Bird wins NBA Executive of the Year

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Bird wins NBA Executive of the Year

PHILADELPHIA Larry Legend does it again.

Boston Celtics great Larry Bird continues to add on honors in his post-playing career, the latest being named the NBA's Executive of the Year for the 2011-2012 season.

Bird becomes the first person to win league MVP, Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year honors.

Currently president of basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers, Bird was instrumental in assembling a Pacers that went 42-34 this season and finished with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.

Indiana is the second round of the playoffs now, and are in a 1-1 series tie with the Miami Heat as Games 3 and 4 move to Indiana.

Among his most impressive accomplishments this season:

Hiring Frank Vogel who was the team's interim head coach for the final 46 games of last season.

Signing David West, a player that Danny Ainge and the Celtics were hot after as well.

Trading for Leandro Barbosa, a major part of their second unit.

Getting the most out of recent draft picks Roy Hibbert (2008), Tyler Hansbrough (2009) and Paul George (2010).

With the Celtics, Bird won league MVP three times (1984-1986).

And as a head coach with the Pacers, he was named Coach of the Year in 1998.

For the Executive of the Year award, Bird finished ahead of R.C. Buford of San Antonio and Neil Olshey of the Los Angeles Clippers. Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, finished a distant 14th for the award.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Suns

WATCH: Celtics vs. Suns

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Celtics-Suns preview: Boston focused on Phoenix, not playoff standings

Celtics-Suns preview: Boston focused on Phoenix, not playoff standings

BOSTON – Brad Stevens spent time talking to his team on Thursday about what everyone around them will be talking about between now and the playoffs – catching Cleveland. 

After Boston’s 109-100 win over Indiana and Cleveland’s 126-113 loss at Denver on Wednesday, the Celtics (46-26) are now just one game behind the Cavs (46-24) for the best record in the East. The Celtics hope to continue on their winning ways tonight against Phoenix which is coming off a 126-98 loss at Brooklyn on Thursday night.

As cool as landing that top seed overall in the East would be for the Celtics, Stevens is well aware that it can be a huge distraction that impacts their chances negatively in continuing to play good basketball and rack up wins if there's too much attention paid to it. 

“What we need to focus on is preparing for our next opponent,” Stevens said. “Our focus needs to be on Phoenix, not on anything else.”

The Celtics have already experienced the downside of what can happen if you pay too close attention to playoff positioning. 

Earlier this month, Boston began losing ground as the second-best team in the East to Washington, which eventually moved ahead of Boston briefly during a stretch in which the Celtics lost three of four games. 

“All we did was look at the standings, everyone looking at the standings,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “But we were losing games; we weren’t focused. We came together as a group, and said we can’t worry about where we are. Let’s worry about that when the time is right. Right now, we need to focus on every game and focus on getting better as a team.”

While that may be the Celtics’ collective purpose right now, it's hard to imagine that Boston can completely look past the fact that they can wind up with the best record in the East despite all the injuries, illnesses and stretches of inconsistent play they have had this season.

At least one player – Isaiah Thomas – has no plans of trying to ignore what’s happening around the NBA in regards to other team’s playoff position and how that relates to the Celtics who are focused on finishing with at least one of the top-two seeds in the East. 

“That’s the ultimate goal; get the best seed you possibly can whatever that is,” Thomas said. “We have a chance at number one, we’re a game behind them (Cavaliers). But at the same time, we just have to control what we can and worry about the things we can control and not worry about if Cleveland wins or loses.”

For Boston, the blueprint for success has already been laid out in these final 10 games, most (seven) of which are against teams that are .500 or worst record-wise.

“Just playing the same kind of basketball we played (against Indiana on Wednesday),” said Boston’s Kelly Olynyk. “Just hard on both ends of the floor, play together on both ends of the floor; just Celtics basketball.”

The Celtics might also have some added motivation against the Suns who beat them 109-106 as time expired earlier this season.

With the score tied at 106 with a few ticks left on the game clock, Thomas mishandled the in-bounds pass from Jae Crowder, resulting in the loose ball winding up in the hands of rookie Tyler Ulis who drained a game-winning 3-pointer. 

“It was a tough loss,” Thomas acknowledged. “But I’m the type of guy whether it’s good or bad, I forget about it the next day; I try to if I possibly can. That was a crazy ending, but things happen in the NBA. You just have to move on.”