Not a winning effort

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Not a winning effort

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

BOSTON After six weeks of uninspired basketball, the playoffs were supposed to serve as an immediate wakeup call for the Boston Celtics. But when the curtain went up on Sunday, the Cs merely hit the snooze bar, and spent the better part of the night stuck in a familiar nightmare.

Their All-Star point guard was inconsistent. Their Hall of Fame shooting guard struggled to find rhythm. They were sloppy with the ball and wasted key possessions. Their bench was non-existent, and at many keys moments, so was their defense.

The truth is that for most of their Game One battle with the Knicks, the Celtics were the same team thats struggled since the deadline. The playoff alarm sounded, and they couldn't be bothered. And had any number of things played out differently over the final quarter hell, the last 21 seconds Boston would be a very different place this morning. Bruins fans wouldnt be the only ones lining up at the Zakim Bridge.

Instead, Ray Allen happened, and now the Celtics are up 1-0.

Sure, it wasnt pretty, but style points dont count for much in the NBA playoffs. Regardless of how they got there, Boston still achieved what fellow contenders like the Lakers, Spurs and Magic couldnt. Their homecourts still intact. Momentums on their side. Meanwhile, the Knicks are stunned, and left to wonder if they just let their best chance to steal the series slip away.

Now, Bostons seemingly in control, but as much youd love to get lost in Allens heroics and Carmelo Anthonys failures and celebrate the Celtics win with no strings attached, its also hard to ignore the gory details of their performance:

Although he played better in spurts, Rajon Rondo didnt break out the way everyone expected, or dominate in the way he needs to. The playoff spotlight didnt bust Jeff Green out of his shell, or bring out Big Babys familiar magic. There were still long stretches when the team looked like it was put together that afternoon. The Cs have lost confidence in Nenad Krstic, still have no answer for Amare Stoudemire and are now counting so heavily on Jermaine ONeal who despite an unbelievable performance, still hasnt shown that his body can survive the rigors of playoff hoops.

The fire, chemistry and cohesiveness that we all assumed would return with the start of the playoffs wasnt completely there, and at the end of a long, hard-fought night, the Celtics still only proved that theyre good enough to barely beat the Knicks at the Garden. And that was never even in question.

Despite any general pessimism heading into the postseason, beating New York was always the expectation. The problems, questions and fears were about Miami and Chicago. And despite Sundays win, those fears still very much exist. Boston can take solace in its 1-0 lead its certainly better than the alternative but it did very little to raise expectations or soothe fears that Banner 18 is slipping away.

At least for today.

But moving forward there obviously is reason for optimism.

In an ideal world, the postseason switch was supposed to be an easy remedy to Celtics problems. They were going to just show up at the Garden, see hordes of media, the playoff decals on the court and snap back into shape. But in retrospect, that attitude probably didn't do justice to what the NBA Playoffs are all about.

In reality, you don't just show up playoff ready. You don't just step onto the court, a year later, and snap right back into that mentality. You have to live it. You need to struggle. We saw it all around the league. Game Ones are a crap shoot. All bets are off. Everyone's feeling it out.

Players need to independently remember: "Oh, that's right. I forgot how different this is." Teams, if they're going to succeed, need to collectively have that moment when they come together and realize: "OK, this is for real now. Let's make this happen."

Last year, the Celtics didnt officially arrive in the playoffs until Kevin Garnett shoved Quentin Richardson in front of Miamis bench. That was the moment when the Celtics switch officially flipped, and they never looked back.

On Sunday night, only a few feet from where that season-changing altercation took place, Ray Allen drained a dagger that Celtics fans can only hope will have the same effect.

Boston was at the brink of disaster. Not that a 1-0 is remotely insurmountable, but for all this team has gone through, the way they'd played up to that point and the overriding tension surrounding the franchise after trade, it's hard to imagine them responding well to a Game 1 loss. Especially one lost in that fashion. It would have been bad.

Instead, Ray Allen happened, and now the Celtics are up 1-0.

Now, the Celtics have had their moment. They've gone through the playoff ringer, and should come out awake and ready to play on Tuesday.

If not, at this point, its hard to imagine what might do the trick.

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

Ingram, not Simmons, set to attend NBA Combine

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Ingram, not Simmons, set to attend NBA Combine

BOSTON – The list of players who will be in attendance at the NBA pre-draft combine in Chicago next week has been released.

And not surprisingly, there are some projected near the top of the NBA draft board who will not be in attendance.

