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Celtics Preparing For One Last Run?


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We always seem to find coach Doc Rivers and his Boston Celtics in this position at the end of a season.

Perhaps it has something to do with the exhausting effort the Celtics put in each and every season, or the grueling emotional fallout from coming up short of their ultimate goal (it’s always championship-or-bust in Boston, even when the rest of us understand that it’s not possible). Rivers always seems spent when the ball stops bouncing, like he’s not sure if he has another season in him, regardless of his contract situation.

The way he and Kevin Garnett acknowledged the end in that Game 6 loss to the New York Knicks last week, it certainly felt like the end of an era was near. But maybe not. Celtics boss Danny Ainge spoke publicly on a radio show in Boston about both Rivers and Garnett coming back for another go at it next season.

They’re both under contract and even with the inevitable changes that are sure to come in the offseason, Ainge is counting on those two franchise pillars to be in place. At least that’s what he said on the radio, as Chris Forsberg of details here:

“Doc is always unsure [about his future],” Ainge said. “Coaching is very, very draining. Every year with Doc, he’s had to go home and sort of recharge and ask himself that question, ‘Is this something that I’m passionate about and want to continue doing?’ I understand that. And we sorta give him time to unwind and relax, and after a couple of 92s on the golf course, he usually comes back.”

Pressed further on what he believes Rivers will do next season, Ainge added, “I think Doc will be coaching the Boston Celtics.”

Rivers signed a five-year, $35 million contract extension with the Celtics following the 2010-11 season. That hasn’t stopped his name from dancing in rumors about other vacant jobs, and a report by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith suggested there were whispers around the league about a potential deal that could land Rivers, Garnett, and Paul Pierce with the Los Angeles Clippers as part of a blockbuster swap.

Said an amused Ainge: “Hey, listen, those things are silly. Those are a waste of time to even acknowledge.”

Pressed on Smith’s suggestion that there could be lingering friction between Ainge and Rivers, Ainge added, “Well, you’d have to ask Doc what he thinks, but what I think is that I have the best coach in the NBA and I’m not the least bit tired of hearing his voice. We have a great relationship from what I feel, and what I perceive, and so I have no idea where that’s coming from. But it’s certainly not coming from my side of the table.”

Ainge has every reason to support his coach. Rivers has held the Celtics together through some absolutely tumultuous times over the past couple of seasons, given the injuries to both Garnett, Rajon Rondo and others as well as the roster shuffling that has gone on since the Celtics played in The Finals in 2010.

There is a genuine love between Rivers and his veteran leaders. It’s a bond that will be extremely difficult for Ainge to break up. And make no mistake, there will come a time when the remaining nucleus of the Celtics’ championship crew of Garnett, Pierce and Rondo will no longer be a viable unit.

The Celtics’ vets aren’t getting any younger. And even with an influx of youth (Jeff Green and Avery Bradley) and fresh faces (Jason Terry and Jordan Crawford), the playoff load was just too much for Garnett and Pierce to handle without Rondo around to help direct the traffic.

“We need more,” Rivers said. “It’s like that little girl on the commercial said. ‘We need more, we need more because we need more.’ We need more, because we do. The key for us is do you want to take away to get more. And that will be a decision that make … later.”

Rivers is fiercely loyal to the players who have sacrificed for the greater good in Boston. So it won’t be easy for him to part ways with Pierce either, especially with Pierce’s history with the franchise.

“He’s one of the greatest Celtics ever to ever play. He’s done so much for this franchise,” Rivers said. “Listen, we live in a day and time when guys are changing teams like socks. And Paul has chosen to stay here throughout his career, when clearly he had all rights to leave. And he chose to stay here. I have so much respect for him for that. When I first got here we were really rebuilding. Its’s funny, we made the playoffs that first year and I remember telling him that ‘we’re going to change our team and things may not go very well for a year or two.’ And they didn’t. And Paul, he never wavered. I give him that and just an amazing amount of respect. He wanted to get it done here. He made that choice … [where] other guys are running around trying to find it.”

Ainge will ultimately have to make the decision on when the Celtics’ Big 3 era officially comes to an end. Ray Allen‘s departure last summer didn’t do it. Neither did Rondo’s season-ending knee injury nor the deflating end to this season.

