The grand experiment

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The grand experiment

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

OK, so let's try and picture what this is going to look like:

I'm guessing that you walk in, and the first thing you see is the largest man in NBA history stretched out in front of two lockers. He'll dominate the room without even trying, but most of the time, he'll try anyways.

To his right, there's the distinguished, shooting guardfuture politician discussing golf, current events or literally anything else you could think of with a hoard of writers. Next to him, Shrek and Donkey are cracking jokes, trying to earn the big man's attention and teaching each other how to Dougie.

Turning the corner you'll have a 6-foot-11, 14-year vet who's fresh off the most embarrassing playoff performance of his career. He was one of the league's premiere big men before punching a fan in Detroit and watching his career unravel. He made 44 million over the last two years, and hardly deserved a fraction, but now he's been thrown back into the spotlight. He's on a legitimate contender, and has all the motivation (and motivators) in the world. And he's still only 32.

And finally, next to him, there's the most intense and complicated psyche on the team. He's the emotional and spiritual leader, but also a guy who'd rather swallow a nail than have his concentration broken by pregame nonsense. He keeps to himself but his presence is always felt. He is intense. Always.

Getting back to the big guy in the middle, to his left you'll have the soon-to-be face of the franchise. A kid who doesn't say much, who hates the off-court attention, but will be asked to take control of these grown men and NBA legends. He needs to establish himself for the present, but also prepare himself for the future, because he knows that the greatness that surrounds him is very temporary. He has a few things to prove after a discouraging (by his standards) performance in the Finals, and his questionable break up with Team USA, but he'll have to do so while catering to the needs of his many fellow stars. He was an All-Star last season, and will have to make it back to establish himself as a legit All-Star not just a one-year wonder.

Next to the point guard is The Captain. This is his house. Despite all the other names they've brought in, he's been here longer than anyone else. This is his city. And he could have never imagined this was possible. It wasn't even five years ago that he was ready to split town and chase a title in Portland or L.A., and now his teammates have made a combined 44 All-star game appearances. Some of the greatest players of all time have come to Boston to join him, and they're a contender every year.

Next to the Captain, is the Enigma; literally, one of the most fascinating characters to ever put on an NBA uniform. He's hilarious. He's tragic. He's some sort of genius. And he's also the perfect role player on a contender; a guy we always felt would fit well within this new championship dynamic. He's a complete wild card and a legendary joker, and, for better or worse (read: MILFs) will add a dynamic that only he can.

Moving along, there's the humble, incumbent center, who now stares across the room at that man in the middle one of his fiercest rivals and a guy who came to Boston with the intention of stealing the center spotlight. When the incumbent busted his knee, he never imagined having to compete for his job, but now that will be the reality, as free agency looms. Next to him is a soft-spoken, accomplished rapper, who's getting a do-over after a season so horrible it could have knocked him out of the league. Lastly, we've got two kids from Texas and Notre Dame looking around, wondering how the hell they got here.

And that about does no, wait.

Let's not forget the man who was so close to not being there at all. Of course, he decided to give it one more go around, and this is his reward. An unprecedented combination of personality, pride, skill and psychosis. A human experiment if you've ever see one:

The 2010-11 Boston Celtics.

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

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

BOSTON -- Compared to most high draft picks, Jaylen Brown doesn’t log a ton of minutes for the Boston Celtics.
 
Playing on an experienced team with legit hopes of making a deep playoff run, rookies seeing limited minutes is a given.
 
Knowing playing time will come in a limited supply, Brown understands all too well the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity he gets on the floor.
 
He did just that on Saturday in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia, and he hopes to do more of the same on Monday when the Celtics take on the Houston Rockets.
 
When you look at Brown’s stat line, nothing about it looks impressive. He played 15 minutes, scored two points with one rebound and one blocked shot.
 
But beyond the stats was the fact that he was on the floor for seven minutes in the fourth quarter in a close back-and-forth game on the road. Rookies on the floor in crunch time is not the norm in the NBA.
 
“It means a lot,” Brown told reporters after Saturday’s win. “I try to be as best I can be for my team; try to put my best foot forward every night out.”
 
And he did just that on Saturday.
 
In the fourth quarter with the Celtics leading 87-83, Brown blocked a Gerald Henderson shot that wound up in the hands of Jae Crowder. Moments later, Jonas Jerebko hit a 3-pointer that gave the Celtics their largest lead of the game, 90-83.
 
And just two minutes prior to the blocked shot, he was out in transition following an Isaiah Thomas steal and threw down a dunk that pushed Boston’s lead to 86-83 with 7:11 to play.
 
Brown acknowledged making the most of those opportunities bodes well for him and the franchise.
 
“It’s great for our team in general; not just for me,” Brown said. “Those plays helped us to pull the game out in the end. So I’m glad we got the win. I think we should have played a little better than we did.”
 
The continued pursuit of self-improvement is a hallmark of what Brown’s focus and desire are at this stage of his pro career. He has talked often about not wanting to be just one of the best in this draft class but also one of the best in the NBA overall.
 
But he’s also learned that to get there takes time and experience developing both physically and mentally. Part of that mental growth entails having the right approach to games.
 
“Usually you try to tell yourself not to mess up,” Brown said. “Now that I’m getting more comfortable, it’s just play basketball, bring energy, things like that; come out and do what you’re supposed to do. A lot of times you try to tell yourself to not mess up and it’s counteractive; just come out and play basketball and have fun.”
 
And by doing so the minutes will come.
 
“You can’t control that. I just have to control what I can control,” Brown said. “I trust coach (Brad Stevens); I trust my coaching staff. I have to come out and in the minutes I get, play my hand as best I can and take advantage of what I do get and impact this team as much as possible.”
 
This season, Brown is averaging 4.8 points, 2.0 rebounds while shooting 41.9 percent from the field.

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

MORE ON CELTICS-SIXERS

But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”