Rivalry game: Celtics-Lakers always a big deal

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Rivalry game: Celtics-Lakers always a big deal

TORONTO This season's first matchup between the Celtics and the Lakers doesn't quite have the same sizzle as it has in past years.

But that won't stop players from being a little more amped up for this game than most.

Jason Terry who is a neophyte to the Celtics-Lakers rivalry, can't hold back his ear-to-ear grin in talking about Thursday's matchup.

"This is a rivalry; this is what I came to be a Boston Celtic for," Terry said. "Games like this, playing against teams like this. Miami, Lakers, Knicks, Brooklyn, that's what I was brought here for. I just can't wait until we get to (tonight). I'm fired up! This is one that you mark on your calendar."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledges that outsiders might not see this as a marquee game, and there's a reason for that.

"It's probably both of our faults," Rivers said. "Neither one of us has the record that either one of us thought. So nobody's talking about it. Blame us, both teams.

"But it's still the Lakers and the Celtics," he added.

Despite both teams' struggles, each has started to play some of their best basketball of the season.

Boston (25-23) comes in having won five straight while the Lakers (23-26) have won three in a row and six of their last seven games.

However, Los Angeles will have to try and find a way to make up for the loss of Pau Gasol who suffered a tear of the plantar fascia on his right foot. The Lakers have yet to give a timetable for his return, but he's expected to miss at least a month.

"They've been dealing with a lot of adversity," Rivers said. "And it's not through injury and now it is with Pau out and Dwight (Howard)."

In addition to Gasol's injury, the Lakers have played the last three games -- all wins -- without Dwight Howard who aggravated a partially torn labrum in his right shoulder.

But there's no feelings of pity on the part of the Celtics who have had their own issues to deal with this season.

Boston has won five straight, all coming with four-time all-star Rajon Rondo (torn right ACL) out for the season. Less than a week after his season-ending injury, the C's lose Jared Sullinger (back surgery) for the season as well.

Their records in many ways, reflect how both are working through a transition period that has been rocky, to say the least.

"You look at both franchises, there's been a lot of change, a lot of moves," Kevin Garnett said. "Chemistry, it's a mother. It's something that you just can't take for granted. These two franchises are a prime example of that."

That may be true. But for veterans like Paul Pierce, it's still Boston versus the Lakers. And that in itself makes this game a big deal -- a very big deal.

"Everybody is always excited to watch Boston and L.A. no matter what the records are, no matter what it is," Pierce said.

Former Celtics teammates praise Garnett's passion and intensity

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Former Celtics teammates praise Garnett's passion and intensity

WALTHAM, Mass. – Like so many players who have spent part of their NBA journey having Kevin Garnett barking in their ear words of encouragement or just telling them to get the hell out his (bleepin’) way, you can count Avery Bradley among those who will miss the man affectionately known as ‘Big Ticket.’

Garnett recently announced his retirement after 21 NBA seasons, leaving behind a legacy that includes an NBA title won with the Boston Celtics in 2008.

Among the current Celtics, Bradley is the only current member of the team who played with Garnett in Boston.

When Bradley got the news about Garnett’s retirement, he said he sat down and wrote Garnett a letter.

“To let him know how much I appreciate him, how special he is to me,” said Bradley who added that his relationship with Garnett was impactful both on and off the court. “Kevin’s just an amazing person.”

Leon Powe, a member of the Celtics’ championship team in 2008 with Garnett, echoed similar praise about his former teammate.

“As a teammate, as a player, KG meant the world to me,” Powe told CSNNE.com. “Intensity … he brought everything you would want to the game, to the practice field, he was just non-stop energy.”

And when you saw it time after time after time with him, pretty soon it became contagious.

“The intensity just motivated every guy on the team, including me,” Powe said. “It made you want to go out and lay it out on the line for him and the team. You see how passionate he is. You see he’s one of the greats. And when you see one of the greats of the NBA going hard like that all the time, you’re like ‘Man, why can’t I do that? It trickled down to me and every young guy on the team.

Powe added, “He brought that every single day, night, morning, it didn’t matter. He brought that intensity. That’s all you could ask for.”

And Garnett’s impact was about more than changing a franchise’s fortunes in terms of wins and losses.

He also proved to be instrumental in helping re-shape the culture into one in which success was once again defined by winning at the highest levels.

“KG has had as big an impact as anybody I’ve been around in an organization,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. “The thing that stands out the most to me about KG is his team-first mentality. He never wanted it to be about KG, individual success to trump team success. He lived that in his day-to-day practice. That’s something I’ll remember about him.”