LSU’s one-and-done stud Ben Simmons, projected to be among the top two players selected, will not be in attendance.

Joining Simmons among the more notable players who won’t be in Chi-town is Croatian big man Dragan Bender whose current team Maccabi Tel Aviv is still in the middle of their season. He is projected by most as being the third overall pick. 

Providence star guard Kris Dunn, projected as a top-10 pick, will be among those in attendance, as well as his Friars teammate Ben Bentil.

The Celtics usually cast a pretty wide net at the combine, but this year it’ll likely be even wider due to the fact that Boston has eight picks that represents 13.3 percent of the draft.

Boston has three first-round picks, with the first to be determined during the draft lottery later this month. The pick comes from Brooklyn, and will be no worse than the sixth overall selection.

The Celtics also have the 16th and 23rd overall picks in the first round, along with five (31st, 35th, 45th, 51st and 58th) in the second round.

Here's the full list of prospects attending the NBA Combine:

Player College/Club
 Ron Baker Wichita State
 Wade Baldwin Vanderbilt
 Cat Barber North Carolina State
 Malik Beasley Florida State
 DeAndre Bembry St. Joseph's
 Ben Bentil Providence
 Jaron Blossomgame Clemson
 Joel Bolomboy Weber State
 Malcolm Brogdon Virginia
 Jaylen Brown California
 Robert Carter Maryland
 Marquese Chriss Washington
 Elgin Cook Oregon
 Isaiah Cousins Oklahoma
 Deyonta Davis Michigan State
 Cheick Diallo Kansas
 Kris Dunn Providence
 Henry Ellenson Marquette
 Perry Ellis Kansas
 AJ English Iona
 Kay Felder Oakland
 Dorian Finney-Smith Florida
 Michael Gbinije Syracuse
 Daniel Hamilton Connecticut
 AJ Hammons Purdue
 Josh Hart Villanova
 Nigel Hayes Wisconsin
 Buddy Hield Oklahoma
 Brandon Ingram Duke
 Demetrius Jackson Notre Dame
 Justin Jackson North Carolina
 Brice Johnson North Carolina
 Damian Jones Vanderbilt
 Skal Labissiere Kentucky
 Dedric Lawson Memphis
 Jake Layman Maryland
 Marcus Lee Kentucky
 Caris LeVert Michigan
 Thon Maker Orangeville Prep/Athlete Institute
 Patrick McCaw UNLV
 Isaiah Miles St. Joseph's
 Jamal Murray Kentucky
 Malik Newman Mississippi State
 Georges Niang Iowa State
 Chinanu Onuaku Louisville
 Marcus Paige North Carolina
 Gary Payton II Oregon State
 Jakob Poeltl Utah
 Taurean Prince Baylor
 Zhou Qi Xinjiang (China)
 Malachi Richardson Syracuse
 Wayne Selden Kansas
 Pascal Siakam New Mexico State
 Diamond Stone Maryland
 Caleb Swanigan Purdue
 Melo Trimble Maryland
 Tyler Ulis Kentucky
 Jarrod Uthoff Iowa
 Denzel Valentine Michigan State
 Isaiah Whitehead Seton Hall
 Troy Williams Indiana
 Kyle Wiltjer Gonzaga
 Stephen Zimmerman UNLV

Is Danny Ainge or Larry Bird a better NBA GM?

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Is Danny Ainge or Larry Bird a better NBA GM?

Danny Ainge and Larry Bird were both hired as NBA general managers in 2003. Ainge was back with the Celtics, where he spent the prime seasons of his playing career. And Bird went back to the Pacers, where he coached for three seasons.

There's no question that Bird was the better player. But who has been the better GM?

Trenni Kusnierek has a very interesting argument for why Ainge gets the edge. Watch the video above for her reasoning.

Bird not renewing Vogel's contract; McHale not a candidate

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Bird not renewing Vogel's contract; McHale not a candidate

Pacers head coach Frank Vogel, a good friend of Brad Stevens, is out in Indiana.

Pacers president Larry Bird made the official announcement on Thursday.

Vogel’s contract was up in Indiana and Bird elected to not renew it. That, according to Bird, was hard for Vogel to hear.

Both Bird and Vogel spoke shortly before Bird’s press conference with members of the media, and that’s when Bird gave him the news.

There is speculation now as to who will take over as head coach. With Kevin McHale removing himself from consideration for the Sacramento Kings job, there was some thought that he could become the head coach of the Pacers under good friend and former teammate Bird.

That isn’t going to happen either.