Notes: The value of the Diesel

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Notes: The value of the Diesel

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- This summer, former teammates Shaquille O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas left Cleveland and went in different directions. Shaq went north to Boston, Ilgauskas flew south to Miami.

Even though the big men are on rivaled teams now, Ilgauskas enjoys the camaraderie he shared with O'Neal last season on the Cavaliers.

"He was great to me, for us. He really was," Ilgauskas told CSNNE.com before the Celtics played the Heat. "He came in every day, practiced. Me and him, we always had a good relationship. I enjoyed having him on the team. It was fun. He was good for me."

After 13 years in the NBA, Ilgauskas has never played with -- or against -- anyone like O'Neal. He's happy to have had the opportunity to share the paint with him.

"He's a freak of nature," he laughed. "You never see somebody of such size do the things that he does. He's a unique player, always has been. He's special."

In the box score, Shaquille O'Neal posted 9 points and 7 rebounds in 18 minutes. His teammates believe his contributions went beyond the stat sheet.

"He's huge for us," said Paul Pierce. "I think the numbers don't really tell you how big he is for us because I remember at one point in the game going to Ray Allen, I think it was the third quarter, we looked up and we were six minutes and in the bonus because Shaq drew about four or five fouls. We're not a team that usually gets in the bonus that early, and that's the presence that he brings. Hopefully it's going to be like that all year long, when you get into a penalty and every foul from then on you go to the free-throw line. Just having him, he's a great finisher . . . We want to take advantage of that night in and night out. I think that's where our greatest strength is, on the inside, and I'm glad to have him on our team."

Kevin Garnett simply echoed, "What he said."

As for O'Neal, he was just glad to help the Celtics come out with a W.'

"We just wanted to come out and win our first game," he said. "That's what we did. We let you all worry about the hoopla and all of that. We know that we wanted to come play a solid game and we knew if did what we wanted to do, then we could possibly get a win. Now that this game is over, we've got a game tomorrow against the Cavaliers in Cleveland and we just want to be 2-0."

Ever since he was traded to the New York Knicks last February, Eddie House has made it a point to stop by the Celtics locker room when he comes to Boston.

Make no mistake, he is on board with the Miami Heat, but that doesn't stop him from giving credit to his former team.

"I thought it was going to be a hard game," he said of Opening Night against the Celtics. "A great team over there -- obviously -- with their track record. In '08 when they came together, they've been together a long time. It shows. They are in midseason form, everything clicking. They can pretty much run their offense with their eyes closed. They are a great team, and they played great tonight."

House scored eight points off the bench for the Heat, including a pair of three-pointers. He got open looks like he did with the Celtics, but he is not into drawing comparisons between his former and current teams. Instead, he's focused on his future with the Heat.

"I think it's just two different dynamics, the way these guys play and the way that team is put together," he said. "But I'm not comparing this team to that team because we could talk until we're blue in the face about that stuff. That's not what I'm here to do. I'm here to talk about the Miami Heat and not the Celtics. We're trying to do something special here and we're trying to move forward."

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcamerato

Scal: Once you get Jimmy Butler, you get... Kevin Durant

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Scal: Once you get Jimmy Butler, you get... Kevin Durant

Kyle Draper, A. Sherrod Blakely and Brian Scalabrine discuss the NBA free agency and how it may impact the Celtics.

“You have cap space, you have draft picks, so you should be excited moving forward,” said Scalabrine. “Now it all comes down to where the ping-pong balls drop. If they drop and we’re one, two, or three, that is a valuable asset.”

But who could the Celtics trade the pick for?

“Here’s the name if it’s one, two, or three: Chicago trades Jimmy Butler. They want to sell the idea that they can rebuild and they can rebuild with a top three pick. Once you get Jimmy Butler…then you get who!?”

Kevin Durant, right?

Watch the video for more.  

Celtics, Hawks admit Bradley injury had big effect on series

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Celtics, Hawks admit Bradley injury had big effect on series

BOSTON - The Celtics weren’t looking to make excuses after their elimination from the playoffs Thursday night.

That said, there had to be a pretty big “if” going around the locker room throughout the series. There certainly was among Celtics fans.

If . . . Avery Bradley was healthy, the Celtics may have won the series.

Health as a whole was a big problem for the Celtics. Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and Kelly Olynyk were all banged up.

