Celtics hope toughness rubs off on new guys

191544.jpg

Celtics hope toughness rubs off on new guys

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Nobody said this journey to Banner 18 for the Boston Celtics was going to be easy.

It certainly hasn't been lately for the Celtics, winners of two in a row despite trailing by double digits in both games.

The C's mini-winning streak has been fueled by the team's core group, getting it done with a high degree of toughness and grit that has to be on display in order to win this time of year.

Boston's core players get it.

The new guys?

Not so much.

Because of that, Boston's last two victories not only have helped pad the team's win total, but also serve as a teaching moment for the team's new additions.

"It was great for the new guys to see that," coach Doc Rivers said following the team's 96-86 win at New York. "There's a sense of urgency that everyone has to play with. We're getting there with the new guys. We're clearly not there yet."

Aside from Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic, the impact of Boston's post-trade deadline additions has been minimal the last two games.

Ray Allen is among the C's not worried about the newer Celtics finding their role and niche in the team's quest for another NBA title.

"If you've never been a part of a team like this, in contention to win a championship, you really don't know," Allen said. "It's the hardest thing you'll ever do in your life. We gotta make sure the new guys understand that. They're going to learn that real quick because the time is upon us."

To win a championship, there's a certain degree of toughness that the Celtics will need to display on a regular basis.

Boston's toughness can certainly be questioned now that their former enforcer, Kendrick Perkins, calls Oklahoma City home.

Rivers understands the void that now exists.

But a relatively healthy Shaquille O'Neal, whom we haven't seen much during the regular season, in the playoffs will certainly help the Celtics on that front.

In the meantime, the veterans will continue to show their newer teammates the Celtics way of doing things that players acknowledge involves being feisty at times.

We saw that in the Knicks game, in which Allen was bloodied after catching an elbow from Jarred Jeffries in his attempt at an offensive rebound, and Carmelo Anthony suffered an outpouring of blood as well when he was hit with an elbow by Rajon Rondo as both tried to corral a loose ball.

In addition to those incidents, Allen and Amar'e Stoudemire had a brief exchange at another point in the game that involved players from both teams being separated.

"We're a feisty team at the end of the day," Boston's Delonte West told CSNNE.com. "When we get away from that, we struggle. We shouldn't need a team to push us to get at what we're good at as a team."

From time to time, the Celtics do need a reminder as to what exactly is there identity.

Rivers did just that during halftime of Monday's win, telling his players that their play up to that point in the game was "soft."

It was the kind of stinging indictment that left the players with a choice: either man up and play better, or simply continue to get pushed around.

They chose the former, which led to their 50th victory of the season, equaling their win total from a year ago with 13 games remaining.

Kevin Garnett, whose intensity has at times gotten under the skin of opponents, said the team's toughness is a reflection of Rivers.

"Our coach teaches a certain style and we try to implement what he wants on the floor," Garnett said. "Doc, he preaches firm; he preaches owning your own space and those things. And when you're not around that or new to that, you just don't get that in one or two days, or one or two weeks or one or two months. It's something that he's going to drill in you. That's what training camp is for. That's what the time with each other is for, so that you understand that style and you adopt it."

Garnett added, "We are a firm basketball team. We're not out here trying to hurt nobody, but we play hard every night."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Ainge: Winning more important than All-Star bids

Ainge: Winning more important than All-Star bids

BOSTON -- When it comes to NBA awards and accolades, players in contention often try to play it cool when asked about whether they are deserving.
 
And then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, who gives a definitive response whenever the question about whether he should be an All-Star starter is raised.
 
We’ll find out later today if Thomas will in fact be named as a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Star team when the East and West starters are announced. 
 
“It’s a little bit refreshing in that he is open about it,” Danny Ainge said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show this morning. “But every player wants to be acknowledged by their fan base, by other players in the league, coaches. You come into the league and as a young player you want to earn the respect of your peers and then you want to get paid and then you want to be an All-Star; maybe that’s the wrong order; and then nothing more important than winning.
 
Ainge added, “Isaiah is having a great year. He’s talked a lot about it. At some point in his career, he’ll talk about the most important thing and that’s winning championships.”
 
Ainge pointed to when Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were all Celtics, there was no mistaking that winning came before anything else.
 
But where those guys were in their careers in terms of individual achievements and just age, were major factors in their focus being so deeply rooted in winning.
 
“Along the way they all want to win, but when you get to the point where Paul, Ray and KG were in their 30s, they didn’t care about any of that other stuff because they had it all, already,” Ainge said. “They had multiple All-Star games, they had big contracts, winning became the only thing that mattered.”
 
In other Celtics-related news, Ainge said that there’s no timetable for when Avery Bradley (right Achilles strain) will return to the floor. He has missed five of the last six games with the injury which includes last night’s loss to the New York Knicks which was a game in which the 6-foot-2 Bradley was a last-minute scratch from the lineup