Longabardi to be Celtics new defensive assistant

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Longabardi to be Celtics new defensive assistant

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
WESTON Nobody knows when the Boston Celtics -- or any other NBA team -- will resume play. But when the C's do take the court, their defensive play will have a new face for the third straight season.

Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers confirmed that Mike Longabardi, who was promoted to bench assistant this summer, will be leading the C's defensive efforts.

The last two coaches in that role were Tom Thibodeau and Lawrence Frank who are now NBA head coaches in Chicago and Detroit, respectively.

"Longo (Longabardi) will be the leader (defensively)," Rivers said shortly before participating in a celebrity golf tournament at the Weston Golf Club.

While Thibodeau and Frank were given much of the credit for the C's defensive success, Rivers said his other assistants will have similar input with Longabardi that they had with his predecessors.

"(Assistant coach) Kevin Eastman was really important for Lawrence and Tibs," Rivers said. "That role won't change much at all."

Having an assistant coach who specializes in offense or defnese is a relatively new concept.

One of the first coaches to do so -- and do it well -- was former Celtic great Larry Bird when he coached the Indiana Pacers.

Bird had former Celtic Rick Carlisle (current head coach of the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks) in charge of his offense, while Dick Harter handled the Pacers defensively.

Rivers has tried to have at least one assistant in charge of the defense, but admits that it has been hit and miss.

"It was something I always wanted to do," Rivers said. "I always thought it was the right thing to do. Having spent a lot of time with the football coaches, you always felt they were ahead of the curve. They either hired an offensive or defensive coordinator. I thought if they do it with the amount of players they have, we should be able to do it with the amount of players we have."

Rivers added, "If you noticed, I changed that position a lot in Orlando and here. I kept looking for the right one. Tibs, for me, was that guy. He loved doing it. That's what he wanted to do. It really allows you to coach the team, so it's really important."

So is staying true to the keys to the C's success in recent years, which begins with strong play defense.

"We pretty much know who we are," Rivers said. "We're not changing much as far as our identity defensively and stuff like that. But there are areas we want to improve on, on offense and defense and we're going to do that."

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

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

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Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

BOSTON -- There was a bomb threat to the Boston Celtics’ team plane to Oklahoma City on Saturday afternoon, but no one was injured.

The incident will be investigated by NBA security which will work in conjunction with the FBI on this matter which was one of several hoaxes called into airports across the country on Saturday.

News of the bomb threat was first known when Celtics forward Jae Crowder posted an Instagram photo showing players departing the plane with the caption, “BOMB THREAT ON US”.

Celtics officials declined to comment on the matter and instead referred all bomb threat-related questions to the league office.

Messages to the league office were not immediately returned.

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

BOSTON – When it comes to winning basketball, keep it moving – the ball that is – has become a staple of the Celtics this season. 
 
And lately they’ve had to do it without Isaiah Thomas, the team’s leading scorer at 26 points per game as well as their top assists guy (6.2) who will miss hish third game in a row Sunday in Oklahoma City because of a right groin injury.
 
The Celtics have split their first two games without Thomas, with the most recent being a 101-94 home loss to Toronto on Friday.
 
When it comes to this team and ball movement, fans are just as divided when it pertains to whether the Celtics move the ball better without the high-scoring Thomas in the lineup. 
 
Regardless of what fans think they know about this team and how they move the ball, the numbers paint a very clear picture that this team’s ball movement is among the best in the NBA, with or without Thomas in the lineup. 

And that will be important on Sunday against an Oklahoma City team that doesn’t rely on the ball swinging from one side of the floor to the other, nearly as much as the Celtics. 
 
The Thunder, led by MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, are dead-last in the NBA when it comes to passes made per game (267.1). 
 
Meanwhile, the Celtics are at the opposite end of the passing game spectrum, averaging 331.7 passes per game, which is second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.3).
 
And in the two games without Thomas, Boston has averaged 347.0 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA in that period of time. 
 
In addition to missing his points and assists, the Celtics must also find ways to make plays in filling the void left by a player who has the ball in his hands a lot of the time. 
 
Thomas’ usage percentage (percentage of plays used by a player while he’s on the floor) of 32.9 percent ranks seventh in the NBA, ahead of notable stars such as San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (30.9 percent), Portland’s Damian Lillard (30.8 percent), New York’s Carmelo Anthony (29.5 percent), as well as Cleveland’s LeBron James (29 percent) and Golden State’s back-to-back NBA MVP Stephen Curry (28.2 percent).
 
So, considering how involved Thomas has been in the team’s offense, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the numbers in terms of passing and ball movement are better without him than they are when he’s on the floor playing. 
 
What should be surprising is that the gap statistically without him, isn’t greater. 
 
Boston has been a top five team when it comes to assists this season, currently third in the league with 24.7 assists per game. In the past two games without Thomas, the Celtics’ assists numbers have risen to 26.5 per game, but that only ranks fifth in the league in that span.
 
When it comes to potential assists and secondary assists (a.k.a. the “hockey” assist), Boston’s numbers have improved slightly without Thomas as well, but in each category Boston is ranked second in the league. 
 
And that ranking is with, and without Thomas in the lineup. 
 
While it’s not clear if Thomas knows just how close the numbers in terms of ball movement are with and without him playing, he is acutely aware that there are some who believe they are a better team in terms of keeping the ball moving without him.
 
“I can’t control that,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “At this point, I laugh about it. I know what I mean to my teammates. I know what I mean to this organization, to Brad Stevens.”