Lester wants to be a better teammate

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Lester wants to be a better teammate

FORT MYERS, Fla. Jon Lester met with the media Sunday morning for the first time this spring. Here are a few of the highlights:

How much hes been looking forward to the start of spring training
Its been a while. I think with the way everything ended, since that day. Obviously, it leaves a bitter taste in everybody's mouth and Im definitely motivated to get back and ready to go. Its been a long winter, and just excited to be here. Cant beat being here. Its an awesome place. They did an awesome job, kind of a different feeling just being out here.

How much he has thought about September
A lot. Its one of those things I dont think you ever really forget. In baseball it seems like every year theres something you never see before. That was one thing Ive never really seen. Now that its over and were here and its a new season, a new start. Im kind of glad a lot of these guys went through it. Im glad I went through it. Its going to make us better. It s going to make us stronger to where if we get in a situation like that where were not paying good, we can reflect back on last year and September and realize, OK, we can get through this and we can learn from it and play better.

On why the team had nothing to draw on in September
I dont think any of us had been through it. I think thats the biggest learning curve is going through situations. And when you go through it the first time youre nave. Were all saying were going to be fine. I think kind of the mindset is were going to be in the playoffs. Well get there and when we get there everybody's going to come back and be healthy and ready to go. We stunk. I stunk. Tampa Bay was better and thats just basically how it was. Now you put that in your filing bank and just like your experiences in the World Series and the playoffs and pitching in tight games, the Yankee series all year, you file those into your memory bank and when you get back into those situations you draw from it and learn from it and know Ok, Ive been in this situation before we know how to handle it.

On manager Bobby Valentine wanting Lester to take more of a leadership role
I want to try to. Its something that I think the guys in my age group never really had to do because weve been around guys like Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek and had veteran guys that have been around a long time and weve just kind of sat back and let them do their thing and kind of follow them. So I think its time for us and me to step up and try to feel comfortable in that situation and try to just do the best I can in it. And hopefully just by me going out and pitching and doing the stuff I do in the weight room and in between starts people can, young kids can see that and say alright well this is what I need to do.

On what he learned from his mistakes
Just not doing it. Just being a better teammate. Being on the bench. With that being said, the starting pitchers do have a lot of stuff to do during the game that we dont get to before the game because position players are the priority. And if were not pitching, we let them go first and we come in after the game starts and do some of our stuff that we need to do, whatever that is as far as re-gen or getting with trainer Mikey Reinold and doing some more arm stuff, some type of rehab or just maintenance. So were not going to be out there all nine innings. But Ill be out there more supporting my teammates.

Thoughts on his September performance
Obviously, its disappointing. I kind of like starting bad and finishing good. Need to go back to that formula. It seems to work better for me. But its disappointing. Its a crucial time of the year. Im supposed to pitch good and I didnt. I dont know why. Physically I was, it was September and I was behind and just trying to grind through it. But its just one of those things. It just wasnt in our cards to be good in September. It stinks. Its disappointing. Usually as soon as the season ends I go home I dont think about baseball. I move on I spend time with my family. We travel, that sort of thing. But it just seemed like it kind of lingered in my head and I think that helped motivate me to get in the gym a little earlier and start getting the movement back to baseball. And I think that kind of added a little bit desire to this year getting down here and getting ready.

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

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Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

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Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.

Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.

Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.

“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”

And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.

“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”

And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.

“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday night’s game.

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.

Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.

STUDS

Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.

DUDS

Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.