Doc: 'We're a soft team; we have no toughness'

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Doc: 'We're a soft team; we have no toughness'

BOSTON NBA players are a prideful bunch who don't take too kindly to their manhood being questioned.
But there was no mistaking what Doc Rivers and all those Celtics fans at the TD Garden witnessed in Wednesday's 95-83 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
This team, as talented as they might be on paper and on the floor some nights, lacks a certain toughness that can no longer be ignored.
"If I'm Brooklyn and the league, you've got to think we're pretty soft the way we're playing," Rivers said. "We're a soft team right now; we have no toughness."
And for those who want to throw Rajon Rondo's incident -- lead official James Capers referred to it as a fight -- with Kris Humphries into the category of exuded toughness, Rivers isn't trying to hear that.
Especially when he knows that there's a chance that it will likely cost Rondo at least one game via suspension.
"That stuff's not toughness," Rivers said. "All that stuff, that's not toughness."
Inside the Celtics locker room, the disappointment was apparent on the faces of all the players.
And when told of Rivers' comments, players had no choice but to agree.
"It's the truth," said Jeff Green. "That's how we're playing."
Part of the Celtics problem might be that they are not taking these games as serious as their opponents.
The issue isn't whether the C's are showing up ready to play.
That's a given.
The real problem is that far too often, they're not showing up to win.
Boston guard Courtney Lee acknowledged that the Celtics didn't approach this game with the sense of urgency to win that their opponent did.
"I feel like they (Brooklyn) came into the game and approached it as a big game playing us, and we approached it like it was just a regular game," Lee said.
It was clear that the Nets, winners of four in a row now, came to Boston with one thing in mind -- a victory.
That "soft" play that Rivers speaks of has a lot to do with his players simply not understanding fully what it means to play for a team that has been the target of just about every team in the East for a number of years.
"When we play, every team is attacking," Rivers said. "It's a big game for them. What I saw tonight, honestly, was I thought Brooklyn looked at this game as a huge game. Huge game."
Following the victory, several Brooklyn players acknowledged the importance of not just playing with -- but actually beating -- the Celtics for a second time in as many matchups.
"Definitely a big game," said Nets guard Joe Johnson. "You know we're just trying to hold our own at this point. It's still early in the season, but this is a division game. We know if you want to do anything special in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics, regardless of their record, is still going to be right in the hunt. We definitely came in here trying to test ourselves."
Brooklyn's Jerry Stackhouse, who had 17 points which included 5 3-pointers, agreed.
"This is a team that we look at as a barometer, with their core guys," Stackhouse said. "I know it's different now, they made some changes. But with Doc as their coach, we know they're going to be good at the end of the year. We have to establish ourselves and if there's room for us to try and make up some ground or show that we're for real and be there at the end, I think we're doing that."
Still, Stackhouse believes the Celtics are a team that can't be taken for granted.
"Even with the new pieces, there are some champions over there," he said.
Maybe so, but they certainly aren't playing like ones.
Far too often, they have played a weak brand of basketball that doesn't resemble what Celtics fans have come to know and expect from them in recent years.
Garnett, well aware of the historical relevance of his play and those that donned the C's uniforms before him, does not take any of that for granted.
Getting some of his teammates to understand this is among the many challenges that lie ahead for both him and the Celtics.
"There's a lot of people who built this before me; there's due diligence and responsibility that comes with that," Garnett said. "We gotta get that back somehow."

WNBA: Sun blow 21-point lead before beating Liberty, 94-89

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WNBA: Sun blow 21-point lead before beating Liberty, 94-89

NEW YORK - Jasmine Thomas scored 23 points and Connecticut held on for a 94-89 win over the New York Liberty on Friday night after blowing a 21-point lead.

Jonquel Jones added 21 points for the Sun (6-5). Theyh ave won five straight games, including two over New York.