If Rivers and Garnett do indeed return, whether Pierce stays on or not, the Celtics are poised to make at least one last run together before the inevitability of it all finally catches up to them.

Report: Celtics Legend Russell Recovering From Heart Procedure

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Hall of Famer and Boston Celtics great Bill Russell is recovering from a recent heart procedure and “feeling better,” according to an report.

Russell’s business manager Stuart Layne cleared up previous reports about Russell’s status to Chris Forsberg:

Celtics vice president of media relations/alumni relations Jeff Twiss spoke with Layne on Monday and relayed that Russell is on the road to recovery.

Former New York Post columnist Peter Vecsey Tweeted on Monday that Russell underwent two heart procedures that left him unable to travel from Seattle for a golf event in Long Island.

Layne noted that Russell is up and about and feeling better each day.

Report: Green Will Return To Celtics

LAS VEGAS — What looked like it might be a complete rebuilding job for the Boston Celtics in January is turning out to be more of a refurbishing effort by the somewhat surprising Eastern Conference finalists.

They are poised to keep yet another significant piece in place with the news that Jeff Green has a deal in place that will keep him in green and white, according to a report from

Green’s agent, David Falk, would not reveal the specific length or value of the contract, but confirmed that the details have been ironed out and a deal likely will be consummated after the leaguewide moratorium on new business lifts Wednesday.

“This is where Jeff always wanted to be,” said Falk, who continued to heap praise on the Celtics organization for the way it handled Green’s heart ailment last season.

Falk stressed that Boston’s goodwill played a major factor in his decision to return and said he’s not surprised a deal got hammered out since the two sides were on the same page from the start of the process.

Both Falk and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge expressed optimism that a contract would get done earlier this week and, after watching Ray Allen elect to sign with the Miami Heat on Friday night, the Celtics appear to have moved quickly to finalize with Green.

Green, traded to Boston in February 2011, sat out all of last season after undergoing surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm that was detected in training camp as the two sides prepared to sign a one-year, $9 million deal.

It looked like time was running out on Boston’s Big 3 as they struggled during the early stages of the lockout-shortened season, part of that due to the sudden twist of not having Green available.

But the Celtics rebounded and slugged their way to the conference finals, falling to the Heat in seven games. Instead of breaking things up with Allen, Kevin Garnett and Green all set to hit free agency, the Celtics went about trying to keep the band together.


Report: Garnett Considering All Options, Including Retirement?

MIAMI — He’s only spent five seasons in green and white, but it’s hard to envision Kevin Garnett in another jersey.

He’s become synonymous with the Celtics since the Big 3 was formed and he joined forces with Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo to form one of the league’s most formidable units.

So to hear that Garnett is considering all of his options, including playing elsewhere and even potentially retiring, is a bit of a shock. He played so well during the Celtics’ run to the Eastern Conference finals that I can’t see any reason for him to make his 17th season in the league his last.

It’s obvious he has more to give the game, be it in Boston or somewhere else. But Celtics boss Danny Ainge told that Garnett retiring is one of several options being considered:

Despite a strong finish to his 17th season in the league, the 36-year-old Garnett is pondering retirement and needs time to make a decision about his basketball future.

“Kevin and I had a good conversation last week and the conversation was mostly on how he needs time before he makes that decision,” Ainge said during an in-studio appearance Wednesday afternoon on Boston sports radio WEEI-93.7 FM. “I think we’ll talk within the next week, but I’m not so sure that’s a decision day for him. He may want to wait and see what sort of team we have. I’m not sure.

“I know that he wants to come back. I know he likes Boston, and I know he loves playing for (coach) Doc (Rivers). He loves everything about the team and the city and so forth. I think that his decision will be, ‘Do I really want to play? Or do I not want to play.’ ”


The Truth Sets The Celtics Free

HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS — No Rajon Rondo. No Ray Allen. No Problem for the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics didn’t let their lingering issues, Rondo’s one-game suspension for bumping into a referee or Allen’s ankle injury slow them down last night in Atlanta.

It certainly helped that they had the “Tebowing” Truth, Paul Pierce, on their side. And it certainly helped that they had a willing dance partner in the Hawks, a team that’s almost always guaranteed to do exactly what they did last night (over the years, the Hawks have a made a habit of falling down when everything seems to be lined up for them to thrive) in losing home court advantage.

