Fans expect Celtics to play up to expectations

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Fans expect Celtics to play up to expectations

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers loves Celtics Nation. Their passion, the fact that they want nothing but the best - and will let you know in emphatic fashion if you come up short - is exactly what makes this basketball-crazy region so unique.

Rivers understands all too well the second-guessing that has come about since the team traded away Kendrick Perkins, a deal that both Rivers and Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, have said was difficult but necessary for them to move forward.

The only way to silence those critics is to go forth with a strong showing in the playoffs which begins Sunday night as the Celtics host Game 1 of their first-round matchup against the New York Knicks.

Boston has been on a roller coaster of sorts since the Feb. 24 trade, evident by their glass half emptyhalf full record of 15-12 in the post-Perkins era.

As much as the struggles have helped to bring a team together that's very much a work in progress, it has also served as a reminder for Rivers just how passionate fans are around here during the good and not-so-good times.

"I know the big picture," Rivers told CSNNE.com on Saturday. "And the fans are no different than me. I'm a fan of the Celtics in some ways, and I expect us to win. So when they're frustrated, I can guarantee you that there's no fan that can get more frustrated than I am already. I actually don't mind that. Even when we were bad, I said that. At least they care. I'd rather have that, then the apathy and the indifference and 'you suck,' and don't even come to games."

But there are some fans who have not quite let go of the team's decision to trade Perkins, a player who has been pivotal in the success of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

In a season that has been filled with its share of grey areas, support for the Celtics, in Rivers' mind, is a black and white issue.

"You're either a fan or not," he told reporters earlier this week. "I've always said that. There's nothing wrong with being disappointed in wins and losses."

That's a given in any professional sports market. But in New England, a market driven by some of the most passionate fans in sports, it's not that simple.

These fans are educated enough about their teams to know when they are playing at a level consistent with their talent.

And the Celtics know, based on their roster, they should have a better overall record than 56-26.

However, this season has been easily the most unique and to a large degree, most challenging of the Big Three era.

When Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce in 2007, there really was only one way to go - up.

The only question at that time wasn't whether they would win a championship, but could they do it in their first season together.

After steamrolling through the regular season, the Celtics had the best overall record and were the odds-on favorite to win it all.

They lived up to the lofty expectations and brought home Banner 17.

And the fan's response?

Nice. Now go get Banner 18.

A knee injury to Kevin Garnett sidetracked their plans to repeat, and a Perkins injury weighed heavily in the C's Game 7 loss in the NBA Finals last year.

With the Celtics loading up on veteran talent this season, anything short of winning it all will again be a disappointment.

"That's what our fans have come to expect from us," Ainge told CSNNE.com. "And we expect that from ourselves. That's why you play the game, or you should play the game, to be a champion. We have a team full of guys who believe that."

But there are times throughout the season when the Celtics, like many NBA teams, seem to not play at a level consistent with what you need in order to win a championship.

He'll occasionally deliver the good-isn't-good-enough sermon. In case they don't get it, he has Celtics Nation coming in with the chorus.

However, intertwined within those goals is reality.

And for Rivers, that's where things get kind of tricky for fans.

They expect greatness, but don't necessarily factor in the ups and downs that go into it, and aren't always patient enough to see the process through to its end before judging a deal or a player rotation, a bust.

"We did make a lot of changes, and that takes time," Rivers said.

And for fans who don't understand that?

"If you don't get that, I can't help you," Rivers said. "If you want to jump (off the Celtics bandwagon), I'm not going to be there with you."

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

Ingram, not Simmons, set to attend NBA Combine

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Ingram, not Simmons, set to attend NBA Combine

BOSTON – The list of players who will be in attendance at the NBA pre-draft combine in Chicago next week has been released.

And not surprisingly, there are some projected near the top of the NBA draft board who will not be in attendance.

LSU’s one-and-done stud Ben Simmons, projected to be among the top two players selected, will not be in attendance.

Joining Simmons among the more notable players who won’t be in Chi-town is Croatian big man Dragan Bender whose current team Maccabi Tel Aviv is still in the middle of their season. He is projected by most as being the third overall pick. 

