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

Jaylen Brown may be the future of Celtics, but he's focused on now

Jaylen Brown may be the future of Celtics, but he's focused on now

BOSTON – This is not how this is supposed to work.

When the regular season ends for high draft picks, there’s usually a nice, warm island awaiting their arrival in late-April when the regular season ends.

But this was no typical rookie season for Boston’s Jaylen Brown.

And as we have seen, Brown isn’t your typical rookie.

Drafted with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, the 6-foot-7 Brown found himself in the rotation on a Celtics team that advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference finals before having their season end at the hands of the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

The path towards individual and team success is littered with struggles and potholes of strife along with the pain of disappointment cluttering up things as well.

From within that rubble lies promise; the kind that has Celtics Nation justifiably excited about the future of Brown with the Celtics.

But Brown isn’t about the future, folks.

“I’m excited about the now,” he said. “I’m excited about this summer. I try not to look too far ahead. Everybody talks about the future and how much potential we have; I’m worried about the now. I want to be part of the now. That’s all I’m focused on.”

That kind of focus is among the many reasons that despite being a rookie, his teammates quickly sensed that the now-20-year-old had his sights set on not just talking about cracking the rotation but actually putting in the work that would leave head coach Brad Stevens no choice but to play him.

“He’s going to be really good,” said Boston’s Gerald Green. “If he keeps his same mentality; he’s humble. And continue to work on his game and continue to learn.

Green added, “he couldn’t be in a better place, than being here. With his talent and his work ethic, he’s going to be great.”

But like most rookies, Brown’s play was anything but a steady on-the-rise movement.

His first NBA start came on the road at Cleveland on Nov. 3.

Boston lost the game, but Brown won over many with his career-high 19 points while spending a good deal of the night guarding LeBron James.

In his next four games, Brown scored a total of just 17 points.

And in Boston’s first-round series with Chicago, Brown's role shrunk in the last four games – all Celtics wins. In those games, he played a total of just under 10 minutes.

So what did he do?

He got back in the gym, continued to work on his game and do a better job at making the most of the minutes he received.

More than anything else, Brown attributes his improved play as the season progressed to simply figuring out the NBA landscape as far as what he could do and what he needed to work on, to get better.

Which is why there are many who believe that Brown will be a much better player than the one we saw this season.

That said, he still had decent numbers – 6.6 points and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 45.4 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from 3-point range.

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, coming into the NBA,” Brown said. “Throughout the year, I don’t think people expected me to contribute as much as I did. Now just getting to the Eastern  Conference finals and losing, it builds a hunger you know;  I have a bad taste in my mouth. Gotta put in work during the offseason and come back stronger.”

Like Brown, Al Horford came into the NBA as a high draft pick who wound up in the playoffs that rookie season.

Horford can totally relate to Brown’s comments about not knowing what he was getting into.

“The first year you’re really feeling everything out,” Horford said. “Jaylen has an understanding now of what the league is about. It’s a lot for a rookie to handle. Now he has a better idea (so) he can just focus on getting better, working on his game and I expect him to be much better his second year.”

Brown will have the knowledge gained from being part of a team that came within three wins of getting to the NBA Finals.

To come that close is tough to accept, but Brown sees it all as part of a bigger plan for him and his role with the Celtics moving forward.

“I can use it as fuel. I’ve been learning all year,” Brown said. “I’ve had ups, I’ve had downs, I’ve had opportunities, I’ve had mistakes. So I’ve been learning and growing and improving all year and I’m going to continue to grow and improve and prove people wrong, prove doubters wrong.”

And that process Brown speaks of has certainly been aided by being in a successful situation like Boston compared to some other lottery picks who saw lots of playing time but showed minimal growth playing lots of minutes.

“Being on a winning team and developing good habits, learning how to win, play the game the right way … learning that at a young age is really going to help me,” Brown said. “A lot of young guys, they don’t learn that early. They have to figure it out three, four, five years in. I’m happy I learned it now.”

And while the learning will continue on for Brown during this offseason, it won’t be nearly as tough now than it was when he came into the league.

“I know exactly what I’m preparing for,” Brown said. “I expect a really different result.”

Brown added, “I want to be ready for whatever is thrown at me; no excuses whatsoever.”

Now that’s how this is supposed to work!