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

Rozier ready to compete for serious minutes in Celtics rotation

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Rozier ready to compete for serious minutes in Celtics rotation

WALTHAM, Mass. – Summer league was in full bloom and Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier was killin’ it.
 
Scoring.
 
Dropping dimes.
 
Swooping in for rebounds.
 
Young fella was having the kind of summer that breeds confidence for him as well as the franchise that shocked many in selecting him as high as they did in 2015.  
 
But as well as he played, he knew getting on the floor wasn’t going to be easy because he would have to cut into the minutes of already-established players.
 
And then he got the news that Evan Turner was leaving for Portland after agreeing to a four-year, $70 million contract.
 
Turner’s departure meant Rozier’s chances of playing regular minutes had indeed arrived.

“Nobody wants to lose a guy like ET; great looker room guy, great down the stretch,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “But that gave me even more of an opportunity to play and step up. It gave me a better feeling about this year, knowing I could get minutes.”

On Monday during media day, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was asked about the void on the Celtic’s roster with Turner now playing for the Blazers.
 
“I miss Evan Turner already; loved having him around,” Ainge said. He’s not going to be easy to replace and neither will Jared Sullinger (he signed a one-year deal with Toronto). But we do have some exciting young players. Jaylen (Brown) and Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier … very exciting players. I don’t know who will get all of Evan’s minutes, but they will be shared and we can fill that void.”

But Turner’s 28.0 minutes per game will likely serve as a portion of the minutes Rozier will carve out for his own this season.
 
“I know he’s going to try and take some of my minutes,” said Celtics all-star guard Isaiah Thomas earlier this summer. “But that’s what it’s about; competing.”
 
Rozier’s competitive nature has stood out during his short time in Boston, with the 22-year-old finding a way to balance that with not being too pushy or too hungry to play.
 
“He’s an All-Star,” Rozier said of Thomas. “I look at it like this. To go up against someone like (Thomas) every day is a blessing.”
 
But Rozier soon adds, “I’m trying to get better, but I want to play too. Getting his minutes, anybody’s minutes, I’m going for it. But I know he’s not going to lighten up and make it easy for me. I know that. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
 
And as he gradually establishes a role for himself on this team, maybe then people will warm up to a player that so many had doubts about when the Celtics selected him with the 16th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft.
 
“I’ve been doubted all my life,” Rozier said. “It ain’t hurt me. I always tell myself, ‘they’re gonna fall in love with me because I play hard and they’re gonna fall in love with my intensity level. People didn’t know who I was; that’s fine. They’ll find out about me soon enough.”

Kelly Olynyk talks about his shoulder injury; improving his consistency

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Kelly Olynyk talks about his shoulder injury; improving his consistency

Celtics forward/center Kelly Olynyk sits down with Mike Gorman and Brian Scalabrine on Media Day to talk about how the recovery from his shoulder injury is progressing and becoming more consistent this season.

Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely then discuss whether this is a make or break year for Olynyk, who will be a restricted free-agent at the end of the season.

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