OFFSEASON

On defense, KG helps Celtics talk the talk

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On defense, KG helps Celtics talk the talk

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

PHOENIX Not a game passes by where Kevin Garnett isn't running his mouth and coach Doc Rivers couldn't be any happier.

For all the talk about KG's trash-talking, regarded as the best of the best in the NBA, what's often overlooked is his role as the voice literally of the Celtics defense.

That defense was again put to the test (and failed) Friday against a Phoenix Suns squad that did what all Phoenix Suns teams try to do run, run and when that doesn't work, run some more. Not only did the Celtics lose the game, 88-71, but both Garnett and Rivers were ejected from the contest.

For all the things that the C's do well, often their ability to effectively communicate with one another is overlooked.

Rivers feels so strongly about making sure his team understands this, every now and then he'll have practice where no talking is allowed.

"Then they find out, a guy gets cracked and knocked down on a pick and then he'll turn around because he can't talk . . . then all of a sudden, you realize how important talking is," Rivers told CSNNE.com. "We don't do that a lot."

That's because most nights, it is evident that the C's place a premium on ensuring everyone on the floor is on the same page defensively.

Even before a sold-out crowd with the collective voices of fans usually drowning out the players on the court, there's no mistaking Garnett barking out defensive instructions to his teammates, or Rajon Rondo alerting a teammate to a screen coming, before it is set.

And when that communication isn't what it should be, players notice.

Rivers recalls Boston's most recent game against Detroit, a game in which the Celtics struggled before ultimately rallying in the fourth quarter for an 86-82 win.

"At halftime, Rondo was complaining that no one was talking," Rivers said. "All the switching that we were doing defensively, there was no talking. We were getting destroyed. You can't play good defense without a lot of guys talking."

For Boston, the productive chatter begins and ends with Garnett.

Even though the C's managed to win six of the nine games Garnett missed when he was out with a muscle strain in his lower right leg, it was clear that their defense suffered in his absence.

In the 36 games Garnett has played this season, the C's are giving up just 90.8 points per game.

In the other nine without him, that number jumps to 94.1 points per game.

"The value he has on your team, is irreplaceable," Rivers said. "It's amazing the difference when he doesn't play. Even though we're still a good defensive team, it's not the same."

Before the Celtics traded for Garnett in 2007, Rivers got a heads-up from Garnett's former coach in Minnesota, Flip Saunders, about what to expect.

"Flip said, 'You're going to be amazed at how much he talks on defense,' " Rivers recalls. "And you knew it anyway when you played against him. You always heard him. It's great."

So is getting back Kendrick Perkins, a player who like Garnett, impacts a game as much with his words as he does with his play on the court.

"Defensively, Perkins doesn't need a lot of help," Garnett said. "He's a talker. We have that chemistry and rapport with him. To have him back to be a force . . . it's good to have Perk back."

Indeed, the return of Perkins has brought the C's as close to being complete as we've seen them all season.

"All the starters have great chemistry," Rondo said. "Not many guys play together four years straight, same starting five. We're in a great situation."

But the on-the-court chatter, making sure teammates don't get beat by giving them a heads-up, it speaks to a bond that goes deeper than simply the game of basketball.

"We actually give two cents about each other, which is a rarity," Garnett said. "We deal with each other off the court, which is a big plus. I'm not just saying that to make your column look like whatever, this is true life. And we enjoy each other; we're like brothers. We argue, we debate, we laugh . . . we're like brothers, real life."

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

OFFSEASON

Celtics second in Larry Sanders’ Twitter poll for his next team

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Celtics second in Larry Sanders’ Twitter poll for his next team

Veteran forward Larry Sanders, who hasn’t played since December of 2014, has taken to Twitter to get feedback on “Which team do you believe will utilize my skills the best?”

So far, it’s his last team, the Milwaukee Bucks leading, with the Celtics edging the Cavaliers for second place.  

Sanders, 27, has been away from basketball after two drug-related suspensions and issues with anxiety and depression led him to accept a buyout from the Bucks.  The 6-11 Sanders was a solid rim protector. He averaged 1.8 blocks a game in his career. Could the Celtics, with an already crowded roster, take a flyer on him as a low-cost option? 
 

OFFSEASON

Michael Jordan: ‘I can no longer stay silent’ on racial issues

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Michael Jordan: ‘I can no longer stay silent’ on racial issues

By Dan Feldman, NBCSports.com Pro Basketball Talk

Michael Jordan might have never said “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

But that quote has defined him politically.

Whether the perception has been fair or not, he’s clearly trying to change it.

Jordan in ESPN's The Undefeated:

As a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers. I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well.

I was raised by parents who taught me to love and respect people regardless of their race or background, so I am saddened and frustrated by the divisive rhetoric and racial tensions that seem to be getting worse as of late. I know this country is better than that, and I can no longer stay silent. We need to find solutions that ensure people of color receive fair and equal treatment AND that police officers – who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all – are respected and supported.

Over the past three decades I have seen up close the dedication of the law enforcement officers who protect me and my family. I have the greatest respect for their sacrifice and service. I also recognize that for many people of color their experiences with law enforcement have been different than mine. I have decided to speak out in the hope that we can come together as Americans, and through peaceful dialogue and education, achieve constructive change.

To support that effort, I am making contributions of $1 million each to two organizations, the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

You can read Jordan’s full statement here.