The nature of the beast

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The nature of the beast

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

SALT LAKE CITY Its been a few days now since Kendrick Perkins was sent packing, and with time, the reality that hes no longer a part of this Celtics team has started to set in.

By next week, it will feel like five months since the deal went down. Before we know it, the sight of Perk in a Thunder jersey will look and feel as commonplace as Big Baby taking a charge or a KG cursing out an opponent.

Its like anything in life. A death in the family, a bad breakup, forgetting your favorite shirt in a Denver hotel room only to later be told that the maid found nothing (sorry, that came from a dark place). Basically, you always remember the good times, but you have to move on. You dont really have a choice.

But as we begin to separate ourselves from the drama that surrounded Perkins exit, theres one thing thats stuck with me. Its something Paul Pierce said in the aftermath of the Celtics Thursday nightpost-deadline loss to Denver.

At this point, it was already well-known that the veterans were unhappy with Perks departure, and Pierce was the first of the Celtics starters to address the issue. Now, a lot of the times (okay, almost ALL the time) these postgame interviews are about as canned as an Oscar acceptance speech. You can usually write out the answers before the guy even responds. But that night was different. That night, Pierce spoke more candidly than he had at any point since Game Seven of last years Finals. Or maybe even the night of the ring ceremony in 2008, when he broke into tears on the parquet.

Pierce went into how much Perkins had meant to the team, and himself. How sad he was to see him go, and how he just hoped Danny and Doc knew what they were doing. Then, in making the required remark about how "basketballs a business," Pierce made an interesting comparison:

Its a tough situation, its a tough business, but you saw how the business works all in one week, Pierce said. Everybody complains and talks about how Carmelo Anthony dictated what was going on in his situation. Where, in another situation, a guy cant control what goes on. So its both sides to the business. You cant be mad at either one of them. Just understand that thats the nature of the beast.

He continued . . .

Everybody thought LeBron James was cold for leaving Cleveland the way he did. This is an example of how it happens on the management end. You cant get mad at the players because it could happen to them unexpectedly, just like a player can go anywhere he wants. Thats just what it is.

Now, obviously the LeBron comparison isnt quite as powerful because it wasnt as much his decision as it was The Decision that rubbed everyone the wrong way. Still, Pierce makes a great point.

We really cant have it both ways. We cant expect the players to be completely selfless when it comes to trades, contracts and extensions, because theyve all seen what can happen. Say what you want about Carmelo, but I highly doubt he ever really wanted to hurt the city and fans of Denver. But when it came time for the extension, he had to be selfish. He had to go to the place that was best for him, best for his career. If he had to upset some people along the way, well, that's the way it goes. You cant please everybody.

At the end of the day, he has to look out for himself and his family, because no one else will. So he wanted go to New York? Fine. Wouldnt you?

In the same light, you know Danny Ainge loved Kendrick Perkins. You know Ainge never wanted to treat Perk the way he did, to leave him sitting in a Denver hotel room in tears as his former teammates took on the Nuggets.

But, again, at the end of the day, Danny Ainge has to do whats best for himself. His job is to win. That's the way he supports his family, and the only way he can keep his job is to build a sustainable winning basketball team. And as much as he loved Perk, it wouldnt have been fair to ask Ainge to not make what he thought was the best move for the team, just because it was going to hurt a players feelings especially if that player was just going to leave the team in three months anyway.

As Pierce said, You cant be mad at either one of them. Just understand that thats the nature of the beast.

Another reason fans cant get mad at either side? Because were just as guilty.

For instance, consider this:

Lets pretend its the summer of 2012. Blake Griffins fresh off averaging 3020 for the season. The 'Wolves are still waiting for Ricky Rubio. The Mayans are all embarrassed because the world still exists. And free agent Dwight Howard is about to end the speculation over his next NBA destination.

So Dwight hops on TV, sits down across from Jim Gray and announces to a stunned nation:

Im taking my talents to Lake Erie!

Not that this would happen, but just for fun, what if it did? What would be the reaction in Cleveland if Dwight Howard up and left Orlando for the Cavs? You know what it would be: Pandemonium. It would be one of the greatest days in franchise history. There would be rallies, non-stop parties. Dan Gilbert would run around screaming, I told you, Cleveland! Were back! Mwahahahaha! It would be Comic Sans Central.

Meanwhile, Magic fans are catatonic. But the people of Cleveland couldnt care less. Same way the people of Miami didnt care about them. The same way the people of Boston didnt care about anyone in Minnesota after KG. Same way New Yorkers cant be bothered by the little kids in Denver who just lost their idol.

So thats one side of the business. The other side happens when theres a trade like the one with Perkins. When someone is blindsided, and forced to move across the country at the drop of a hat. Trades like that break up families, they change lives. And for those who were really bothered by the Perk deal, that was a rallying cry. What about his family? What about his little son? Thats ruthless. But I guarantee the fans in Oklahoma City havent considered that once. Theyre just excited to have a big body to take on the Lakers and Spurs.

