The grand experiment

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The grand experiment

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

OK, so let's try and picture what this is going to look like:

I'm guessing that you walk in, and the first thing you see is the largest man in NBA history stretched out in front of two lockers. He'll dominate the room without even trying, but most of the time, he'll try anyways.

To his right, there's the distinguished, shooting guardfuture politician discussing golf, current events or literally anything else you could think of with a hoard of writers. Next to him, Shrek and Donkey are cracking jokes, trying to earn the big man's attention and teaching each other how to Dougie.

Turning the corner you'll have a 6-foot-11, 14-year vet who's fresh off the most embarrassing playoff performance of his career. He was one of the league's premiere big men before punching a fan in Detroit and watching his career unravel. He made 44 million over the last two years, and hardly deserved a fraction, but now he's been thrown back into the spotlight. He's on a legitimate contender, and has all the motivation (and motivators) in the world. And he's still only 32.

And finally, next to him, there's the most intense and complicated psyche on the team. He's the emotional and spiritual leader, but also a guy who'd rather swallow a nail than have his concentration broken by pregame nonsense. He keeps to himself but his presence is always felt. He is intense. Always.

Getting back to the big guy in the middle, to his left you'll have the soon-to-be face of the franchise. A kid who doesn't say much, who hates the off-court attention, but will be asked to take control of these grown men and NBA legends. He needs to establish himself for the present, but also prepare himself for the future, because he knows that the greatness that surrounds him is very temporary. He has a few things to prove after a discouraging (by his standards) performance in the Finals, and his questionable break up with Team USA, but he'll have to do so while catering to the needs of his many fellow stars. He was an All-Star last season, and will have to make it back to establish himself as a legit All-Star not just a one-year wonder.

Next to the point guard is The Captain. This is his house. Despite all the other names they've brought in, he's been here longer than anyone else. This is his city. And he could have never imagined this was possible. It wasn't even five years ago that he was ready to split town and chase a title in Portland or L.A., and now his teammates have made a combined 44 All-star game appearances. Some of the greatest players of all time have come to Boston to join him, and they're a contender every year.

Next to the Captain, is the Enigma; literally, one of the most fascinating characters to ever put on an NBA uniform. He's hilarious. He's tragic. He's some sort of genius. And he's also the perfect role player on a contender; a guy we always felt would fit well within this new championship dynamic. He's a complete wild card and a legendary joker, and, for better or worse (read: MILFs) will add a dynamic that only he can.

Moving along, there's the humble, incumbent center, who now stares across the room at that man in the middle one of his fiercest rivals and a guy who came to Boston with the intention of stealing the center spotlight. When the incumbent busted his knee, he never imagined having to compete for his job, but now that will be the reality, as free agency looms. Next to him is a soft-spoken, accomplished rapper, who's getting a do-over after a season so horrible it could have knocked him out of the league. Lastly, we've got two kids from Texas and Notre Dame looking around, wondering how the hell they got here.

And that about does no, wait.

Let's not forget the man who was so close to not being there at all. Of course, he decided to give it one more go around, and this is his reward. An unprecedented combination of personality, pride, skill and psychosis. A human experiment if you've ever see one:

The 2010-11 Boston Celtics.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

BOSTON -- While it’s debatable whether the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are rivals, there’s no question there has been a heightened level of animosity towards one another when they play.

When these two met on Jan. 11, the Celtics came away with a 117-108 win.

But the game itself featured plenty of back-and-forth trash talk, finger-pointing, cries of dirty play and NBA fines.

IN FACT . . . Washington plans to bury Boston

“It’ll be a physical game,” said Jae Crowder who was hit with a five-figure fine for his role in a post-game incident involving Washington’s John Wall. “We have to answer the bell; we’ll be ready.”

Crowder knows he and his teammates must balance being the more physical team, with not losing their cool because if tonight’s game is anything like previous ones, there will be trash talk … lots of trash talk.

“They talk a little bit more than other teams,” said Crowder who added that was a factor in the incident him and Wall which cost them $25,000 and $15,000, respectively.

Crowder said a flagrant-foul committed by Washington’s Bradley Beal against Marcus Smart was what really cranked the level of animosity that was already at a high level.

