Notes: The value of the Diesel

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Notes: The value of the Diesel

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- This summer, former teammates Shaquille O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas left Cleveland and went in different directions. Shaq went north to Boston, Ilgauskas flew south to Miami.

Even though the big men are on rivaled teams now, Ilgauskas enjoys the camaraderie he shared with O'Neal last season on the Cavaliers.

"He was great to me, for us. He really was," Ilgauskas told CSNNE.com before the Celtics played the Heat. "He came in every day, practiced. Me and him, we always had a good relationship. I enjoyed having him on the team. It was fun. He was good for me."

After 13 years in the NBA, Ilgauskas has never played with -- or against -- anyone like O'Neal. He's happy to have had the opportunity to share the paint with him.

"He's a freak of nature," he laughed. "You never see somebody of such size do the things that he does. He's a unique player, always has been. He's special."

In the box score, Shaquille O'Neal posted 9 points and 7 rebounds in 18 minutes. His teammates believe his contributions went beyond the stat sheet.

"He's huge for us," said Paul Pierce. "I think the numbers don't really tell you how big he is for us because I remember at one point in the game going to Ray Allen, I think it was the third quarter, we looked up and we were six minutes and in the bonus because Shaq drew about four or five fouls. We're not a team that usually gets in the bonus that early, and that's the presence that he brings. Hopefully it's going to be like that all year long, when you get into a penalty and every foul from then on you go to the free-throw line. Just having him, he's a great finisher . . . We want to take advantage of that night in and night out. I think that's where our greatest strength is, on the inside, and I'm glad to have him on our team."

Kevin Garnett simply echoed, "What he said."

As for O'Neal, he was just glad to help the Celtics come out with a W.'

"We just wanted to come out and win our first game," he said. "That's what we did. We let you all worry about the hoopla and all of that. We know that we wanted to come play a solid game and we knew if did what we wanted to do, then we could possibly get a win. Now that this game is over, we've got a game tomorrow against the Cavaliers in Cleveland and we just want to be 2-0."

Ever since he was traded to the New York Knicks last February, Eddie House has made it a point to stop by the Celtics locker room when he comes to Boston.

Make no mistake, he is on board with the Miami Heat, but that doesn't stop him from giving credit to his former team.

"I thought it was going to be a hard game," he said of Opening Night against the Celtics. "A great team over there -- obviously -- with their track record. In '08 when they came together, they've been together a long time. It shows. They are in midseason form, everything clicking. They can pretty much run their offense with their eyes closed. They are a great team, and they played great tonight."

House scored eight points off the bench for the Heat, including a pair of three-pointers. He got open looks like he did with the Celtics, but he is not into drawing comparisons between his former and current teams. Instead, he's focused on his future with the Heat.

"I think it's just two different dynamics, the way these guys play and the way that team is put together," he said. "But I'm not comparing this team to that team because we could talk until we're blue in the face about that stuff. That's not what I'm here to do. I'm here to talk about the Miami Heat and not the Celtics. We're trying to do something special here and we're trying to move forward."

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcamerato

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

BOSTON –  Terry Rozier was having a rough stretch where his minutes were limited and when he did play, he didn’t play particularly well.
 
Among the voices in his ear offering words of encouragement was Avery Bradley who knows all too well what Rozier was going through.
 
For all his time as a Celtic, Bradley has let his work on the floor do the talking for him.
 
But as the most tenured Celtic on the roster, his leadership has to be about more than just getting the job done, but servicing as a vocal leader as well.
 
For a player whose growth from one year to the next has been a constant, being a more vocal leader has been the one dynamic of his game that has improved the most during this past season.
 
And it is that kind of leadership that will carry into the summer what is a pivotal offseason for both Bradley and this Celtics franchise which was eliminated by Cleveland in the Conference finals, the first time the Celtics got that deep in the playoffs since 2012.
 
He is entering the final year of the four-year, $32 million contract he signed in 2014. And it comes at a time when his fellow Tacoma, Wash. native and backcourt mate Isaiah Thomas will likely hit free agency where he’s expected to command a max or near-max contract that would pay him an annual salary in the neighborhood of $30 million.
 
At this point in time, Bradley isn’t giving too much thought to his impending contract status.
 
Instead, he’s more consumed by finding ways to improve his overall game and in doing so, help guide the Celtics to what has to be their focus for next season – a trip to the NBA Finals.
 
While Celtics players have said their focus has always been on advancing as far into the playoffs as possible, it wasn’t until this past season did they actually provide hope and promise that Banner 18 may be closer than you think.
 
It was an emotional time for the Celtics, dealing with the unexpected death of Chyna Thomas, the younger sister of Isaiah Thomas, just hours before Boston’s first playoff game this season.
 
And then there were injuries such as Thomas’ right hip strain that ended his postseason by halftime of Boston’s Eastern Conference finals matchup with Cleveland.
 
But through that pain, we saw the emergence of Bradley in a light we have seldom seen him in as a Celtic.
 
We have seen him play well in the past, but it wasn’t until Thomas’ injury did we see Bradley showcase even more elements of his game that had been overlooked.
 
One of the constant knocks on Bradley has been his ball-handling.
 
And yet there were a number of occasions following Thomas’ playoff-ending injury, where Bradley attacked defenders off the dribble and finished with lay-ups and an occasional dunk in transition.
 
Among players who appeared in at least 12 playoff games this year, only Washington’s John Wall (7.9), Cleveland’s LeBron James (6.8) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (5.2) averaged more points in transition than Bradley (4.7).
 
Bradley recognized the team needed him to be more assertive, do things that forced him to be more front-and-center which is part of his evolution in Boston as a leader on this team.
 
“It’s weird but players like Al (Horford) definitely helped me get out of my shell and pushed me this year to be more of a vocal leader,” Bradley said.
 
And that talent combined with Bradley doing what he does every offseason – come back significantly better in some facet of his game – speaks to how he’s steadily growing into being a leader whose actions as well as his words are impactful.