Going back to that Carmelo deal, it absolutely crushed Chauncey Billups to have to move to New York. It crushed everyone in Denver for him to leave. From the outside, you can sympathize with that. But if you live in New York, do you really care? Whats more important: Breaking up the Billups family or Mr. Big Shot helping you beat the Heat?

Bringing it back to Boston, Ill be honest: I have absolutely no idea if Jeff Green or Nenad Krstic are married or have kids or anything about what their lives were like back in OKC. They could be in the same situation as Perk or Chauncey, but Ive been to busy wondering if either can play defense. The fact that their lives were flipped upside last week hasnt even crossed my mind.

In the end, were just as bad as the players we criticize. And I think thats fine. Like Paul said, its just the nature of the beast. Everyone's guilty.

Players are going to do what they think is best for their careers. Executives are going to do whats best for their career. Fans are going to root for whatever is best for their team. Sympathy only exists when its convenient.

It's unfortunate, but there's nothing we can do to change it. The beast is stubborn as hell. So we might as well just quit being so surprised or offended when it ultimately acts out.

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

Celtics' Ceiling-to-Floor profiles: An award-winning summer for Rozier?

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Celtics' Ceiling-to-Floor profiles: An award-winning summer for Rozier?

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 Terry Rozier. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON -- Terry Rozier has every reason to feel good about himself after this year's Summer League, where he was clearly the Boston Celtics’ best player. 
 
But what does Summer League success really mean in the grand scheme of things?
 
This isn’t the Olympics, where a good couple of weeks in the summer can lead to sudden endorsement opportunities. And a bad summer, on or off the court, won’t necessarily result in your personal stock taking a Ryan Lochte-like dip, either.
 
For Rozier, the summer has been a continuation of his emergence during the playoffs last season against the Atlanta Hawks, when his numbers were significantly better across the board in comparison to what he did during the regular season.
 
And while his role at this point remains uncertain, there’s a growing sense that what we saw in the summer was more than just Rozier making the most of his opportunity to play. 
 
It was the 6-foot-2 guard playing with the kind of confidence and overall swagger that Boston hopes to see more of in this upcoming season.  
  
The Ceiling for Rozier: Most Improved Player, Sixth Man candidate
 
Rozier never wanted to see teammate Avery Bradley suffer a hamstring injury in Game 1 of Boston’s first-round series with Atlanta last season. But he knows if not for that injury, he wouldn't have played as much as he did, nor would he be viewed as someone who could seriously compete for minutes this season. 
 
That injury afforded Rozier playing time he had not seen in the 39 regular-season games he appeared in, when he averaged 8.0 minutes per contest.
 
In the playoffs, Rozier saw his playing time increase to 19.8 minutes per game, which naturally led to a rise in all of his statistics. 
 
It did more than help the Celtics compete with the Hawks. It provided a huge confidence boost for Rozier this past summer and will do the same going into training camp, where he believes he will be better-equipped to compete for playing time. 
 
Rozier already plays above-average defense for the Celtics. The big question mark for him has been whether he can knock down shots consistently. It certainly didn’t look that way during the regular season, when he shot 22.2 percent on 3s and just 27.4 percent from the field. 
 
Although the sample size is much smaller, he was able to shoot 39.1 percent from the field and 36.4 percent on 3s in the five playoff games he appeared in this past spring. 
 
So both Rozier and the Celtics feel good about the fact that his game in key areas such as shooting and assists are trending in the right direction. 
 
And if that continues he'll solidify a spot high atop the second unit, which could translate into him having a shot at garnering some Most Improved Player recognition.
 
The Floor for Rozier: Active roster
 
While his minutes may not improve significantly from a year ago, Rozier will likely enter training camp with a spot in Boston’s regular playing rotation.
 
On most nights the Celtics are likely to play at least four guards: Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Rozier. 
 
Look for him to get most of the minutes left behind by Evan Turner, who was signed by Portland to a four-year, $70 million deal this summer. 
 
Of course, Rozier’s minutes will be impacted in some way by how those ahead of him perform. But Rozier can’t consume himself with such thoughts. 
 
He has to force the Celtics’ coaches to keep him on the floor, And the only way to do that is to play well and contribute to the team’s success in a meaningful way. 
 
While his shooting has improved, Rozier is at his best when he lets his defense dictate his play offensively. 
 
In the playoffs last season, Rozier averaged 1.2 fast-break points per game, which was fifth on the team. 
 
Just to put that in perspective, Rozier averaged 19.8 minutes in the postseason. The four players ahead of him (Bradley, Thomas, Turner and Smart) each averaged more than 32 minutes of court time per night.
 
While it’s too soon to tell where Rozier fits into the rotation this season, his play this summer and overall body of work dating back to the playoffs last season makes it difficult to envision him not being on the active roster for most, if not all, of this season.

