On KG, bin Laden, the Twitterverse and you

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On KG, bin Laden, the Twitterverse and you

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

All in all, it was a pretty impressive West Coast swing for the Celtics.

Sure, that loss in Phoenix was one of the ugliest since this Big Three got together. But when youre out West, 3-1 is 3-1.

Actually, with the win in L.A., 3-1 feels more like 13-1. And it couldnt have come at a better time.

When we next see the Cs, theyll be back home at the Garden (Friday night against Brian Cardinals Dallas Mavericks) and ready to kick off the defining stretch of their season.

After Dallas (which sits at 32-15 and already beat Boston earlier this season), the Celtics host the Magic on Sunday, before heading down to Charlotte (11-8 since Snazzy Silas took over) for the tail end of a back-to-back on Monday. After two days off, the Celtics welcome the Lakers on Thursday, the Heat arrive on Sunday and then, just for fun, the 96 Bulls are going to stop by for a scrimmage. Hey, why not?

Its only February, but for the next two weeks, if you ignore the eye-level snow, the hair-freezing temperatures and Herm Edwards' painful relevance, itll feel just like April, or May, or maybe even June.

And thats a good thing. Thats a lot to expect from winter basketball. And this recently completed West coast swing serves as the perfect launching point.

BUT . . .

Aside from that awful outing in Phoenix, there was one more little blemish on this otherwise uplifting trip.

Call it a black eye. Call it smacked groin. Call it a profusely bleeding head wound.

Call it Kevin Garnett, and his ever-dwindling public image.

Now, I know what youre thinking you buried the lead!

Why all the gushing about the Cs success, if youre just going to talk about the cancer comment, the bullying, the ball boy, bin Laden, the ball whacking and the undercutting?

Why make it seem like the winnings more important!?

Ah, you see what I did there?

But, perspective-inducing intros aside, we do have a bit of a problem.

The heart and soul of the Celtics has become a bonafide NBA villain. Of course, thats been the case for a while now. Its a storyline that was lurking under the surface over his last few years of persistent rookie hazing, foreigner taunting and other antagonizing behavior.

Then the surface was shattered when the Villanueva incident went viral.

After that, everyone who already hated KG, but could previously only go so far in criticizing his on-court intensity and intimidation, finally had their springboard. For a few years, KG was like Jack Nicholson in The Departed and his detractors were the feds. In their heads, he was always up to no good. They knew this villain existed. They just needed him to slip up, and then theyd have him.

Villanueva was Leonardo DiCarprio. He brought KG down from the inside.

And since then, its been mayhem.

Im not saying Garnetts been entirely victimized, because truthfully, its hard to argue with the basic tenets of anti-KG camp. Personally, I think the cancer comment was blown out of proportion, and that anyone who claims to truly be offended by the bin Laden joke needs a vacation. But still, Garnett does pick on lesser players. He does have a certain way with foreigners. He did say something to Villanueva that wont win him many fans.

Last Friday, he most definitely gave Channing Frye a little Hows your Father? On that same jumper, KG definitely closed out in a way that would make for a dangerous landing. He got under Fryes legs, and KG knew what he was doing.

On Sunday, if you believe Marc Spears and J.A. Adande (and given their track records, theres no reason not to), KG responded to an autograph request from a Lakers ball boy with, Youve got a better chance of catching bin Laden.

Basically, whether youre looking for a reason to hate the guy, or all you want to do is love him, you cant deny that theres a pattern of less-than-perfect behavior. And for the anti-KG camp its great. At this point, the only thing that can match their hatred is how much they actually love hating him. They get off on it. And thats fine. (As long as theyre tidy about it.)

But if youre a fan of the Celtics, its not that easy.

If youre a Celtics fan, youre faced with a problem:

What do you do when someone a friend, another fan, anyone tells you they hate Kevin Garnett?

Or more importantly, what do you do when that same guy or girl or Jamie Lee Curtis makes you feel like a bad person for NOT hating Kevin Garnett?

