Rivers: Collins had 'an amazing impact' against Cavs


Rivers: Collins had 'an amazing impact' against Cavs

BOSTON Paul Pierce had just lit up Cleveland for 40 points and in doing so, the 35-year-old became the oldest Celtic ever to score 40 points in a game.
That is indeed worthy of keeping the game ball.
But Pierce, who also ranks among the franchise's all-time leaders in assists, didn't hesitate to pass the ball on to Jason Collins who had one point scored to name.
But Collins' impact went far beyond the stat sheet as the Celtics snapped their three-game losing streak with a 103-91 win over the Cavs.
On a night when Pierce's brilliance shined brightly, there was a sense that much of his success would not have possible without the stealth contributions of Collins, who made his first start as a Celtic on Wednesday.
"Jason Collins, for getting one point and two rebounds, had an amazing impact on the game for us," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
His ability to defend the post and draw charges not only provided a much-needed defensive presence, but it also allowed Kevin Garnett to go back to his natural power forward position which paid dividends for the Celtics at both ends of the floor.
Rivers said he had been thinking about inserting Collins into the lineup for quite some time, but never got around to doing it.
"I was actually trying to wait for Avery (Bradley), to be honest," Rivers said. "But we just went ahead and did it."
And the impact was undeniable not only in terms of what the Celtics got out of his defensively, but also his impact in allowing Celtics scorers such as Paul Pierce to have better looks at the basket.
Boston opened the Cleveland game with a 7-0 run that was aided in part by Collins' ability to free up scorers.
"First basket we had was a pick; it was a bone-crushing pick, and it was by Jason," Rivers said. "That's what we told you before the game, he sets picks -- hard ones. That set the tone."
Said Collins: "If I'm not scoring, I better do something on the offensive end. I pride myself on setting tough picks; going out there and being physical. And on the defensive end, players drive the lane. ... are they going to try and take a charge on you or foul you pretty hard."
Collins being able to step into the starting lineup after appearing in just five games this season, speaks to his preparation for anything and everything the C's could possibly toss his way.
"I feel fine," Collins said. "I've been really working hard with the strength coaches. They do a great job of making sure I'm ready. Cardio-wise I felt good."
So do the Celtics after they snapped a three-game losing skid with Wednesday's victory.
Having Collins start will certainly strengthen the Celtics interior defense. But more than that, it'll make Kevin Garnett's job easier.
"He's one of the better talkers on our team defensively and knows everything we're doing and I thought he made Kevin relax," Rivers said. "He's felt like he's had to do so much, and I thought having Jason out there was good for him."
Garnett agreed.
"A gutty veteran who knows coverages, very professional," Garnett said of Collins. "J.C. is what we call a solid guy; he's not going to make too many mistakes. He knows his role. Doc is looking for different lineups. He came in and did the job tonight. It's good to see him get an opportunity and take advantage of the opportunity."
And while Collins doesn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of teams with his play defensively, he has been in the league long enough to have established himself as a better-than-average post defender.
For a Celtics team whose toughness continues to come under scrutiny, Collins' brand of basketball may be just what they need to turn around what has been a season that hasn't gone quite as planned.
"He plays power basketball; he's firm," Garnett said. "Sometimes we lack that. He came in and was very firm; not only with his fouls but with his shows (defensively) and we communicate really well. It was good; good to work with him."

Russell Westbrook wins NBA MVP; Rockets, Bucks take two awards


Russell Westbrook wins NBA MVP; Rockets, Bucks take two awards

NEW YORK - Russell Westbrook was voted NBA MVP on Monday night after setting a record with 42 triple-doubles last season.

Westbrook's victory ended the first NBA Awards show, which included two wins apiece for the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks.

Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double for the season, and he broke Robertson's single-season record set when he had 41 triple-doubles in 1961-62.

The point guard beat out Houston's James Harden and San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard to succeed Stephen Curry, who had won the past two MVP awards.

Earlier, Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon became the first player not picked in the first round to win NBA Rookie of the Year in the common draft era.

Brogdon was the No. 36 overall selection out of Virginia. The common draft era began in 1966.

"I think it's an example for guys that are told they are too short, they are not athletic enough, they are not real point guards, they are not real shooting guards," Brogdon said. "I just think it's an important message for people to see, and it can be done. It just takes a lot."

Teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo won the Most Improved Player award.

Houston coach Mike D'Antoni won his second Coach of the Year award, and the Rockets' Eric Gordon was Sixth Man of the Year after setting a record for most 3-pointers off the bench in his first season as a reserve.

The NBA formerly gave out its individual awards at various points throughout the postseason before switching to the awards show this season and presenting them all at once in front of the league's top players and stars from the entertainment world.

Two of the best moments came during segments that didn't include the NBA's six individual awards.

Bill Russell was presented the first Lifetime Achievement award, welcomed on stage by fellow Hall of Fame centers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. The 11-time champion as a player and the league's first black coach first pointed at them and joked that he would have kicked their butts, then told them: "You have no idea how much respect I have for you guys."

Former Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams was given the SagerStrong Award for the strength he showed after his wife was killed in a car crash in Oklahoma City. He was given a colorful jacket like the ones worn by Craig Sager, the longtime Turner Sports reporter who died of cancer this past season.

Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics


Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

BOSTON — Matt Barnes has been coping with more than just a few bad outings on the mound, and he’s asking for help.

The Red Sox set-up man made some mechanical corrections that paid off in the eighth inning Monday night, when he struck out all three Twins he faced in a 4-1 Red Sox win at Fenway Park.

“I just simplified the mechanics,” Barnes said afterward. “Two days ago, I was trying to get with more of an up, down, and out approach. I felt better in that outing. I know I gave up a run and walked the one guy, but I felt better around the zone. And then just kind of went into a slide step, doing what Andrew Miller was doing.”

Barnes allowed four runs spanning his previous three outings, retiring just four batters while walking five. But Barnes has had a lot more to worry about than just a brief professional rut. 

He’s been devoted to helping his girlfriend, Chelsea, through the unexpected loss of her father, who was diagnosed with cancer and suffered a stroke

"Her father passed away [May 27]. That’s why I wasn’t in Baltimore for the two days [in early June], I was at his funeral,” Barnes said. "It’s tough, dealing with that, and she’s obviously having a hard time with it. She’s got her good days and her bad days. But it’s not easy. He was sick for a little while, and unexpectedly passed a lot faster than anybody ever expected him to. So, it’s been tough. She’s been alright, considering.”

There are a ton of medical bills still to be paid. A fundraising page has been set up to help the family with some large medical bills, and Barnes has asked on Twitter for people to spread the word if they’re able to.

“I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with her which is nice,” Barnes said of his girlfriend. “Everybody who’s helped out with donations and spreading the page, I couldn’t be more grateful, and she couldn’t be more grateful.”

Barnes is a big leaguer, but he’s still young and making the major league minimum. For every $1,000 total donated, Barnes plans to send a signed baseball to a random donor.

“I felt like it was a nice way, if they’re going to help me out, I can at least do that in return for them,” Barnes said.