But Bradley injuring his hamstring in Game 1 greatly changed the series, taking away Boston’s best on-ball defender (and one of the league’s best on-ball defenders). Bradley could also be counted on to hit the outside shot, opening up the floor for teammate Isaiah Thomas.

Without Bradley, the Celtics were forced to bring Evan Turner off the bench to start in his place. That took away the bench’s best offensive weapon.

Not having Bradley isn’t the only reason the Celtics lost the series, but it has to be considered a big factor.

“Yeah that hurt us a little bit. That’s a key part of what we’re about,” Jae Crowder said. “We tried to fight through it and the next guy tried to step up. But of course we missed him. We missed him a lot and we missed what he brings to the team. It sucks that it happens, but injuries are a part of it. He had one that he couldn’t fight through and we just tried to step up for him. But at this time of the season, a lot of guys hurt, and his was so unfortunate for us that it kept him out and it hurt us.”

The Celtics’ loss was the Hawks’ gain. Guys like Kyle Korver were able to get free easier at times. Korver  averaged 12.2 points per game and made three three-pointers a game (shooting 45-percent from the three-point line, five percentage points higher than in the regular season). Korver is well aware how important Bradley is to the Celtics.

“He’s a really good player. It’s been incredible to watch his offense catch up to his defense,” Korver said. “When he has it going I look at him as a great shooter. He’s so quick on the dribble handoffs and they run a lot of stuff for him. He’s really improved as a shooter and obviously his defense has always been great. It’s unfortunate that he got hurt, it does feel like they have a lot of guys similar to him; feels like they draft a new one every year. He’s a really good player and that definitely hurt them.”

It had to be tough for Bradley to watch from the bench as his team struggled, but that will hopefully only make him hungrier to win next season, with perhaps another former Texas Longhorn by his side in the starting lineup.

After up-and-down rookie season, Hunter looks to get stronger

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After up-and-down rookie season, Hunter looks to get stronger

WALTHAM, Mass. – R.J. Hunter no longer has to worry about summer days spent with his nose inside a textbook (or tablet) while taking summer school classes.
 
But make no mistake about it.
 
The Celtics rookie knows he has a lot to learn in what will be an important offseason in his growth as an NBA player.
 
There were many things to like about Hunter, who was selected by Boston with the 28th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft.
 
But like most rookies, Hunter’s play was an up and down affair throughout the season.
 
He appeared in 36 regular-season games, averaging 2.7 points and 1.0 rebounds in 8.8 minutes per game. In the playoffs, he appeared in five games and averaged 1.0 points, 1.2 rebounds in 8.2 minutes.
 
He had flashes of big-time talent like the 12-point performance against the Atlanta Hawks in November. But those type of games were few and far between as that would serve as his only double-digit scoring game of the season.
 
“It was up and down, but a lot more ups than downs,” Hunter said following his exit interview on Friday. “I was further along than I thought I would be. It’s kind of cool to see what I have to work on for the summer and not have summer school or any other summer obligation. I think it’ll be a fun summer.”
 
The big thing for Hunter this summer is to, well, get bigger.
 
He came into the NBA amid concerns that his lithe frame would not withstand the physical rigors of the NBA.
 
And while there’s no question Hunter had his problems at times defensively due to not being stronger, he seemed to know where he needed to be and what to do most of the time when he was no the floor.
 
That’s why for him to solidify himself as a viable option for the Celtics next season, it’s important that he put in the time to improve his overall strength.
 
Hunter said he will be doing that throughout the summer with half of his time spent here in Waltham.
 
“That takes time and a lot of dedication,” Hunter said. “But I’m definitely up for it.”
 
In addition to strengthening his body, he’ll also look to improve his understanding and knowledge of the game through studying video.
 
Among those he will study is Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver, a player Hunter said he has been watching video of all season.
 
“You look at how hard Kyle Korver cuts all game long,” Hunter said. “It’s things like that. It’s about getting conditioning, getting stronger and doing a lot of preparation before the shot.”
 
Hunter said this will be the first time he has watched video in the summer months.
 
“That should put me two or three steps ahead to when the season starts,” he said.
 
Which would then put Hunter in strong contention to see his role next season expanded, especially when you consider his strength – shooting the ball – is arguably the biggest weakness on this Celtics’ roster.