For instance, take this Twitter conversation from Sunday night (after the ball boy thing) between a well-known sports blogger and a very well-known fantasy guru.

@TheBigLead is Jason McIntyre founder of thebiglead.com who has nearly 20,000 followers. @MatthewBerryTMR is, obviously, Matthew Berry The Talented Mr. Roto from espn.com and he has nearly 300,000.

Berrys a Lakers fan. Im not sure on McIntyre. But it doesnt matter. Their brief interaction says it all. It represents the feeling across the country.

@TheBigLead I notice Boston fans have yet to chime in on KG's douchy Bin Laden quote. They're probably hoping it's not true. Either way, KG's a prck@MatthewBerryTMR @TheBigLead Read my @ responses. Some still defend him.

And there it is: What do you do?

You cant win.

If you defend him, you know youre going to have to put up with a lot of BS. If you blindly take the side of the player most responsible for bringing the Boston Celtics back to relevance and raising another banner at the Garden, then youre opening yourself up for a ton of ridicule. Theyll say youre insensitive to cancer patients or 911 victims or the plight of the long-suffering Lakers ball boys.

And OK, maybe thats a little extreme. But more realistically, it's that if youre defending him, youre defending a guy who probably doesnt entirely deserve to be defended; a guy whose game youd always respect, but who, if he played on the Lakers, Heat or Magic, you might have already grown wary of.

But then again, whats your other option?

Do you denounce him?

Because if you denounce him, then . . . well, you cant denounce him!

To denounce KG would be to denounce the Celtics. And thats not going to happen.

Youd have a better chance of catching bin Laden then you would of seeing a Celtics fan ever denounce Kevin Garnett.

If Giants fans hung with Barry Bonds while he was ruining baseball; if the Lakers fans hung with Kobe after the alleged rape; if Steelers fans will be cheering like mad for Ben Roethlisberger after the alleged RAPES, then Celtics fans can stand by a guy who made an unfortunate comment to Villanueva and refused to give an autograph after a game. They can stand by a guy who may very well act like a jerk when hes on the court, but who does so in the name of winning. You think Channing Frye wont be even a little focused on landing safely the next time he takes a jumper on KG? Dont get me wrong. What KG did was dangerous, but it will be effective. And word will spread. Plus, its hard to make a jumper when youre wearing a military-grade brass cup.

For the Garnett detractors, I know that last part was probably infuriating. Typical defense. Just a bunch of homers!

But, come one, everyones a homer.

All the time in sports, we root for guys with serious records, arrests, DUIs and domestic violence charges. There are athletes who have been directly involved in the death of another human being, and we will cheer for them. No matter what uniform Donte Stallworth is wearing next season, when he catches a touchdown, he will be celebrated. When hes out in the parking lot, or walking off the field, kids will ask him for autographs. And assuming he doesnt respond with, Youve got a better chance of getting Mubarak re-elected, hell be treated like a hero. Whether he's in New England, Baltimore, Seattle, wherever.

And in Boston, KG is a hero. Perhaps the most selfless and focused athletes we have. The model of team. Now, maybe he's not a hero in every sense of the word, which is to say hes not perfect. Its not a perfect situation. You wish he wouldnt call guys cancer patients. You maybe wish hed have taken five seconds to sign a basketball. You wish he went about his business without being deemed a dirty player. But come on, world. Lets not be nave. For Celtics fans, in the big picture of what all fans are willing to do and how far they're willing to go, its just not a huge deal.

And if KG was traded to L.A., Miami or Orlando, then it wouldnt be one there, either.

If you live outside the Boston bubble, and want to take those imperfections and villainize the man behind them, then cool. Thats your right as a fan, too.

Just dont be shocked when Boston doesnt follow suit.

Dont wonder how Garnett can stiff a ball boy for an autograph, make a reference to bin Laden, and Boston fans are still defending him. Because it will take a lot more than that to create that kind of shift in allegiance.

