Celtics hope toughness rubs off on new guys


Celtics hope toughness rubs off on new guys

By A.Sherrod Blakely

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

Horford-Celtics partnership gives both stability, chance to win


Horford-Celtics partnership gives both stability, chance to win

BOSTON –  This is not where Al Horford thought he would be right now.
Back in May, the Atlanta Hawks had just been swept out of the playoffs by the soon-to-be NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Disappointed with the outcome obviously, Horford was a free agent-to-be who was confident that he would be back in Atlanta and the Hawks would retool by adding to their core group which he was a major part of, and they would be back to making another run at it this season.
First there was the draft night trade of point guard Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers. 
And during Horford's negotiations with the Hawks in July, they were also negotiating with Dwight Howard and ultimately signed the Atlanta native to a three-year, $70.5 million contract. 
Before the Howard deal was complete, the Celtics had already made a strong impression on Horford during their presentation to him. 
So the choice was pretty clear.
Return to Atlanta and potentially have a major logjam up front with himself, Howard and Paul Millsap, or join a Celtics team that’s on the rise where his five-tool skillset – passing, rebounding, defending, scoring and making those around him better – could be put to great use on a team that’s clearly on the rise. 
Horford chose the latter, giving both himself and the Celtics exactly what they wanted – stability and a chance to win at the highest of levels.
The first shot to see how this basketball marriage looks on the floor will be tonight when the Celtics kick off the 2016-2017 season at the TD Garden against the Brooklyn Nets. 
The preseason isn’t the best indicator of what’s on the horizon now that games count, but Horford’s presence was undeniable.
Boston’s starters which includes Horford, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson, each finished with a positive, double-digit plus/minus in the preseason. 
“He just makes the game so much easier for all of us,” Johnson told CSNNE.com. “He can do so many things out there at both ends of the floor. He’s going to be big for us this season.”
And his impact can be felt both on the floor and inside the locker room, similar to what he brought to the Atlanta Hawks.
“With the way that I go about it is, I’m trying to win,” Horford told CSNNE.com. “I’m gonna work, put in my work, try to help guys get better not only on the court but off the court as well. That’s how I carry myself.”
 And it is that approach to the game that has made his transition to the Celtics a relatively seamless one. 
Horford holds many fond memories of his time in Atlanta, a place that will always be near and dear to his heart. 
But he’s a Celtic now, coming in with the same single-minded focus that drives this organization to continue pursuing the only thing that truly matters to them – an NBA title. 
"Even though I’m leaving a lot behind, as a player you always want to be in the best position you can,” Horford said. “I felt for me being on this team would put me in a position to be able to contend and win an NBA championship. That’s my ultimate goal.”

Rozier's confidence, hard work earning him more minutes in Celtics rotation


Rozier's confidence, hard work earning him more minutes in Celtics rotation

BOSTON – You’ll have to pardon Terry Rozier if he doesn’t have that deer-in-the-headlights look about him when he takes to the floor tonight for what should be the first of many meaningful stretches of playing time.
You see, being harassed with the defensive pressure of Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart while trying to become a pest to Isaiah Thomas (which I’m told Rozier is frequently in practice), has instilled in Rozier the kind of confidence that’s not easily shaken.
That’s one of the main reasons why the Celtics aren’t freaking out about the departure of Evan Turner to Portland this offseason and more recently the sprained left ankle injury to Marcus Smart that’ll keep him out for a few games.
When it comes to filling those two voids, all eyes will be on Rozier.
“When somebody’s hurt, the next guy has to step up,” Thomas said. “Terry has shown he’s ready for that opportunity. He’s worked very hard this summer. I’m proud of him. I’ve been in that position before. He’s been waiting for that opportunity. He’s ready.”
Rozier had an impressive run during summer league as Boston’s best player. And in training camp, he hasn’t let up in being one of the standout performers.
It has led to the second-year guard being exactly where he thought his hard work in the offseason would take him to, and that’s a prominent spot in the Celtics’ rotation.
And in doing so, Rozier knows it’ll likely mean taking some minutes from his veteran teammates like Isaiah Thomas who he credits for always being there to help him grow as a player.
“I’m trying to get better, but I want to play too,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “Getting his (Thomas’) minutes, anybody’s minutes, I’m going for it. But I know he’s not going to lighten up and make it easy for me. I know that. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
It certainly looks like it for Rozier who has shown growth in just about every phase of his game since he was selected by Boston with the 16th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft.
There were many who questioned Danny Ainge’s decision to draft a guard so high when he already had Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart in the fold.
But Rozier has shown the promise that Ainge saw in him coming out of Louisville.

Now it’s just a matter of Rozier getting the kind of minutes and producing, that will ultimately validate the trust and faith Ainge and his coaching staff showed in selecting Rozier.
For Rozier, not being looked upon all that favorably is just par for the course when it comes to his basketball career.
“I’ve been doubted all my life,” Rozier said. “It ain’t hurt me. I always tell myself, ‘they’re gonna fall in love with me because I play hard and they’re gonna fall in love with my intensity level. People didn’t know who I was when I came here; that’s fine. They’ll fall in love with me and my game sooner or later.”