East All-Stars fall short in flashy affair, 148-143

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East All-Stars fall short in flashy affair, 148-143

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

LOS ANGELES Teamwork. Crisp ball-handling. Defense.

Keeping with what has been an All-Star game tradition, you didn't find any of those traits in heavy supply on Sunday.

So it should come as no surprise that the Boston Celtics' All-Star quartet had little impact as the West held on for a 148-143 win.

Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo were all All-Stars prior to Sunday's game.

Their success in Boston has been due in large part to their collective efforts, and not necessarily because of their individual skills.

NBA All-Star games are not conducive to players who are at their best in a team-oriented system.

"It's more of a pick-up game setting," said Pierce, playing in his ninth All-Star Game. "It's kind of hard. You're not in a system. You're in a free-flowing game. Usually it's made for the better athletes, the guys that can get up and dunk and put on a show."

That certainly was what the Staples Center crowd got from one of their own, Kobe Bryant.

Bryant finished with 37 points and 14 rebounds, and was an obvious choice in claiming his fourth All-star game MVP award.

"Let's be honest, Kobe had it going, to say the least," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, the head coach of the Eastern Conference squad.

As for the Celtics' fantastic four, Rondo had the best game statistically.

He finished with eight assists and six points. Allen led all Celtics in scoring, with nine points. Pierce chipped in with six points.

One of the few Celtics highlights came in the fourth when Garnett, who had four points and five rebounds, grabbed a rebound and launched a long outlet pass to Allen who soared in for a dunk.

For Garnett, Sunday's game was his 14th consecutive All-Star appearance, which ties an NBA record he now shares with Jerry West, Karl Malone and current Celtics teammate Shaquille O'Neal.

"To be in your prime and play All-Star caliber basketball is a compliment to you and your work ethic," Garnett said. "I'm just fortunate I was here with three others, coaching staff and guys in the organization. If this is the last one, couldn't go out a better way."

Aside from Rondo, there's no telling if any of the other three Celtics will ever be back as All-Stars.

Allen has shown no signs of slowing down anytime soon, but you have to believe at some point Sugar Ray's jumper won't be nearly as sweet as it is. Pierce is getting up in age, and his game will also likely undergo a decline in the coming years. Ditto for Garnett.

But for one night, in Los Angeles of all places, the four pillars to the Celtics' resurgence played on the grandest stage of them all.

And while it certainly would have been nice if one or all of them put up big numbers, that's never been their style since donning a Celtics uniform.

Boston has been so successful because despite their immense talent, each has sacrifice some facet of their game in order to help the C's remain a title contender.

When you spend years making those kind of sacrifices, it's hard to imagine tossing that to the side for one night.

So as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James (29 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists) battled it out for the All-Star Game MVP award, you could find Garnett and company on the bench, cheering on their rent-a-teammates like James and New York's Amar'e Stoudemire (29 points, six rebounds).

And while all involved agree that the free-flowing nature of the game didn't necessarily jive with what the Celtics do best, that shouldn't detract from what will surely be a memorable weekend.

"I'm just trying to enjoy myself, enjoy the moment," Rondo said. "I'm just trying to enjoy myself."

Having three teammates there, plus the entire Celtics coaching staff, certainly helped.

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

Thomas excited for reunion with Green

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Thomas excited for reunion with Green

WALTHAM, Mass. -- When the phone rang this summer, Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas had to do a double-take when he saw the name on the caller ID.

It was Gerald Green, his ex-teammate in Phoenix.

Although they only shared a locker room for 45 games in Phoenix, the two became quick friends.

On the court they developed instant chemistry while coming off the Suns bench. And that bond spilled off the court as Green would later spend time with Thomas in the Seattle-Tacoma, Wash. area in the summer months.

They were cool with each other, cool enough to where Thomas knew it wasn’t in Green’s nature to pick up the phone and call just to say hi.

“Gerald doesn’t call anybody,” Thomas said. “When he called I knew something was up.”

Green said Boston, the team that drafted him in 2006 straight out of high school, was interested in bringing him back for a second stint with the club.

“I tried to put my two cents in and he got here,” Thomas said.

There were several factors that led Green back to Boston, with a chance to reunite with Thomas being high on that list.

Green, already in Phoenix at the time the Suns signed Thomas in 2014, was impressed with the way the 5-9 guard carried himself.

“He was a genuine guy, came in really humble,” Green said. “I saw the talent was there. I knew he had the potential to be one of the best point guards in this league.”

Thomas certainly made a case for such lofty praise with how he performed last season, good enough to earn his first all-star selection.

What really stuck out to Green was that Thomas’ mentality and approach to the game was almost a carbon copy of his own.

“When we stepped on the court we had the same mentality,” Green said. “By any means necessary, get a bucket and play harder than the next team; just try and push the first team, make the first team better every day.”

Thomas was coming off the bench, showing lots of potential and promise that he could carry a heavier load if given an opportunity to do so.

