Celtics wary of potential traps against hungry teams

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Celtics wary of potential traps against hungry teams

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

SALT LAKE CITY The Celtics went into the All-Star break having completed the toughest stretch of their season. But just because the schedule has looked easier (and will continue to do so) down the stretch doesnt mean the Cs are in for an easy go of things.

Its a trend thats followed the Big Three over their three-plus seasons together, and one that was once again in effect during Monday nights win in Utah. Essentially, when the Celtics take the floor, you can throw out the records, because regardless of where the other team is, or how much they might be struggling, theyre going to have their best for Boston.

I think every night a team feels that way, said Doc Rivers after the win, so that doesnt change. Thats probably good for us in some way. I dont know what, but it has to be good for us. Every night teams want to beat us. That pushes us.

On Monday, it pushed the Celtics into the most exciting game of the second half, one that saw a Jazz team that was down all sorts of luck they were 5-15 in their last 20, recently lost their coach and even more recently lost their franchise player push Boston to the brink before skill and experience took over in a 107-102 victory.

Im always concerned if were going to meet the other teams intensity, said Rivers, because theyre always giddy about playing us and sometimes you dont feel like we return that. But somehow we find a way to win the games.

Boston will have to continue to find ways over this upcoming stretch.

Of their next 15 games, only six will come against current playoff teams, and of those six games, two are against the 26-32 Pacers (currently the Easts eighth seed). The other four would-be playoff opponents are the Sixers, Knicks, Hornets and Grizzlies, but really, thats not a huge concern. The Celtics have consistently shown they can beat and remain focused enough to beat the best this season. And even though they havent exactly struggled with the bottom of the league, theres always the worry that down the stretch as has already happened this season with losses to Cleveland, Toronto, Washington, Detroit and Charlotte theyll look past and get trapped by an inferior opponent.

But they are aware of the potential traps. They know the dangers presented by teams who appear down on their luck and come out playing like their seasons are on the line. As Paul Pierce said, Weve been in a lot of big games together, so that kind of atmosphere doesnt really faze us.

And the veteran Cs have been around long enough to know that regardless of record, theres no such thing as an automatic win in the league.

Nothings easy, said Kevin Garnett. Nothings easy in this league. Sometimes getting up out of your chair is hard. Nothings easy.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Report: Ainge wouldn't trade Nets pick for Butler, but would for George

Report: Ainge wouldn't trade Nets pick for Butler, but would for George

Will the Celtics part with the right to Brooklyn’s 2017 first-round pick in order to get a star before Thursday’s trade deadline? 

MORE TRADE TALK

Citing a pair of NBA executives, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News wrote this week that Danny Ainge’s willingness to trade the pick should be in doubt.

Sola named Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and Paul George as potential targets, adding that the C’s might include the latter.   

Wrote Isola: 

Two executives doubt that Ainge, who historically plays it close to the vest, would give up the Nets pick in a deal for Butler. However, Ainge might consider it in a trade for George, the Pacers-free agent-to-be who has expressed doubts over re-signing with the Pacers.

‘With Danny, no one ever knows what he might do,' said the executive. ‘He's one of the best. If he thinks he can make a run at the Cavs this season, considering all the injuries Cleveland has had, I can see him making a move.

‘Everyone is talking about Butler to Boston but Danny and Larry Bird go way back. Paul George could be the sleeper.’

This season, the 26-year-old George is averaging 22.3 points 6.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists a game. 

Magic Johnson named Lakers president of basketball ops, Kupchak fired

Magic Johnson named Lakers president of basketball ops, Kupchak fired

Magic Johnson was named the Los Angeles Lakers' president of basketball operations after longtime Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and vice president of basketball ops Jim Buss were fired, the team announced.

"Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights [late owner] Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect,” Jeanie Buss, Jerry Buss' daughter, Jim Buss' brother and Lakers president and co-owner, said in a statement. “Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me. Our search for a new General Manager to work with Earvin and Coach Luke Walton is well underway and we hope to announce a new General Manager in short order. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new General Manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness.”

Johnson, the Hall of Famer guard who led L.A. to five NBA titles, said in the same statement: “It’s a dream come true to return to the Lakers as President of Basketball Operations working closely with Jeanie Buss and the Buss family. Since 1979, I’ve been a part of the Laker Nation and I’m passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions.”

Johnson, part of a group that owns MLB's Los Angeles Dodgers, returned to the organization as an adviser earlier this month. Johnson coached the Lakers briefly in the 1993-94 season, going 5-11. 

Johnson's new job with the Lakers won't change his role with the Dodgers, according to the L.A. Times.

The current Lakers have the third-worst record in the NBA at 19-39 after finishing with the second-worst mark in the league (17-65) last season. Kupchak was named an assistant GM under Jerry West in 1986 and in 2000 took over for West as GM.