And dont theorize that most of Boston isnt commenting on a bin Laden reference because theyre hoping its not true, because the truth is especially when its something as stupid as that its more a matter of Boston just not caring.

It's hard to get caught up in the ball boy drama when the Mavericks, Magic, Lakers and Heat are knocking on the Garden door.

Especially when, after a great trip out West, the Celtics look more than ready to take care of the competition.

Although they better be gentle. Don't want to offend anyone.

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

Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

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Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

BOSTON -- Phil Jackson will be the first to admit he has made some mistakes during his tenure in the New York Knicks' front office.

Among the miscues was a deal that would have landed them Jae Crowder.

"One of the first deals I engineered when I came back to New York was to trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, plus a second-round pick that the Mavs owed to the Celtics," Jackson told the website, www.todaysfastbreak.com.

Jackson later revealed that in conversations with Boston leading up to the 2014 NBA draft, he was given an option to either keep the second-round pick which was to be conveyed to Boston from Dallas, or take Jae Crowder and allow Boston to keep the second-round pick from the Mavs.

"I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn’t get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo (Anthony)," Jackson said. "So I took the (second-round) pick which turned out to be Cleanthony Early.”

Ouch!

With Crowder left out of the six-player deal between New York and Dallas, the Celtics were able to engineer a trade with the Mavericks six months later that sent Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell to Dallas in exchange for Brandon Wright, Jameer Nelson, draft picks and what many believed at the time to be a “throw in” player by the name of Jae Crowder.

Less than two years later, Crowder is the lone player acquired by Boston in that deal who remains on the Celtics roster.

And as we have all seen, Crowder is far from just a warm body on the Celtics’ roster.

The 6-foot-6 forward has emerged as a core member of this young, up-and-coming Celtics squad, a key to Boston going from being a team rebuilding just three years ago to one that’s poised to be among the top teams in the East this season.

And the play of Crowder has been a significant part of that growth.

Last season was his first as an NBA starter, and the 26-year-old made the most of his opportunity by averaging career highs in just about every meaningful category such as scoring (14.2), steals (1.7), assists (1.8), rebounds (5.1), field goal percentage (.443) and starts (73).

Meanwhile, Early has had a pair of injury-riddled seasons which have factored heavily into him seeing action in a total of just 56 games (9 starts) while averaging 4.3 points and 2.2 rebounds while shooting 34.6 percent from the field and a woeful 26.3 percent on 3s.

“While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us,” Jackson said, “He still has the potential to be a valuable player.”

That said, Jackson knows he screwed that deal up, big time.

Even with the potential Early brings to the game, Jackson concedes, “I should have taken Crowder."

 

Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

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Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON – Considering all the different storylines that developed among the Celtics at the end of last season and this summer, it’s easy to forget that Jonas Jerebko was in the starting lineup.

With sporadic minutes in the regular season, Boston found itself trailing the Atlanta Hawks 2-0 in their best-of-seven playoff series.

So what did coach Brad Stevens do?

He shook up the starting lineup by inserting Jerebko. who helped Boston even up the series at two games apiece before the Hawks bounced back and ended the Celtics season after six games.

Those last four games against the Hawks – the only games Jerebko started all season - served as a reminder to many that the 29-year-old could still be an impact performer.

It was the kind of run to close out the season that Jerebko will certainly be focused on trying to build upon this season.

The ceiling for Jerebko: Starter

While he will likely begin the season as a reserve, Jerebko will certainly come into camp with a little more bounce in his step courtesy of a strong showing in the playoffs.

After averaging just 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 15.1 minutes in the regular season a year ago, Jerebko became a major force in the playoffs for Boston.

In his first game as a starter, Jerebko had a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds as Boston won Game 3, 111-103.

He was even more impactful 48 hours later with another a second straight double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) in yet another Celtics victory.

The Hawks made some adjustments in Games 5 and 6 to close out the series, but it wasn’t before Jerebko had put together the best postseason stretch of his career.

