Celtics can't answer the call

Paul Pierce

Celtics can't answer the call

CHICAGO The lights went down for pregame introductions, and a familiar song came across the United Center PA system.

Dun dun dun, dun dunDUN dun dunDUN . . .

Dun dun dun, dun dunDUN, dun dunDUUUUNNN!

Bulls fans rained boos upon the court as the NBAs version of Darth Vader (and not just because theyre old enough to be everyones father) was introduced. With every name, the booing intensified, but this wasnt your typical insincere, jumbotron-generated hostility.

This was real. This was honest-to-goodness hatred.

For the Boston Celtics, this was a dream.

Over the years, especially the last two, the Celtics have become the team that everyone loves to hate, but also and more importantly, the team that loves to be hated.

Theyve learned to thrive in atmospheres like Chicago; often times even requiring the loathing and genuine disrespect of unruly fans (or loose-lipped opposing players) to unlock their full potential.

Any opportunity to make a statement, to prove someone (or everyone) wrong, was seized like Joey Crawford does the spotlight. The Celtics were too proud for anything less.

Of course, it wasnt always smooth sailing.

A random Monday night in New Jersey? The second leg of a back-to-back against Indiana?

Yeah, on nights like that, theres always a chance the Celtics play dead; that age, complacency or just the 82-game grind of the NBA regular season sneaks up and bites them in the ass.

But Thursday night in Chicago? Primetime? TNT?

This was a game the entire NBA world was watching, against the team that had stolen the Celtics' spot atop the Eastern Conference. A team that had essentially stolen their identity, stolen their way of life and who through 77 games was living better, and healthier, with more promise and even greater expectations.

This was a team whose point guard has sky-rocketed passed Bostons insanely competitive counterpart to claim the title of the Eastern Conferences best; a team whose center has publicly, and repeatedly, disrespected Bostons insanely emotional leader; a team that everyone now seemed convinced was just plain and simple better than Boston.


This was tailor-made. This was what they lived for.

And now, before the game even started, there were 20,000 fans pushing every one of the Celtics motivational buttons. There was that music, the cloak of evil being forced upon them. They were in the role theyve grown to love, with the whole world against them, and all their hard-earned pride on the line.

At that point, you couldnt have guarantee a win, but man, youd have bet your life on a fight.

Instead you got . . .

Umm, so what exactly did you get?

Afterward, the team called it a butt-kicking. Everyone from Doc to KG, right on down the line, admitted their own faults and Chicagos success. They lauded Rose, complimented the Bulls defense and came up with all sorts of different reasons why the game got away.

They didnt find the right pace. They settled for too many jumpers. When they got the ball into the post, they missed too many easy shots. They werent tough enough. They didnt defend well enough. They didnt execute.

In the locker room, the Celtics rattled off a litany of, not excuses, but entirely legitimate explanations for their embarrassing 16-point loss; one that even when it was close, it never really felt that way. They faced the music and took their lumps, and then . . . they walked out and turned the page to Friday night and the Wizards.

They had to. When youre in the NBA you cant dwell on the past, not when the immediate future is so much more important.

But the rest of us will be left to wonder: What will the future bring?

Of course, at the end of the day, this was just one game, and everyones entitled to a bad night. But the truth is that the Celtics have had a lot of bad nights recently. Theyve had plenty of games, like, say, a random Monday in New Jersey or the tail end of a back-to-back in Indiana, when theyve left so much to be desired. But those nights have always been somewhat overlooked thanks to the knowledge, or the belief, that when they have to this team can always step up. Its a dangerous mentality, but time after time the Celtics have proven that they can do it. For most of the past two years theyve proven that the onoff switch does exist.

That doesnt mean theyll always win. But theyll always compete. When, like a sleeping grizzly, theyre drawn out of their cave and forced to fight for whats important, they can always rise above the drama and play Celtics basketball. Thats always been the assumption. Thats what's kept Boston sane.

But theres no denying that Thursday was one of those nights. They were faced with the perfect Celtics situation. They were the bad guys AND the underdogs. They were being disrespected on both ends. They had the spotlight. The stage. And every reason to turn it on.

And they couldnt.

Yeah, it was just one game, but it was also Game No. 78. It was one of their final two real tests before the only test that matters. And this time they reached back to show the world what they had and it wasnt enough.