Connecticut was up 70-49 in the third quarter before New York rallied to tie it at 86 with 1:06 left on a layup by Shavonte Zellous. Courtney Williams then hit a jumper to give the Sun the lead and pulled down the rebound on the other end. Jasmine Thomas then hit a 3-pointer from the wing - the team's 12th of the game - with 24 seconds left to seal the victory.

The Sun were hot from the start from behind the arc, hitting five of their first nine 3-pointers and finished the first half with nine 3s to build a 46-32 advantage.

Tina Charles scored 18 of her 20 points in the second half to lead New York (7-5). Zellous added 18.

The Sun had been winning without Morgan Tuck (knee) and Lynetta Kizer (back), who are sidelined with injuries. Coach Curt Miller expects Kizer back sooner than Tuck.

The Liberty have only three home games in the next 45 days spending most of the month of July on the road.

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

BOSTON —  The Red Sox have become well known for their ceremonies, for their pull-out-all-the-stops approach to pomp. The retirement of David Ortiz’s No. 34 on Friday evening was in one way, then, typical.

A red banner covered up Ortiz’s No. 34 in right field, on the facade of the grandstand, until it was dropped down as Ortiz, his family, Red Sox ownership and others who have been immortalized in Fenway lore looked on. Carl Yazstremski and Jim Rice, Wade Boggs and Pedro Martinez. 

The half-hour long tribute further guaranteed permanence to a baseball icon whose permanence in the city and the sport was never in doubt. But the moments that made Friday actually feel special, rather than expected, were stripped down and quick. 

Dustin Pedroia’s not one to belabor many points, never been the most effusive guy around. (He’d probably do well on a newspaper deadline.) The second baseman spoke right before Ortiz took to the podium behind the mound.

“We want to thank you for not the clutch hits, the 500 home runs, we want to thank you for how you made us feel and it’s love,” Pedroia said, with No. 34 painted into both on-deck circles and cut into the grass in center field. “And you’re not our teammate, you’re not our friend, you’re our family. … Thank you, we love you.”

Those words were enough for Ortiz to have tears in his eyes.

“Little guy made me cry,” Ortiz said, wiping his hands across his face. “I feel so grateful. I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to have the career that I have. But I thank God even more for giving me the family and what I came from, who teach me how to try to do everything the right way. Nothing — not money — nothing is better than socializing with the people that are around you, get familiar with, show them love, every single day. It’s honor to get to see my number …. I remember hitting batting practice on this field, I always was trying to hit those numbers.”

Now that’s a poignant image for a left-handed slugger at Fenway Park.

He did it once, he said — hit the numbers. He wasn’t sure when. Somewhere in 2011-13, he estimated — but he said he hit Bobby Doerr’s No. 1.

“It was a good day to hit during batting practice,” Ortiz remembered afterward in a press conference. “But to be honest with you, I never thought I’d have a chance to hit the ball out there. It’s pretty far. My comment based on those numbers was, like, I started just getting behind the history of this organization. Those guys, those numbers have a lot of good baseball in them. It takes special people to do special things and at the end of the day have their number retired up there, so that happening to me today, it’s a super honor to be up there, hanging with those guys.”

The day was all about his number, ultimately, and his number took inspiration from the late Kirby Puckett. Ortiz’s major league career began with the Twins in 1997. Puckett passed away in 2006, but the Red Sox brought his children to Fenway Park. They did not speak at the podium or throw a ceremonial first pitch, but their presence likely meant more than, say, Jason Varitek’s or Tim Wakefield’s.

“Oh man, that was very emotional,” Ortiz said. “I’m not going to lie to you, like, when I saw them coming toward me, I thought about Kirby. A lot. That was my man, you know. It was super nice to see his kids. Because I remember, when they were little guys, little kids. Once I got to join the Minnesota Twins, Kirby was already working in the front office. So they were, they used to come in and out. I used to get to see them. But their dad was a very special person for me and that’s why you saw me carry the No. 34 when I got here. It was very special to get to see them, to get kind of connected with Kirby somehow someway.”

Ortiz’s place in the row of 11 retired numbers comes in between Boggs’ No. 26 and Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.