Compared to the regular season, Jerebko more than doubled his playing time in those final four games by averaging 31.3 minutes to go with 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Jerebko will be hard-pressed to return to that role at the start of this season.

Boston signed Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract, so you know he’s starting.

And Amir Johnson’s defense and ability to run the floor so effectively will likely result in him resuming a starting role, too.

That leaves Jerebko joining what looks to be a very talented and deep Celtics bench.

Even though he’s unlikely to start, Jerebko will get his share of opportunities to play.

At 6-foot-10, Jerebko has the size to play both power forward and center. And depending on the opposing team’s lineup, Jerebko has the potential play some small forward as well.

It was that versatility that made Stevens turn to Jerebko in the playoffs last season to replace Jared Sullinger, who signed with the Toronto Raptors in the offseason.

And while the idea of Jerebko as a starter seems a bit far-fetched at this point, he is yet another Celtics reserve who has proven himself to be ready to play and play well when given an opportunity to step on the floor regardless of what that role may be.

The floor for Jerebko: Seldom-used reserve

Despite a strong finish last season, Jerebko will once again have to fight and claw for any minutes on the floor. While the Celtics certainly were aided by his versatility, this season’s roster has a number of players who, like Jerebko, can play multiple positions at both ends of the floor.

NBA veteran Gerald Green is 6-8 and will play shooting guard and small forward. But depending on the lineup, it’s not a stretch to envision him playing some power forward. Ditto for rookie Jaylen Brown and starting small forward Jae Crowder sliding up one position.

Beginning the season on the rotation fringes is nothing new to Jerebko, whose role was very much up in the air when the Celtics traded Tayshaun Prince to Detroit prior to the 2015 trade deadline for Jerebko and Gigi Datome.

Gradually, Jerebko earned his minutes and proved he was indeed a valuable piece of what Stevens and the Celtics were trying to build here in Boston.

And now, with a season-plus of time with the Celtics under his belt, Jerebko finds himself once again being challenged to show that he’s more than just a body on the roster.

 

Report: Celtics renounce draft rights to 2013 pick Colton Iverson

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Report: Celtics renounce draft rights to 2013 pick Colton Iverson

By Dan Feldman, NBCSports.com Pro Basketball Talk

The Celtics bought the No. 53 pick in the 2013 NBA draft to get Colton Iverson out of Colorado State, and he thanked them by allowing them to keep his rights the last three years.

Iverson rejected the required tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum, teams must extend to retain exclusive negotiating rights to a second-round pick – year after year to sign overseas. Accepting the tender would’ve likely meant Iverson going to Boston’s training camp and getting waived. Perhaps, the timing of that would’ve limited his European options that year. But it would’ve made him an NBA free agent – or, best-case scenario, he could’ve made the Celtics and drawn an NBA paycheck.

As it was, Iverson limited himself to joining Boston and only Boston. If another NBA team wanted Iverson, it would have had to trade for him.

And what does Iverson get for that loyalty? A Celtics contract with at least a partial guarantee?

Nope.

Just a head start on finding another team – which he could’ve gotten for himself three years ago.

Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:

This is why second-round picks should be more aggressive about accepting the required tender. Even if you get waived, you open NBA options.

Iverson is a strong 7-foot center who plays with physicality. He can help in certain matchups, and he’d make sense as a third center on teams that have first- and second-stringers playing a different style.

But Iverson is 27, and his NBA window may be closing if it hasn’t already.

It’s a shame he spent so many years beholden to Boston, which didn’t want him.

It was probably just courtesy of the Celtics to renounce his rights now rather than have him sign the tender. They would have guaranteed him no money with the tender, and they could have gotten a few minor benefits with it – an extra body for training camp, the ability to assign his D-League rights to their affiliate after waiving him and the slightest chance he impresses enough in the preseason to hold trade value.

But them forgoing those potential advantages, even if out of courtesy, also sends a signal about how little they value him. Teams don’t do these types of favors for players they actually covet.