But Beal probably hasn’t fully put behind him an incident last season in which Smart broke his nose and put him in the league’s concussion protocol program on a Smart drive to the basket.

As far as the hard foul that Beal delivered to him earlier this month, Smart said, “you take exception to every hard foul.”

Smart added, “It’s the game of basketball. You play with your emotions and intensity and everything like that. It comes with the game.”

While Crowder understands the Celtics have to play a physical brand of basketball, he’s not looking to do anything that might result in him having to cut another $25,000 check which was the amount of his fine from the Jan. 11 game against the Wizards.

“I’m looking at it as another game we have to win,” Crowder said. “I’m not looking at it as a rivalry or anything like that. I’m not coming in talking; they might.”

For the Wizards, winners in four of their five games since losing to Boston, a major key to their success lies in the play of their backcourt.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the latest high-scoring backcourt tandem that the Celtics have to be worried about.

And making matters worse for Boston, the Celtics will have to try and make due without Avery Bradley who is still dealing with a right Achilles injury.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the 6-foot-2 Bradley was not going to be with the team in Washington and would most likely be out all this week.

That means Boston will lean heavily on Smart to not only help the offense run relatively smooth, but also provide some much-needed defense to help limit Wall and Beal who collectively rank among the higher-scoring starting backcourts in the NBA.

“We have to slow them down; by any means we have to slow them down,” Thomas said. “We know they go as far as those two take them. It’s going to be a tough game. They have a lot of momentum at home. It’ll be a tough game for us. But we’re ready for the opportunity.”

Wall and Beal are just the latest in a string of high-scoring backcourts that the Celtics have had to contend with recently.

In Saturday’s 127-123 overtime home loss to Portland, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to score 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting from the field.

“This stretch of backcourts is exceptionally difficult,” Stevens said. “They (Wall and Beal) both should be and certainly are in the discussion for the all-star team. It’s a real difficult challenge. Our guys are going to have to be really good on both ends of the floor.”

Wizards to Celtics: We're going to bury you

Wizards to Celtics: We're going to bury you

The last time Boston played at Washington, the Wizards buried them by 25 points.

It seems the Wizards have a similar mindset for Tuesday’s game which will feature every Wizards playing showing up in all-black.

“You know where we’re going with that,” Washington’s Kelly Oubre Jr. told the Washington Post’s Candace Buckner.

Yes.

We do.

But in case anyone wasn’t sure, let John Wall put the cookies on the bottom shelf for you and explain in succinct terms.

“A fun-er-ral!” he said with the man who thought this up, Bradley Beal, in the background yelling, “Yaa!”

The Celtics players acknowledged that Tuesday’s game would most likely be a physical, trash-talking affair.

That stems from their matchup two weeks ago that included a lot of physical play both teams that ultimately ended with the Celtics coming away with a 117-108 win.

ROUND ONE: THE JANUARY 11 GAME

Bradley Beal was whistled for a flagrant-one foul against Marcus Smart that seemed to get both benches hyped up.

Those two have a history dating back to last season when Smart, while driving to the basket, landed his left forearm across Beal’s face. The blow resulted in Beal’s nose being broken in addition to being put in the league’s concussion protocol program.

And after the Jan. 11 game, Jae Crowder and John Wall had a heated exchange of words that ended with Crowder’s pushing his finger into Wall’s nose, and Wall retaliating by slapping Crowder’s face.

The league fined Crowder $25,000 and Wall $15,000 for their roles in the incident.

“It’s going to be a competitive game,” Wall said. “Hopefully everybody just keep it clean and … makes it one of those great battles.”

Said Beal: “We want to keep it clean as much as possible but we know it’ll probably get chippy, a little trash talking.”

Isaiah Thomas, who was whistled for a technical foul in the Jan. 11 game, understands emotions will run pretty high in Tuesday’s game.

 “You just have to be ready for whatever comes our way,” Thomas said. “We’re not going to shy away from it. But we’re all human. There will probably be a little bit of physicality, a little bit of things to carry over to tomorrow’s game. But the most important thing is we just have to try and take care of business.”