The question is why, and the answers a double-edged sword.

First, you can ask: Have the Celtics just reached the point where not even pride and an arena full of unabashed hatred can break the mental funk thats haunted them since the deadline? Where not even a matchup with Derrick Rose can motivate Rajon Rondo to attack the hoop? Where nothing can remind them, Hey, you know, that Ray Allen guys pretty good. How about we get him the ball?

Or maybe theyre the same. Maybe they really were up for this one; ready to prove everyone wrong and re-establish their dominance, but was just up against a better team.

A team with Rose, whos on another level from everyone in the world, never mind Rondo. Luol Deng, whos always possessed the combination of size, length and athleticism to give Paul Pierce a headache. Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, who are relentless on the boards, and so strong on the block. Obviously, this advantage is slightly negated if Shaq ever gets back or if Sam Presti forgot to say no backsies, but on Thursday the Chicago front line was too physical for Boston. Noah played only 23 minutes and had only two points he's not yet 100 percent but was still beating up KG. Garnett consistently fought for position, worked his ass off for the ball, but Noah hardly budged. He wore KG down, and over a seven-game series the Celtics will feel those effects. And as great as Jermaine ONeal's been since coming back, he cant hang with Boozer or Noah for any extended period of time. Theyre too relentless and hes too fragile. They don't stop and he can barely get it going.

Theres also Keith Bogans, who seems so out of place in that starting lineup but spent 17 minutes getting physical with Allen and disrupting the Celtics rhythm. Theres a bench featuring established pros like Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and Taj Gibson. Kurt Thomas, who gives the Bulls everything P.J. Brown gave the 2008 Celtics and then some. Theres Tom Thibodeau, whos running the same exact system thats brought the Celtics so much success, but is doing it with a younger, quicker and healthier team thats growing more confident by the day. By going to Chicago, hes pretty much just taken the Celtics and turned the clock back. And as a result, especially after last night, it looks like time is finally running out on this Celtics reign atop the East.

Of course, we've been here with this team before. We've written them off and prematurely handed their thrown to the conference's "next" great team. And they've proved us so very wrong.

But at some point, the run will have to end. They always do. Hell, even Darth Vader's run eventually went down in flames.

And while I dont know if Derrick Rose has any Skywalker in him, he certainly can fly.

And he and the Bulls look ready for take off.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Young understands work isn't done after claiming Celtics final roster spot

Young understands work isn't done after claiming Celtics final roster spot

WALTHAM, Mass. – For so many years the game of basketball came easy – almost too easy – for James Young.

He stood out on a young Kentucky team that played at the highest levels, delivering the kind of performances as an 18-year-old college freshman that catapulted him into the first round of the NBA draft.

To be so young and already having achieved a childhood dream, to be in the NBA, Young was too young to realize how quickly the dream could become a nightmare if he didn't put in the necessary work.

The past couple of weeks have not been easy for Young, aware that the Celtics were torn as to whether they should keep him around this season or waive him.

They choose the former and instead waived his now-ex teammate R.J. Hunter, on Hunter’s 23rd birthday no less.

One of the first acts Young said he planned to do following Monday's practice was to reach out to Hunter, offer words of encouragement to a player he looked upon as a brother, a brother who is in a state of basketball limbo right now which could have easily been the latest chapter in James Young’s basketball narrative.

And that’s why as happy as Young is to still be donning the Green and White, his work towards proving himself to this team, to this franchise is far from done.

You listen to veterans like Jae Crowder, a second-round pick who has come up the hard way in the NBA, they speak of how Young now takes the game more serious.

Even Young acknowledged that he didn’t take the NBA game and the need to work at staying in the league as serious as he should have initially.

“I wasn’t playing as hard (early on),” Young admitted. “I just was satisfied being where I was, being too comfortable. My confidence was down. I have to change that around.”

Crowder, a straight-no-chaser kind of fellow, said as much when I asked him about the changes he has seen in Young.

“He’s taking stuff a little more serious,” Crowder said. “It’s growing up. He came in as a first-round draft pick and was on the borderline of getting cut. I don’t know what else is going to wake you up.”

That’s part of what made this decision so difficult and on some levels, left players with mixed emotions about the decision.