A make-or-break season ahead for Kelly Olynyk?

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A make-or-break season ahead for Kelly Olynyk?

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 Kelly Olynyk. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON – The Celtics went into the playoffs last season well short of being at full strength. No player exemplified this more than Kelly Olynyk, a non-factor in postseason due to a right shoulder injury that required surgery in May.

He comes into this season facing a much stiffer route to playing time than his previous four seasons. While Jared Sullinger (Toronto) is gone, Boston brings in four-time All-Star Al Horford, in addition to returners Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller and second-year big man Jordan Mickey, who is in line for a more expanded role this season.

Throw in the fact that Olynyk and the Celtics can reach terms on an extension before the start of the season (an unlikely occurrence because frankly it’s to both Boston and Olynyk’s benefit for him to be a restricted free agent next summer), and it’s clear just how important this season is to all involved.

Here’s a look at Olynyk’s ceiling as well as the floor for his game heading into this season.

The ceiling for Olynyk: Starter, Most Improved Player candidate

Kelly Olynyk has proven himself to be a much better contributor coming off the bench as opposed to starting. But no one will be shocked if Olynyk can play his way into a spot with the first group.  A 7-footer with legit 3-point range, Olynyk has shown flashes throughout his career of being a major problem for opponents because of his stretch-big skills.

And when teams have been a bit too eager in closing out or failed to box him out on a rebound, Olynyk has shown us all that “the bounce is real.”

He already ranks among the best big-man shooters all-time and needs just one made 3-pointer to join Dirk Nowitzki (1,701) and Andrea Bargnani (627) as the only 7-footers in league history with 500 or more made 3s.

In addition to making lots of 3s, Olynyk does it at a fairly efficient rate which can be seen in him shooting 40.5 percent on 3s last season which was tops among all NBA centers and made him one of just 20 players in the NBA to shoot at least 40 percent on 3s.

Although Olynyk’s defense has been considered among his biggest weaknesses, his defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions on the floor) of 97.7 was tops among Celtics players who logged at least 20 minutes per game last season.

If he can build off that, as well as continue to make teams pay with his long-range shooting, Olynyk could be one of the breakout performers this season for the Celtics and find himself on the short list of the NBA’s most improved players.

The bigger issue with Olynyk centers around his struggles holding position in the post as a rebounder. Because he’s a stretch big, you know he’s not going to haul in a ton of boards for you.

But he has to be better than last season when he grabbed 4.1 rebounds, which continued what has been a career regression in this area.

After averaging 5.2 boards as a rookie, he slipped to 4.7 in his second season and averaged a career-low 4.1 last season.

The floor for Olynyk: Active roster

Talk to anyone within the Celtics organization and they will not hesitate to point out the skillset that Olynyk has and how important he could potentially be for this team going forward.

Still, that’s part of the problem.

Olynyk has shown promise to be more than just a player in the rotation. He has the kind of skills that if he were to deliver them with more consistency, he would immediately become one of the team’s standout performers which would make Boston a much, much tougher team to defend.

But his game has been one marred by injuries and inconsistent play which, as you might expect, go hand-in-hand.

Even with what has been an uneven career, Olynyk has still managed to be a double-digit scorer in each of the past two seasons.

And his net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) of +5.2 is tops among players logging 20 or more minutes, too.

But even if he doesn’t elevate his game defensively or become a more reliable rebounder for Boston, Olynyk won’t be suiting up in street clothes as a healthy scratch anytime soon.

Olynyk has too much talent, and when you look at this Celtics roster, he fits a clear and well-defined need.

Pace and space remain keys to what Brad Stevens is trying to do with the Celtics and Olynyk’s strengths are an ideal addition.

But as we have seen with Stevens in the past, he’s not afraid to take a player out of the starting lineup or regular rotation, and bench them from time to time.

Just as it won’t surprise anyone to see Olynyk play a more prominent role potentially as a starter, the same is true if he struggles and finds himself racking up a few DNP-CDs (did not play- coaches decision) either.

But Olynyk has too much talent to fall too far off the Celtics’ radar, especially when you look at this roster and realize there’s no other player quite like him in terms of combining size, skill and perimeter shooting.

 

 

 

 

 

     

Could the '80s Celtics have won eight championships?

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Could the '80s Celtics have won eight championships?

In this episode, we sit-down with one of the best basketball writers in the country, Jackie MacMullan. Jackie covered the Celtics for the Boston Globe for several years, and collaborated with Larry Bird on his auto-biography. 

Jim Aberdale, producer of CSN’s documentary on the ‘86 Celtics, talks with MacMullan about the bitter rivalry between the Celtics and Lakers during the 80’s, how the tragedies the Celtics faced following the ‘86 title were difficult to believe, and covering the Golden Age of the NBA.