KG Deja Vu

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KG Deja Vu

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

I was out picking up dinner last Wednesday when Kevin Garnett strained a muscle in his lower right leg.

So as KG knelt over halfcourt, tapping out on Tayshaun Princes sneaker, my DVR was frozen in time at the five-minute mark of the first quarter.

I was waiting at the restaurant when the first text came in:

This injury looks bad.

First of all, I knew if Ed Lacerte was texting me during a game, it must be serious.

OK, it was friend Jay. And I had no clue what he was talking about.

What injury?

KG. Went up for a dunk. Non-contact. Looks like his knee.

Real bad?

I thought so. They just confirmed on TV that its his knee.

Sometime during this conversation, another text comes in,

I will die.

It was my friend Nick.

KG? I wrote. Did it look THAT bad?

Looked like the exact same thing that happened last time.

Crap.

I walked into the apartment, pushed play and just watched. The Celtics were running up and down the court like it was any other night, but I knew what they didnt everything was about to change. I spent most of those next few minutes just focused on KG, looking for signs of injury (he seemed fine) and waiting for the bomb to drop.

It was really pretty depressing. Not only because I care about the fate of the Celtics, but also because Garnett had quietly become one of the better stories of the NBA season. It was impossible not to marvel at the level hed worked himself back up to since struggling for most of last year. And the knowledge that his comeback was presumably about to derail was awful.

Anyway, I saw the injury and it was pretty much what I expected. It was exactly how theyd described it. It was just like Utah. He went up for the dunk, something clicked in the air, and he landed in a ton of pain. Afterwards, he wasnt even just limping on the same leg; it was the same limp with the same mannerisms and weight distribution.

Land on left leg, hops three times. Try to walk, hop three times. Try to walk.

His face was pained. It wasnt just physical pain, though. He looked like a guy who knew that something was wrong. Or at least thats how a lot of people perceived it. KG looked like Wes Welker on the sidelines last January in Houston. He looked halfway terrifiedhalfway devastated.

Honestly, who knows with KG? Hes obviously a supremely intense and emotional guy. And he was especially hyped on Wednesday with all the Charlie Villanueva stuff. So maybe he was just fired up, or lost in the moment, and overreacted a little.

Either way, his actions didnt leave you optimistic.

By the time my DVR caught up with the world, KG had already blown up Twitter. No one knew for sure what had happened, but the media on the scene were already widely reporting that it was his knee. At one point, you could even see Ed Lacerte inspecting the knee on the bench. It could have very well just been standard procedure. Maybe he was just trying to rule it out. Maybe KG had an itch. But in that one second, he was looking at the knee, the cameras picked it up and it was another reason to think the worst, which everyone did.

Then came the unexpected good news. And in a hurry.

Basically, as soon as the game ended, there was only positive (or at least relatively positive) information coming from the Celtics. Teammates said they didnt think it was bad. Doc said that it was a muscle in his calf muscle, not the knee. There were KG sightings on the team bus. The Cs tweeted out the official breakdown:

Muscle injury to the outside of his right leg, below the knee and above the ankle. He is scheduled for an MRI tomorrow.

Next came word from the team that the MRI wasnt even a necessity; that it was basically just something they were doing to give Kevin some peace of mind. Of the injury, Doc said, "It was pretty clear what it was. Honestly, Eddie told me at halftime. Once he told me Garnett would be all right, I was gone."

So they waited for the results of the MRI, and then announced that KG had a strained muscle in his right calf area (more specifically, the area right below the knee) and will be out for 2-3 weeks.

That brings us to now four days after the announcement and the question of the hour:

When do you think youll see him again?

So far, I get the sense that a lot of people breathed a huge sigh of relief after the Celtics prognosis. It feel like the majority are comfortable with the 2-3 weeks (especially relative to an entire season), and feel that the calf should heel, the knee will be fine and we'll see him in the middle of January. They think the Celtics just dodged a huge bullet. And thats fine.

But I think the bullet nicked them. And we have to wait and see what happens next.

Thats not to say I think the Celtics are lying. It seems like you cant have questions about KG's leg without someone inferring that you think the team is intentionally giving out false information. I personally dont think they are.

In fact, in spite of all the craziness of the 2009 season, I dont think they lied then either. I think they genuinely believed all along that Garnett would improve enough to play first, by mid-March, and then by the playoffs. No one realized how bad the bone spurs were and how much they were affecting his recovery.

Maybe they kept things a little more secretive when it came time for the actual surgery. There are still certain things from the procedure that are unclear. But when it came to the last few months of the lost season, I think the Celtics were just trying to find away to get KG back on the court, and were maybe even a little too honest.

So, when I look at this story, I'm not skeptical about lies. Im just concerned that, so far, 2011 truth is so similar to 2009.

This a story from the Seattle Times after Garnetts first injury:

PHOENIX Boston Celtics officials say forward Kevin Garnett will miss from two to three weeks because of a strained muscle behind his knee.Garnett returned Friday to Boston after injuring the knee on the team's West trip. Celtics spokesman Jeff Twiss said Saturday that team doctor Brian McKeon diagnosed the muscle strain after tests and an MRI.Garnett injured his knee while going up for a lob pass from Paul Pierce late in the first half of Boston's 90-85 loss to the Utah Jazz on Thursday. Garnett landed gingerly and immediately motioned to the bench for a substitute.

This is an injury that looked the same. And now its being diagnosed almost the same at least at this stage. And while I know there are other factors at play, Im at least going to make this injury show me that its different before I officially breathe that sigh of relief.

Am I encouraged that hes not out for the season? Yes, of course. But truthfully, I never really worried about that. I never thought he tore his ACL, or broke a bone, or anything else that have would immediately shelve him for the year.

Instead, from the moment I got those texts, I thought: Oh no, here we go again. I think a lot of us did. And I havent had any reason to stop. When that time comes I'll gladly exhale, but in the meantime it'll be three weeks of cautious nose breathing.

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

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

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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.

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.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

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Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.

Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.

Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.

“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”

And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.

“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”

And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.

“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday night’s game.

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.

Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.

STUDS

Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.

DUDS

Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.