Celtics prove they still have it in them

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Celtics prove they still have it in them

In Game 3, we learned that the Celtics wont need their best basketball to beat the Hawks. In Game 4, we learned that either way the Celtics still have that best basketball in them.

Now, theyre heading back to Atlanta, with a very real chance to send the Hawks fishin'.

Here are a few thoughts on last night and what lies ahead:

It was just a nice way of playing. Doc Rivers, on the Game 4 victory

Hard to disagree with the Dr. on that one.

The Celtics we saw last night, were the Celtics from early April. They were the team that peaked against the Heat before shutting it down for the rest of the season (and the first three games of the playoffs). They were the team that can compete with anyone in the Eastern Conference.

Now obviously the Hawks weren't the most worthy opponent, but at the very least, they were better than the team that took Boston into OT on Friday. And really, it doesn't matter, because if the C's are clicking like they were last night, they can play with and beat anyone.

But maintaining the magic won't be easy.

The biggest issue is Paul Pierce's knee.

Of course, with Pierce, you're never entirely sure what's going on, and the details surrounding this particular injury only make the whole thing more confusing. He tripped over someone in shoot around? Either there's something else to the story, or this is karma's way of burning everyone who laughed at the Mariano Rivera video.

That being said, it's very fair to assume that Pierce will be in the lineup on Tuesday, but until he's out there and not limping around like was during the last few minutes on Sunday the questions will linger, and add just a little more pressure on the Celtics to keep their foot on the pedal and send the Hawks home early. Everyone needs the rest.

(Random stat: Pierce thankfully only played 17 minutes in last night's game, but that wasn't his career playoff low. Back in 2009, the Captain found a ton of foul trouble in Game 2 of Boston's second round series against the Magic, and played only 15:42. The Celtics won that one, too. Thanks to a Rajon Rondo triple-double and 31 POINTS from Eddie House. Mikki Moore chipped in with two points and a rebound).

The fact that Ray Allen played in both games this weekend is incredibly uplifting, but the news that he's reconsidering surgery is almost unbelievable.

At shoot around, Allen said that his ankle hurt so badly on Saturday that he had to walk sideways, and then all of a sudden, it's better than ever and ready for the long haul?

I don't know. Regardless of how great Allen felt last night, I still expect this to be a day-to-day issue, and wouldn't be surprised to see him miss a few more games down the stretch. Still, the fact that Allen has given the Celtics anything in this series is more than anyone could have expected, and it's thankfully quieted any speculation that his absence was an issue of spite as much as it was injury.

Allen's availability may remain up in the air, but there's no question on Avery Bradley. Here's what he had to last night, when asked about his status:

"I'm ready, and I'll be ready for Round 2."

First of all, it's somewhat fitting for Bradley to make a premature comment about Round 2 with Tracy McGrady sitting in the other locker room, but we'll cut him some slack, and focus on this: Avery Bradley is turning into a monster.

The level of confidence he's developed over the course of this series after a very shaky first game is off the charts, and like his game, seems to grow every time he takes the court.

Last night was the kind of game we expected to see from Rondo on Friday. The kind of performance that takes the Celtics from the middle of the pack basically, what you saw in the first three games to being a legitimate Eastern Conference contender.

Speaking with the media last week, Rondo made a subtle reference to being "the best point guard in the NBA," and while that's very debatable, there's no doubt that when he plays like he did last night, there's no point guard in the world who's a better fit for this team. There's no one who Doc Rivers, Danny Ainge, Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce would rather have running the show.

If Rondo can maintain that energy and focus tomorrow night in Game 5, it will be the last game of the series.

(Random stat: Going back to the regular season, Rondo's now picked up 10 assists in 27 straight games. If he can do it again on Tuesday, he'll tie his personal playoff best of 10 assists in four straight games, which he accomplished in Games 4-7 against the Bulls in 2009.)

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

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski is a model citizen in the NFL. In fact, the NFL Players Association is advising rookies to be more like Gronk, according to The Boston Globe

The New England Patriots tight end has developed a name for himself on and off the football field. With that attention comes branding. And at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere from May 18 to 20, the NFLPA encouraged rookies to develop their own brand -- much like Gronkowski.

“Some people think he’s just this extension of a frat boy, and that it’s sort of accidental,” Ahmad Nassar said, via The Globe. Nassar is the president of NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA. “And that’s wrong. It’s not accidental, it’s very purposeful. So the message there is, really good branding is where you don’t even feel it. You think, ‘Oh, that’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ Actually, that’s his brand, but it’s so good and so ingrained and so authentic, you don’t even know it’s a brand or think it.”

Gronkowski's "Summer of Gronk" has indirectly become one of his streams of income. The tight end makes appearances for magazines and sponsors. Because of his earnings from branding and endorsements, he didn't touch his NFL salary during the early years of his career.

Gronk was one of three players who were the topics of discussion during the symposium. Dak Prescott and Odell Beckham were also used as examples of players who have been able to generate additional income from endorsements. Beckham, in particular, has been in the spotlight off the football field. He's appeared on the cover of Madden, and just signed a deal with NIke which is reportedly worth $25 million over five years with upwards of $48 million over eight years. His deal, which is a record for an NFL player, will pay him more than his contract with the Giants.

“A lot of people talk to the players about, ‘You should be careful with your money and you should treat your family this way and you should treat your girlfriend or your wife.’ Which is fine. I think that’s valuable,” Nassar said, via The Globe. “But we don’t often give them a chance to answer the question: How do you see yourself as a brand? Because Gronk, Odell, none of those guys accidentally ended up where they are from a branding and marketing standpoint.”

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want.