CelticsKnicks rivalry bonanza

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CelticsKnicks rivalry bonanza

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

The idea that the Celtics and Knicks currently have any sort of rivalry is ridiculous. And heading into tonight's game at Madison Square Garden, it's a shame I even have to explain why.

But after Paul Pierce was asked about the Knicks before Tuesday's practice, failed to acknowledge the existence of this non-existent rivalry, and the story erupted like Artest in Auburn Hills, I guess I have no other choice.

So I'll talk about the Celtics dominance. How they start four future Hall of Famers, and that doesn't even include their most talented player. How they're the best team in the East, and have been for three-plus years. How they've collectively seen and experienced more than perhaps any team in the last 20 years, and are generally unaffected by the peaks and valleys of your average NBA season.

Meanwhile, I'll mention how four of the Knicks starters have yet to win a single playoff game and three have never even made the playoffs. How they've only beaten three teams with a winning record all season, don't play defense, only go seven deep and have been playing with each other for all of two months.

I'll argue that, despite the New York Post headline that reads "Pierce questions CelticsKnicks rivalry," there's actually no rivalry to question. That it was a rivalry created and then destroyed over the course of one 24-hour news cycle, and all because Pierce didnt know how to answer a question that there wasn't an answer to.

So, Paul, how do you feel about this budding rivalry?

Sure, the New YorkBoston dynamic might add a little extra tension, but that doesnt affect the players. They don't care about the Boston vs. New York. Nor should they. When has the city ever given them the impression that the Knicks are a major enemy? It's not like NYK coming to town is anything close to the scene when the Yankees or Jets do. Lately, Boston just laughs at the Knicks.

Paul Pierce has been here since the late '90s and has played 45 career games against New York. How many of those have been memorable? How many have been played under anything close to rivalry-forming conditions? How many have had meaning?

Yet for some reason, we all acted surprised almost shocked that Pierce didn't give the Knicks the kind of respect he might the Heat, Magic, Bulls or Hawks.

"It's a rivalry?" he asked. "I didn't know we had a rivalry going."

You're right, Paul. It's not a rivalry; it's a shame.

Because in our overreaction to Pierce's honest reaction, we made the game into something that it was never supposed to be:

A battle for bragging rights. An early test for the Knicks to see if they have what it takes to make a run at the Atlantic Division crown. We tried to set the stage for a Knicks victory to signify the start of some major shift in power; like one successful 14-game stretch puts you in the conversation with one of the most decorated teams in NBA history.

And it's not like the Knicks were even asking for this. They know they're not the Celtics. They're just winning games. Essentially, they gave us an inch and we took a yard.

We threw them into a storyline they weren't ready for. Paul Pierce chewed it up, spit it out and all we could do was go break down why he did. We had to bring out all those New York negatives all the obvious reasons why they're not as good as the Celtics when we should have just been able to take a second and appreciate all the positive vibes that are coming out of Mike DAntoni's camp.

Like the fact that they've found a point guard who can thrive in one of the league's most entertaining offenses; or the story of Landry Fields a second-round pick who's played more minutes, scored more points and grabbed more rebounds than any rookie not named Blake Griffin (or in other words any human rookie); or that they've brought Madison Square Garden back from the dead; or that Amar'e Stoudemire's in the midst of one of the most clutch and dominant stretches in recent NBA history.

Or just that that after so many depressing seasons, the Knicks are getting better, because regardless of how deep your Celtics devotion lies, you have to admit that that's good for basketball. Its good for Boston.

Don't get me wrong. It would be great if the Knicks and Celtics had a rivalry that extended beyond the fact that theyre both storied franchises that hail from historically rival cities. It would be amazing to see the two teams go head-to-head in epic playoff series or two.

Sports are better when Boston vs. New York means something. We can all agree on that. But while the Knicks have certainly taken sizable steps in the right direction, we can also agree that it doesnt mean anything yet. And it won't start to until there's much more than a pair of mid-December winning streaks on the line.

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

Report: Paul Pierce '50-50' about retirement after Clippers' exit

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Report: Paul Pierce '50-50' about retirement after Clippers' exit

After the Clippers were elminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night, a disappointed Paul Pierce told ESPN that he was "50-50" about retirement. 

In a video after Portland's Game 6 victory posted on oregonlive.com, the former Celtics captain said his "heart is broken" by another playoff elimination. 

Pierce signed a a three-year, $10 million contract to return home (he grew up in Inglewood, Calif.) and play for his old coach Doc Rivers in Los Angeles.  He'll be 39 next season and coming off the worst season of his career. Pierce averaged 6.1 points, 36 percent shooting and 18 minutes a game, all career lows.

How does Isaiah Thomas improve? Eating right is one step

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How does Isaiah Thomas improve? Eating right is one step

WALTHAM, Mass. -- This past season, Isaiah Thomas took a major step forward to becoming more than just a solid NBA player, but one of the game’s best.
 
He knows he won’t stay among the elite for long if he doesn’t make some changes with the most notable being to his diet.
 
“I do not eat good,” Thomas acknowledged following his exit interview this week. “I eat like a young guy, a young guy who got a little bit of money, fast food every day. But I’m definitely going to change.”
 
The change becomes necessary not only in light of how the season ended for him and the Celtics, but also for his long-term goals, which include playing in the NBA until he’s at least 40 years old.
 
“I’m not that old but the greatest players took care of their bodies the best,” Thomas said.
 
Among those cited by Thomas who excelled at taking care of their bodies was former Celtic Ray Allen.
 
But Thomas was quick to add that he won’t go to the lengths that Allen did in maintaining good health.
 
“Because he’s a little crazy with that,” quipped Thomas. “I just want to play at a high level for a long time, like Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant. You have to take care of your body. That’s half the battle of performing out there on the floor.
 
Thomas added, “This is a big summer for me to start doing that.”
 
Eating right is just part of the transformation process for Thomas.
 
He’ll also modify is offseason workouts to include some work in the boxing ring with long time friend Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
 
“I’m definitely work with him a few times, get my conditioning right, probably train, do some boxing stuff on the side, just to get in that type of shape,” Thomas said. “You get in that type of shape you won’t get tired on the basketball floor. This summer is big for me, transforming my body, getting into the best shape possible and coming back and having another all-star year.”
 
For the Celtics to improve upon this past season, they will need Thomas to continue elevating his play as well as the play of those around him.
 
It is that latter point that was among the many reasons Boston’s season is over. No matter what he did, those around him could not step their game up to a level needed in order to get past the Atlanta Hawks.
 
Chalk it up to another lesson learned for Thomas.
 
“You can’t do it on your own,” Thomas said. “There’s no way you can do it on your own. Nobody can do it on your own; and how hard it is to win playoff games, a playoff series. It’s not easy.”
 
And when you come up short, for Thomas is created an uneasiness that he never wants to experience again.
 
“I’m going to do whatever it takes to not have this feeling again,” he said. “It really hurt me. I’m going to use that as motivation to continue to get better and to work on my flaws and make those into my strengths. I promise you’ll I’ll be back better than ever next year.”