Celtics use road trip to bond on and off the court

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Celtics use road trip to bond on and off the court

CHICAGO Bonding on the road during the preseason is one thing.

But in the regular season when the games actually count?

Even better.

That's what the Boston Celtics are taking away from their two-game road trek to the Midwest with wins in Milwaukee and Chicago, respectively.

The victories by themselves were impressive.

But more than that, they gave tangible evidence to each and every player that the effort they put into becoming a better team, a championship-caliber team, is starting to pay off in victories.

Making it even better is that both road wins involved the Celtics having to overcome some type of adversity, whether it was Rajon Rondo having to leave the game briefly in Milwaukee because of a leg injury or Brandon Bass suffering a dislocated right ring finger injury on the way to his most complete game of the season.

"I definitely think adversity on the the road is good," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "This is a competitive group of guys and they want to find a way to win."

And they want to do it the Celtics way, which involves being a defensive team first.

It's still relatively early in the season, but Boston's defense has stood out - and not in a good way.

Boston is giving up 98.9 points per game which ranks 20th in the NBA. Teams have been able to break them down repeatedly with dribble-penetration that far too often resulted in easy baskets and easy assists which is evident by the Celtics opponents averaging 23.9 assists per game which ranks 28th (out of 30 NBA teams) in the league.

However, the Celtics and their problems defensively took the weekend off and were instead replaced by an improving brand of defensive-minded basketball that's not quite as good as past Celtics teams defensively - but definitely trending in that direction.

Indeed, Boston's defense played a pivotal role on the path towards victory in Saturday's victory over the Bucks as well as Monday's 101-95 win over the Bulls.

Boston's defense was especially impressive down the stretch in both games.

In Milwaukee, the Celtics limited the Bucks to just 36.8 percent shooting in the fourth quarter while connecting on 54.5 percent of their shots during that same span. In addition, the C's didn't commit a single turnover in the fourth quarter.

On Monday, Boston led the Bulls the entire game but saw their comfortable lead become kind of cramped in the game's final minutes.

After Joakim Noah scored on a lay-up with 3:33 to play to cut Boston's lead to 91-88, the Bulls would only make one more field goal the rest of the game. During that final 3:33, Boston had three baskets - two lob dunks by Kevin Garnett and another dunk by Brandon Bass.

Strong play at both ends of the floor in the game's closing moments was just what the Celtics needed to rack up a couple of important road wins.

But even before the Celtics left town, Paul Pierce talked up the benefits for him and his teammates of hitting the road for multiple games for the first time this season.

"It gives guys a chance to get together and to talk about problems and other situations," Pierce said. "It can be the start of something special and begin to develop a chemistry between us all."

Source: Celtics offseason focus is an All-Star frontcourt addition

Source: Celtics offseason focus is an All-Star frontcourt addition

WALTHAM, Mass. – No matter how an NBA team’s season ends, change is inevitable.
 
And while there’s no doubt that the Celtics are on the right track in terms of their ascension in the NBA, it's too soon to tell how many players on the Celtics’ 15-man roster that Danny Ainge, the president of basketball operations, will bring back next season.

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“One thing I do know. He’ll make the best decisions for the team and if players don’t end up being back here, I wish the best for them,” said Avery Bradley.  “Those are my brothers. We all had a special year. I appreciate everything, all the time I had with them. I’d love for all those guys to be back. We’ll see.”
 
And with Boston coming off its first trip to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012, adding just any player won’t cut it.
 
The Celtics’ mindset now isn’t just to improve, but get good enough to where they can better compete with the likes of Cleveland, which just ended the Celtics’ season with a Game 5 thumping.
 
The most significant move made by the Celtics last offseason was the signing of Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract.
 
Like most of his Boston teammates this season, Horford is eager to see what changes are in store this summer.
 
“We just have to wait and see,” Horford said. “We had such a good year. A lot of positive things. It’ll be interesting to see what Danny, the organization feels is going to be the next step.”
 
Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.
 
That makes sense when you consider how guard-dominant the Celtics were this season and how that had a negative impact on the team’s rebounding and, to a lesser degree, their defense as a whole.
 
Gordon Hayward has emerged as a target, but all indications – for now at least – point toward him returning to Utah.
 
The Celtics may pursue Los Angeles Clippers big man Blake Griffin. Although like Hayward, he too is expected to re-sign with his current team for a max contract (for Griffin that would be five years, $175 million).
 
While trades are certainly in the cards for Boston, at this point the Celtics seem more inclined to improve their overall talent base via the draft and free agency.
 
“It’s always a good thing when you have the opportunity to add value to your team and don’t have to change your team too much,” said Celtics’ reserve Gerald Green, who will be a free agent this summer. “I’m going to be very interested to see what they do as far as building a team. We’re in a good place right now as far as being where we want to be organization-wise. I feel like we’re one or two steps away from actually being at the Finals. I think Danny has some things to think about, but I’m sure he’s going to do the job. I’ve seen Danny go to work in these situations. He always makes the team better. I’m pretty sure he’s got something planned that, at the end of the day, is going to make this organization better.”
 
Indeed, the Celtics could very well strengthen their position for next season by simply locking up some of their core players who may hit the free agent market soon.
 
Boston may look to work out an extension with Isaiah Thomas before the start of this season. Because if he hits free agency in the summer of 2018, he will be poised to command a salary that in year one would be worth more than the entire four-year, $27 million deal he signed with Phoenix in 2014.
 
“Boston’s changed my career, changed my life,” Thomas said. “I would love to be here long-term and win championships here. But as you guys know, it’s a business and anything can happen. I know that and understand that. But I would love to be here. This has been everything to me. This city, this organization … it’s been good.”

Morning Skate: Larry Robinson parts ways with Sharks

Morning Skate: Larry Robinson parts ways with Sharks


Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while refraining from shoving any world leaders today.

*Larry Robinson and the San Jose Sharks are parting after working together for five seasons, per FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Kurz.

*Speaking of Kurz, he also has a Sharks mailbag on which players are most likely to be traded out of San Jose during the offseason. Somebody has got to go, and you’d think it would be somebody without much tread left on the tires.

*Moving on to other topics, Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler said that losing a Game 6 in the Western Conference Finals to the Nashville Predators was the “toughest” loss of his career. I don’t see how this is possible. You see, Kesler is no slouch at falling short. In fact, he’s a tremendous loser, having dropped a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final at home in 2011 as a member of the Vancouver Canucks, and also having lost a Gold Medal Game for Team USA at the hands of Sidney Crosby and Canada in 2010 in overtime that was also played in Vancouver. It took a simple Google search to find an actual postgame video of Kesler crying into his hockey glove on the bench in the aftermath of Game 7 vs. the Bruins. So, pardon me if I’m not buying Kesler talking about a conference finals loss as the worst of his career when he was one home win away from being a Stanley Cup champion in Game 7, and proceeded to lose like he’s done many, many times in the most important games of his career. Dude, you’ve been through tougher losses. Trust me on that one.  

*The idea of trading Alex Ovechkin might be gaining some traction with the Capitals fan base, but it doesn’t seem to be based on reality at this point.

*The pride of Melrose, Mass, Conor Sheary, delivered in Game 7 for the Penguins as they return to the Stanley Cup Final in back-to-back seasons.

*Bobby Ryan said his strategy for success in the playoffs, at least in part, was staying off the phone. Maybe he ought to try that a bit more during the regular season.

*Congrats to the folks at NBC for another successful Red Nose Day that featured a reunion of the “Love Actually” cast among other things.