which might be a bit too rich for the Celtics’ liking. But if a deal can be struck, Boston would be wise to do so. Because as much as they benefited from Isaiah Thomas’ all-star season and the emergence of Jae Crowder and the steady play of Avery Bradley at both ends of the floor, it was Turner who had the ball in his hands down the stretch of many games. And it was Turner who often made the right decision when it mattered most, something that’s not lost on the Celtics or head coach Brad Stevens who has made no secret about his desire to have Turner back with Boston next season.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be followed on Twitter: @SherrodbCSN

OFFSEASON

Could Kevin Durant's love for Larry Bird lead him to the Celtics?

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Could Kevin Durant's love for Larry Bird lead him to the Celtics?

In Episode 15 of CSN's "Celtics Talk" podcast, Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely are joined by Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman to discuss the impending free agency of Kevin Durant, and how Boston fits into the puzzle of suitors. Slater talks about how the Thunder fan base is feeling right about now, after the team took the Warriors to seven games. 

As far as Boston is concerned, Slater talks about how Durant has always modeled his game after Celtics legend Larry Bird, and Boston is most likely looking to just get Durant in a room, talk to him about what the franchise is about, and then hope to make another run at him next summer.

Kyle and Sherrod also go over the Celtics’ 2016 draft class, including Jaylen Brown, Guerschon Yabusele, Ante Zizic, Demetrius Jackson, and Ben Bentil. Plus, where does the 2015 Celtics draft class find playing time this season.