For those of us who followed this team through training camp, there was no question that Young had the better camp.

But the one thing that was never questioned with Hunter, was his work ethic. He made his share of mistakes and missed more shots than a player with a sharpshooter's reputation should, but you never got a sense it had anything to do with him not working as hard as he needed to.

That was among the more notable issues with Young who came into the league as an 18-year-old. That youth probably worked for him as opposed to Hunter who played three years of college basketball and was expected to be seemingly more NBA-ready.

Even though Hunter’s NBA future is on uncertain ground now, he’s too young and too talented to not get at least one more crack with an NBA team.

And by Boston waiving him, he really does become a low-risk, high-reward prospect that an NBA team might want to take a closer look at with their club. 

And Young remains a Celtic, doing all that he can to climb up the pecking order which now has him as the clear-cut 15th man on the roster.

He might see more minutes than rookie Demetrius Jackson and possibly second-year forward Jordan Mickey, but Young’s future with the Boston Celtics is still on relatively thin ice.

“I told him this morning, this might be the first time he’s earned anything in his life,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations.  “He earned this by his play, day-in and day-out. He was given a lot as a young kid with a lot of promise, a lot of potential. We talked about earlier this summer, he had to come out and win a spot with some good competition and he did. He needs to keep doing what he’s doing.”

More than anything else, Young has been consistent in his effort, overall energy and attention to detail. But it remains to be seen if Young has done all that to just secure a roster spot, or has he truly grown up and figured out what has to be done in order to be an NBA player.

Celtics break ground on new practice facility


Celtics break ground on new practice facility

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- When it comes to finding ways to attract the best talent, colleges and universities often seek to upgrade their training facilities as an enticement to prospective players.
So why should it be any different at the pro level?
The Boston Celtics had a groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning for The Auerbach Center at New Balance Headquarters.
“When you think he was hired in 1966 and they’re still honoring him, it’s very humbling,” said Randy Auerbach, Red’s daughter.
New Balance officials echoed similar sentiments about the legendary Red Auerbach, the architect of arguably the greatest dynasty in professional basketball.
“Red Auerbach was a true entrepreneur whose passion for winning and dedication to the sport of basketball and the Boston Celtics was equally matched with his commitment to people and his local community,” said Jim Davis, Chairman and Owner at New Balance.  “New Balance is extremely proud to join with the Boston Celtics in honoring his professional achievements and personal values through ‘Red’s House’ at our Boston world headquarters.”
Celtics president Rich Gotham cited several benefits to moving the team to a state-of-the-art practice facility closer to Boston.
Among the reasons given was the potential for the practice facility to be a potential enticement for free agents.
“Players spend more time in the practice facility than they do in the arena they play in certainly, and maybe more than they do at home,” Gotham said. “So having a place where they feel comfortable, a place where they want to spend time to improve themselves across the board … it’s all coming together in a pretty big way. The best players know it’s integral to their success that make sure that support is there, that infrastructure is there. So when we’re out talking to a player, we’re going to be talking about this practice facility we’re building. Because we do think it’s an important part of our story.”
Some of the features of the new practice facility will include:
·  Two state-of-the-art parquet floor basketball courts where the team will practice
·  Leading edge audio-visual technology throughout the facility
·  Expanded strength and conditioning, training, and recovery facilities
·  Best-in-class locker rooms and players’ lounge
·  Physical therapy areas including hydrotherapy pools
·  Sports science and nutrition facilities
·  Expanded media work room, press conference and broadcast facilities
·  A flexible hospitality area designed for community relations activities, partner gatherings and other guest events
·  Work space for the team’s coaching and basketball front office staffs
While the facility will have all the bells and whistles you would come to expect in a new facility, Gotham said there will be a balance of sorts struck between that and the franchise’s longstanding history.
“What will be clear is it will be … at that intersection of, which is a strange intersection, of innovation but honoring our tradition,” Gotham said. “This will be a building that’s state-of-the-art, moving forward. But at the same time, I think one of the things we’re lucky to have is this treasure trove of great guys who came before us who left great wisdom and great quotes. You can see a lot of that built in. Coach Stevens is big on having motivational phrases around for the guys to see every single day when they come in for practice. If those come from Red Auerbach and Bill Russell, all the better. You’ll see us incorporating those kind of things.”