He averaged 15.2 points, 3.7 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 25.7 minutes off the Suns bench in 46 games. Even more significant was that when Thomas did play for the Suns, they were 26-20.

In the games without him, they were just 13-23.

Green was admittedly disappointed they traded away Thomas, believing that season would have had a very different outcome had they not sent him to Boston.

And just like Green recognized Thomas’ skills and how much his team could have benefited from keeping him around, Thomas speaks in glowing terms about Green and what his return to Boston means for the team.

“We needed someone like him; a guy that could shoot the ball, a guy that could space the floor; instant scorer whether he starts or comes off the bench,” Thomas said. “Where the he starts or come off the bench. He’s going to really help us.”

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

WALTHAM, Mass. – When the news came out that Al Horford was going to be a Boston Celtic, Amir Johnson couldn’t wait to meet his new teammate.

He didn’t have to.

Johnson soon found himself on plane headed to Atlanta to not only work out with Horford, but also try and work out some of the kinks that tend to come up among new teammates in those early days of training camp.

“I took it upon myself when I saw Al was part of the team, I automatically wanted to go down to Atlanta and work,” said Johnson who added that he brought his daughter along for the trip and they went to dinner with Horford’s family during the visit. “I thought it was great just to get that chemistry going. I just wanted to get to known him, make him feel comfortable.”

It’s still early in training camp, but Johnson and Horford seem to be meshing quite well on the floor. 

“The chemistry’s definitely coming along,” Johnson said. “I know when Al wants to roll or pop, and just working my way around it. Al’s more of a popper and eventually he’ll roll. It’s up to me to read whether I stay up or work the baseline.”

Johnson has been in the NBA long enough to know that often the keys to success are subtle nuances that may be overlooked by fans and spectators, but players know are essential to them being successful.

Being able to not only understand a player’s game but figure out how to play well with them, are critical to teammates being successful.

Last season, Johnson was Boston’s primary rim-protecting big man which is a role the 29-year-old Johnson has been cast in the last few years he was in Toronto. Horford brings a similar set of defensive skills to the table which gives Boston a true 1-2 defensive punch along the frontline.

“It’s big time,” Johnson said. “We communicate to each other. It’s all about communication out there; just knowing he can hold it down and he trusts me to hold it down. It’s key.”

GREEN INJURY UPDATE

Gerald Green is expected to get a few more days to rest his hip flexor injury which he said on Thursday was feeling better.

The injury should keep the 6-6 wing from participating in the team’s Green-White scrimmage on Friday, but it isn’t considered serious.

Still, Green is eager to get back and return to full contact work which is why he is getting a steady diet of treatments during the day and returning in the evening for more treatments from the Celtics’ medical staff.

“It’s almost like a precautionary thing; make sure it doesn’t get worst,” Green said.

The injury occurred earlier this week but Green could not pinpoint exactly what he did to suffer the injury.

“I don’t think I stretched properly,” Green said. “I’m not 25 no more. Just try to come out there and go at full speed. Those are things I’ve got to learn now I’m in my 30s.”
Indeed, one of the many benefits of being older now is that Green sees the big picture of things better now, which is why he isn’t trying to rush back to the floor too quickly.

As a veteran, it’s a long season,” Green said. “You’re not trying to do too much to make it worst. Training camp is important, but being healthy at the beginning of the season is even more important.”

RUN, YOUNGSTERS, RUN

Near the end of Thursday’s practice, the Celtics had a full court game of 3-on-3 involving some of the team’s rookies and end-of-the-bench training camp invitees like Jalen Jones of Texas A&M. The 6-7 undrafted rookie had a dunk over Jordan Mickey, a 3-pointer and another strong, uncontested flush at the rim in a matter of minutes. He’s likely to wind up with Boston’s Developmental League team, the Maine Red Claws.

With Thursday morning’s session being the team’s fifth practice this season, head coach Brad Stevens thought it was a good idea to get some of the team’s younger players on the court.

“It was good to play some 3-on-3,” said Stevens who added that it was good for their conditioning since a lot of the running at this point involves trying to get the starters and the likely rotation players as acclimated and familiar with one another as possible. “We try to do that occasionally even through the season just to get everybody up and down.”

TURNOVERS? WHAT TURNOVERS?

Five practices in the books and there’s only one thing that really has stood out to the eyes of Isaiah Thomas.

It’s turnovers.

Apparently the Celtics haven’t committed too many thus far.

“We haven’t turned the ball over as much as teams usually do the first couple of days,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to learn the system, trying to get everybody familiar with what we do. But we’ve been playing well together. Guys are playing hard. Guys have gotten better, worked on their game.”

Ball-handling will be one of the areas to watch during the preseason as the Celtics look to find a replacement for Evan Turner (Portland) who has been one of the team’s best ball-handlers the past couple of seasons.

The Celtics were middle-of-the-pack last season with 13.5 turnovers per game which ranked 14th in the NBA.

Low turnovers often serve as a common trait among playoff teams. Just last season, eight of the top-nine teams in fewest turnovers committed, were in the playoffs.