Providence star guard Kris Dunn, projected as a top-10 pick, will be among those in attendance, as well as his Friars teammate Ben Bentil.

The Celtics usually cast a pretty wide net at the combine, but this year it’ll likely be even wider due to the fact that Boston has eight picks that represents 13.3 percent of the draft.

Boston has three first-round picks, with the first to be determined during the draft lottery later this month. The pick comes from Brooklyn, and will be no worse than the sixth overall selection.

The Celtics also have the 16th and 23rd overall picks in the first round, along with five (31st, 35th, 45th, 51st and 58th) in the second round.

Here's the full list of prospects attending the NBA Combine:

Player College/Club
 Ron Baker Wichita State
 Wade Baldwin Vanderbilt
 Cat Barber North Carolina State
 Malik Beasley Florida State
 DeAndre Bembry St. Joseph's
 Ben Bentil Providence
 Jaron Blossomgame Clemson
 Joel Bolomboy Weber State
 Malcolm Brogdon Virginia
 Jaylen Brown California
 Robert Carter Maryland
 Marquese Chriss Washington
 Elgin Cook Oregon
 Isaiah Cousins Oklahoma
 Deyonta Davis Michigan State
 Cheick Diallo Kansas
 Kris Dunn Providence
 Henry Ellenson Marquette
 Perry Ellis Kansas
 AJ English Iona
 Kay Felder Oakland
 Dorian Finney-Smith Florida
 Michael Gbinije Syracuse
 Daniel Hamilton Connecticut
 AJ Hammons Purdue
 Josh Hart Villanova
 Nigel Hayes Wisconsin
 Buddy Hield Oklahoma
 Brandon Ingram Duke
 Demetrius Jackson Notre Dame
 Justin Jackson North Carolina
 Brice Johnson North Carolina
 Damian Jones Vanderbilt
 Skal Labissiere Kentucky
 Dedric Lawson Memphis
 Jake Layman Maryland
 Marcus Lee Kentucky
 Caris LeVert Michigan
 Thon Maker Orangeville Prep/Athlete Institute
 Patrick McCaw UNLV
 Isaiah Miles St. Joseph's
 Jamal Murray Kentucky
 Malik Newman Mississippi State
 Georges Niang Iowa State
 Chinanu Onuaku Louisville
 Marcus Paige North Carolina
 Gary Payton II Oregon State
 Jakob Poeltl Utah
 Taurean Prince Baylor
 Zhou Qi Xinjiang (China)
 Malachi Richardson Syracuse
 Wayne Selden Kansas
 Pascal Siakam New Mexico State
 Diamond Stone Maryland
 Caleb Swanigan Purdue
 Melo Trimble Maryland
 Tyler Ulis Kentucky
 Jarrod Uthoff Iowa
 Denzel Valentine Michigan State
 Isaiah Whitehead Seton Hall
 Troy Williams Indiana
 Kyle Wiltjer Gonzaga
 Stephen Zimmerman UNLV

Is Danny Ainge or Larry Bird a better NBA GM?

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Is Danny Ainge or Larry Bird a better NBA GM?

Danny Ainge and Larry Bird were both hired as NBA general managers in 2003. Ainge was back with the Celtics, where he spent the prime seasons of his playing career. And Bird went back to the Pacers, where he coached for three seasons.

There's no question that Bird was the better player. But who has been the better GM?

Trenni Kusnierek has a very interesting argument for why Ainge gets the edge. Watch the video above for her reasoning.

Bird not renewing Vogel's contract; McHale not a candidate

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Bird not renewing Vogel's contract; McHale not a candidate

Pacers head coach Frank Vogel, a good friend of Brad Stevens, is out in Indiana.

Pacers president Larry Bird made the official announcement on Thursday.

Vogel’s contract was up in Indiana and Bird elected to not renew it. That, according to Bird, was hard for Vogel to hear.

Both Bird and Vogel spoke shortly before Bird’s press conference with members of the media, and that’s when Bird gave him the news.

There is speculation now as to who will take over as head coach. With Kevin McHale removing himself from consideration for the Sacramento Kings job, there was some thought that he could become the head coach of the Pacers under good friend and former teammate Bird.

That isn’t going to happen either.