Stage is set for Celtics, Clippers

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Stage is set for Celtics, Clippers

As you read this, Im on a flight out west to witness the most significant game in CelticsClippers history. And while that might sound like hyperbole, and might also say more about this "rivalry" than it does the actual, long-term significance of tonights game, the original statement is absolutely true. Tonight is the night.

Theres never been more on the line between these two teams.

For the Clippers, its a 14-game winning streak the longest in franchise history, and the longest the NBA has seen since the Celtics ripped off 19 straight in the fallwinter of 2008. For the Cs, its momentum. A chance to build on their Christmas victory and make a statement against the undisputed hottest team in the league; a bona fide contender in the stacked Western Conference.

Of course, the Celtics are no strangers to big games in LA. Since the Staples Center opened its doors in 1999, some of Boston's most significant victories

and crushing defeats have unfolded on the same floor that they'll grace tonight. So many times before this, they've arrived in LA for an enormous contest, and gone through the same song and dance that they will today. But this time, once they arrive at the arena, everything will be different. The colors, the celebrities, the history, the rivalry. It will be simultaneously familiar and altogether foreign. It's prime time. TNT. EVERYTHING TO PROVE IN LA.

Just against the Clippers.

And as weird as that feels, what are you going to do? This is what happens. Time goes on. Things change. We now live in an NBA world where the Clippers and Knicks are atop the standings in their respective conferences. Where the Grizzlies and Warriors are in contention out West, the Nets are doing the same in the East, and the Timberwolves are an up-and-coming threat. While the Clips were the one franchise that you might expect to never experience this kind of prolonged resurgence, every dog has his day. Especially when that dog is fortunate enough to land a superstar with the No. 1 pick, trade for the best point guard in the league, steal a potential franchise center in the second round and use that foundation to install a winning culture and persuade an unbelievable supporting cast to come join the fun.

Truth be told, for all the talk this summer about how the Celtics might be the deepest team in the NBA, through two months it's the Clippers who can justifiably make that claim. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Caron Butler and (ahem!) Willie Green give them a starting five that can hang with anyone, and one that's complimented by a bench that's led by Jamal Crawford (the former Sixth Man of the Year, who's averaging 16.5 points a night and likely headed to his first All-Star game), Eric Bledsoe (a strong and quick, instant energy PG, who will be a starter in this league before long), Matt Barnes (the quintessential bench guy on a great NBA team) and Lamar Odom (who showed up for camp looking like a manatee, but who is getting in shape and finally earning his keep).

Make no mistake. These guys are good. Real good. As a result, while I somewhat jokingly refer to tonight as the most important game in ClippersCeltics history, the Cs are the team with much more on the line. Even though it's early, the Clippers have already proved their worth this season, with two wins over the Spurs, as well as victories against Miami, Memphis, Atlanta and on the road against the Lakers. Meanwhile, Bostons Christmas Day win over Brooklyn was only their second real significant win of the year and came against a Nets team in their biggest slump of the season. Afterwards, Doc Rivers told reporters that the Celtics are close to becoming a good team again and while, in a perfect world, they'd have both Avery Bradley and Chris Wilcox in the the line-up, tonight offers Boston an immediate chance to back up their coach's encouraging words.

In an arena with which they're all too familiar, against an opponent that's riding high after so many years in the gutter.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Olynyk hasn’t decided if he’ll have shoulder surgery

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Olynyk hasn’t decided if he’ll have shoulder surgery

WALTHAM, Mass. – Kelly Olynyk will consult with additional doctors before deciding whether to have offseason surgery on his right shoulder.
 
The injury kept him out for 12 games in the regular season and he re-aggravated it in Boston’s first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks.
 
“I felt like it was improving,” Olynyk said following his exit interview on Friday. “I had games where it would feel good, games it wouldn’t. It would get hit every game and kind of pinch, set you back. It was tough. It never felt 100 percent the whole time; it never felt 80. It’s tough going down that stretch of games. You want to be at your best when your best is needed.”
 
In the regular season, Olynyk averaged 10 points per game along with 4.1 rebounds while shooting 40.5 percent on 3s.
 
But in the six game series against the Hawks (he missed two games with the shoulder injury), the 7-foot center only scored just two points on 1-for-9 shooting.
 
As for surgery, Olynyk – like most of us – would much rather not have surgery if possible.
 
“It’s always an option when you have an injury of certain degrees,” Olynyk said. “If you can make sure it’s healthy without it, then it’s healthy without it.”
 
Depending on whether he has surgery will potentially impact his availability for the start of next season.
 
Regardless, Olynyk will do what he always does in the offseason — focus on ways to get better.
 
As he addressed the media, he had papers in his hand that included his stats from this season as well as other information pertinent to his offseason.
 
“Stuff to improve” was how Olynyk described the papers.
 
And as he began to elaborate, he grinned, “stuff mostly to improve.”
 
Like a cleaner bill of health, something that would bode well for both Olynyk and the Celtics.
 

Sullinger: It would be very hard to walk away from Celtics

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Sullinger: It would be very hard to walk away from Celtics

BOSTON - It’s easy to look at the Celtics - Hawks series and say that Jared Sullinger has no place on the Boston Celtics.

But that would mean ignoring an entire regular season in which Sullinger put together perhaps the best season of his career.

The C’s center averaged 10.3 points and 8.3 rebounds, and believe it or not was one of the more consistent and dependable players on the team, especially when it came to big men.

Having thought to be out of the rotation completely to begin the year, Sullinger ended up starting 73 of the 81 games he played, both career highs.

There were some weight issues, and that just might be the case for Sullinger for the rest of his career as he’s just a guy with a big frame. It may have caught up to him a bit towards the end of the season and into the playoffs, but more than anything else the Hawks just proved to be a bad matchup for him.

If Boston could have advanced to play the Cavs, history proves that Sullinger would have been an integral part in taking Kevin Love out of the game.

But it didn’t end that way for the Celtics, who were eliminated in six games. Sullinger was ineffective through those six games, and replaced by Jonas Jerebko as the C’s went small a few games into the series. Sullinger averaged just 13.5 minutes, 5.2 points, and 4.5 rebounds in the postseason.

Was it his last with the Celtics? Sullinger is a restricted free agent this summer, but it remains to be seen how interested the Celtics are in having him back. He made it c

“You don’t know what’s gonna happen so I really can’t speak upon the future, but if I leave it’s gonna be tough walking away from the great guys we have in this locker room,” Sullinger said Thursday after his team was eliminated. “I’m gonna take a couple of days just to reflect on this season and how far we came as a unit and just let everything take care of itself.”

Sullinger made it clear, much like his fellow free-agent teammate Evan Turner, that he’d like to be back with the Celtics.

“For sure,” Sullinger said. “When you spend four seasons in the same area and then play for the greatest organization of all time, you see the likes of Bill Russell sitting courtside, Kevin McHale, Bill Walton and all these people that cheer, it’s very hard to walk away from this situation.”

At just 24 years old, Sullinger has a lot of NBA ahead of him provided he can stay ahead of the curve. He knows he still has work to do.

“It was OK. I’ve got to do a lot of things better, but it was OK,” Sullinger said of his season. “My window is getting smaller and smaller of constantly talking about I need to improve, I need to improve.”