Hawks still see Celts as team to beat in East

Hawks still see Celts as team to beat in East

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

ATLANTA The Chicago Bulls have the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Miami Heat have had the most hype.

In between them, literally and figuratively, is the Boston Celtics.

While the C's may not be the sexiest pick to come out of the East this season, Atlanta Hawks All-Star Joe Johnson still view the Celtics as the team to beat.

"I know when playoffs come, they're going to be hitting on all cylinders," Johnson told CSNNE.com.

Even with the Celtics struggling of late, Johnson said regular-season struggles don't really impact a team like the Celtics.

"They've been there before," he said. "They understand what it takes to win, take their game up two or three notches. You have to respect that."

Hawks forward Josh Smith certainly does.

"They're the team until somebody proves them wrong," Smith said. "They've been the team for these past couple of years."

And while Smith is quick to recognize the success that Chicago and Miami have had this season, "those teams . . . are hot teams that people are talking about right now. What they have to understand is, this is a veteran ballclub and they've been in these situations. Like everybody says, the regular season doesn't matter. It's what you do in the postseason. They have three Hall of Fame players, and they've already figured out how to get it done with each other. The Miami situation is still up in the air, how they're going ot make it work in the postseason. This team, they already understand. They know."

Celtics center Nenad Krstic was with the team, but didn't play against the Hawks and won't play Sunday against the Pistons after suffering a right knee injury in the second quarter of Boston's 107-97 win at San Antonio on Thursday.

Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, told CSNNE.com that Krstic will have an MRI performed on the knee Saturday afternoon.

Without Krstic, the Celtics once again find themselves short-handed at the center position.

Jermaine O'Neal, who returned to action against the Spurs after being out with a left knee injury since late-January, will continue to come off the bench while the C's move Glen Davis into the starting lineup.
A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

First Celtics practice 'a little different' but 'feels right' for Horford

First Celtics practice 'a little different' but 'feels right' for Horford

WALTHAM, Mass. – NBA players are creatures of habit so you can understand why Al Horford was just a little bit out of his element on his first practice with the Boston Celtics.
 
After nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, Horford hit the free agent market this summer and signed a four-year, $113 million with the Celtics.
 
Horford acknowledged that his first practice with the Celtics “was a little different” but added, “It’s definitely a weird feeling, but it feels right to be here.”

Players, coaches, national pundits, the list is seemingly endless when it comes to folks who believe Horford is an ideal fit with the Boston Celtics.
 
“He can do score in the paint, shoot 3s, defend, pass, he can do it all out there,” Amir Johnson told CSNNE.com. “He’s going to fit in well with us.”
 
But like any rookie or newcomer to a team, Horford admitted he had some moments when he was a step or two late getting to where he needed to be on the floor.
 
“We’re running through a lot of plays, a lot of concepts being thrown out,” Horford said. “It’s a matter of getting comfortable with all the sets.”
 
As much as he will work to figure things out, Horford is wise enough to know he’ll need the help of his new teammates, too.
 
“I’m going to lean on a lot of the guys,” Horford said. “I’ll definitely ask a lot of questions. Avery (Bradley) already has gotten in my ear, anything I need he’s there for me. I just want to get acclimated as fast as I can.”
 
Horford also said that head coach Brad Stevens has been extremely helpful in assisting him in speeding up his learning curve.
 
“Coach (Stevens) is very sharp, very . . .  he explains things well,” Horford said. “He explains things well. He wants practice to move along. The pace of practice, definitely a faster pace.”
 
But you won’t find Horford complaining.
 
Horford is clearly excited about starting this new chapter in his basketball career.
 
“For me it’s more of a relief, finally being here in Boston, house, being settled,” Horford said. “Now we can just focus on the season.”