Celtics continuing to gel, build momentum

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Celtics continuing to gel, build momentum

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics said it all at the beginning of the season.

The team was a work in progress.

It was going to take time for the new players to gel.

Each member had to learn their role and buy into the system.

Finding consistency wouldn't happen overnight.

In the second week of January, things are coming together.

The Celtics (19-17) beat the Houston Rockets (21-16) on Friday next to extend their winning streak to five games. After a dismal west coast road trip in which they lost to the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, and Sacramento Kings, the Celtics rebounded from a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and have gone on to defeat the Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns, and the Rockets.

The rhythm of their season has changed in a week. Veteran captain Paul Pierce has been around long enough to know winning would take time.

"I feel good," he said following the Celtics 103-91 victory. "I feel like we are building. We're getting better and better."

Avery Bradley's return from double shoulder surgery last Wednesday has given the Celtics a new surge of defensive intensity. Not only that, he has brought consistency to their starting lineup rather than fellow guards Courtney Lee and Jason Terry changing frequently changing their roles.

Rookie forward Jared Sullinger has also played beyond his NBA experience and given the Celtics a board crasher they have been looking for over the years.

All of these factors have added up to produce a more consistent team on the court.

"I think there's a lot of little things," said head coach Doc Rivers. "We've decided to defend as a group full time and stay committed to it. Avery's return has helped. The second unit now has a second unit -- JET's not in the first unit or Courtney. It's pretty solidified who the second unit is, so now when we practice that group's always together."

The Celtics will look to make the most of the remaining three games in their homestand next week. They will face the Charlotte Bobcats, New Orleans Hornets, and Chicago Bulls.

"We will take it one game at a time in this homestretch," said Pierce. "Hopefully we can just keep it going."

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

NEW ORLEANS -- There will be a significant faction of Celtics Nation who will see DeMarcus Cousins’ trade to New Orleans as a lost opportunity for the C's, who could have offered a much more enticing trade package than the one the Sacramento Kings accepted.
 
The Kings received nothing even remotely close to a king’s ransom for Cousins, acquiring him in exchange for rookie Buddy Hield, journeyman Langston Galloway and ex-Pelican Tyreke Evans (who has never been the same since his Rookie of the Year season in 2010), along with a protected first-round pick and a future second-round selection.

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While the knee-jerk reaction is to focus on why Boston decided to not pursue a trade for Cousins, more important is what the non-decision means for the moment and going forward.
 
Think about what the Celtics have done in the last three-plus seasons.
 
They went from being a lottery team to one that has the second-best record in the East. They're holding the potential No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft; at worst, the pick will be in the top four or five. They have three of the most team-friendly contracts (Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder) in the NBA. They have promising prospects overseas as well as in the D-League. And they're led by a coach who has improved his coaching acumen -- and the team’s win total -- every year he's been on the job.
 
And it's all enveloped by a culture with a high level of selflessness, which has created a locker-room environment that has been more about fighting for each other than fighting one another or others off the court.
 
Do you really think Cousins’ talent would have trumped the baggage he'd be bringing to the Celtics if they'd acquired him?
 
For him to have fit in with this team would have required him to make the kind of changes that, frankly, I just don’t see him being capable of making at this point.
 
On more than one occasion, “not fitting in” with the Celtics culture was given to me as the reason why a Cousins-to-Boston trade never gained any traction with the team’s brass. Or coaching staff, for that matter.
 
While there's no denying that he's arguably the best center in the NBA, Cousins is a high-risk, high-reward talent that makes sense to pursue if you're a franchise which has nothing to lose by adding him to the mix. Like, say, New Orleans.
 
The Pelicans are 11th in the Western Conference despite having Anthony Davis, who has been asked to carry the weight of a franchise that has yet to figure out the best combination of talent to surround him with and find success.
 
The addition of Cousins not only provides Davis some major help, but serves as a reminder of just how desperate the Pelicans are.
 
While there are mixed reports on whether the package of assets the Kings agreed to was the best they could have received for Cousins, there was no way they were going to get anything close to comparable talent in exchange for him.
 
And that was solely due to the risk that any team was willing to take on in order to acquire him.
 
At some point, the Celtics need to take advantage of an opportunity to go all-in for a superstar player. But this was not that time, or that player.