For all of the posturing that goes on and all of the moves coaches make in the course of a playoff series, sometimes the final result hangs on the answer to a simple question … whose will to win is greater?

That edge in this series belongs to the men in green and white, and one in particular.

Pierce showed last night that his is greater than anyone else’s in this series, and that includes the ultra-intense Kevin Garnett, Rondo, Allen, Celtics coach Doc Rivers, Hawks stars Joe Johnson and Josh Smith (who left the game with a sprained left patella tendon with four minutes to play) and anyone else you care to toss into the mix.

The Hawks led by 11 points with three minutes to play in the third quarter, a lead that we’ve learned in the past few days means next to nothing for a home team (ask the Grizzlies) and could not hold Pierce and the Celtics off.


Celtics: ‘Not Trying To Trade Rondo’

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — That was swift, the Celtics’ squashing of the rumors that they are aggressively seeking trade partners for All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo.

Both team boss Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers addressed the situation in their own ways Thursday, refusing to comment on specifics but sending a message (whether it was intended not) to Rondo and Celtics fans that whatever the franchise will look like going forward (sans the Big 3), it won’t necessarily have Rondo-free look (despite reports to the contrary):

Jackie MacMullan of explains:

Doc Rivers spent an hour and a half with president of basketball operations Danny Ainge before Wednesday’s win over Milwaukee, but the Boston Celtics’ coach says they never discussed trading point guard Rajon Rondo.

“In all that time we did not talk once about any trades,” Rivers said. “There was not one single thing about Rajon Rondo that crossed my desk.”

Rivers said Thursday afternoon he is irked by reports the Celtics were aggressively shopping his mercurial point guard and frustrated that his relationship with Rondo is being cited as one of the reasons Boston is willing to part with him.

“My relationship with Rajon is as strong as it has ever been,” he said. “Our communication has never been better. I want him here. I can say with almost 100 percent certainty he will be here with us when the season ends. I’m tired of this stuff. It’s not fair.”

Ainge called Rondo the team’s “best player” and reaffirmed on Thursday during his weekly call to Boston sports radio WEEI that he’s not actively trying to trade the 26-year-old.

“He’s our best player, he’s the most important part of our future,” said Ainge. “There’s no way we’re actively trying to trade Rondo. That makes no sense, no logical sense.”

Ainge went on to note that another team could always bowl over the Celtics with an offer to obtain Rondo’s services and admitted he couldn’t turn down one that made the Celtics better, but concluded, “I’ve made zero calls to try to trade him, and I won’t.”

This sounds a lot like what both Ainge and Rivers said in December, when they had to calm the chatter down when rumors spread that the Celtics were trying to move Rondo for Chris Paul, before Paul went to the Los Angeles Clippers.

With the March 15 trade deadline fast approaching, they all have just a few days more of this craziness before it’s all over …

Pierce Redefines Legacy In Boston

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Take a good look at Paul Pierce right now, the day after he etched his name in Celtics’ lore forever by surpassing Larry Bird for the No. 2 spot on the storied franchise’s all-time scoring list.

He’s a rarity in this day and age, a player that has toiled for the same franchise since the day he was drafted and endured all the ups and down anyone’s career could stand and is still thriving 14 years deep into what could very well end up being a Hall of Fame career.

There’s no question Pierce will see his No. 34 hanging from the rafters alongside the numbers of Bird, the game’s greatest winner ever Bill Russell, the franchise’s No. 1 all-time scorer John Havlicek, Kevin McHale, Bob Cousy, Sam Jones and so many others. How he got there, however, will be even more compelling than the final destination.

Pierce is a case study for any player wondering how to redefine a legacy.

I remember his early days in Boston, when he and Antoine Walker formed a potent 1-2 punch for a feisty Celtics team that made plenty of noise in the Eastern Conference and even made the conference finals in 2002. But at the time neither Pierce nor Walker was viewed by the masses as the sort of player capable of leading a team to championship glory.

He endured all of the criticism that came when the franchise fell on hard times, when they dropped from the playoff scene to the lottery, when Walker departed and it was Pierce and locker room full of youngsters who couldn’t find their way out of the bottom of the standings with GPS.


Perkins, Rivers Still Recovering

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We all knew from the shock and immediate player and fan reaction that when Kendrick Perkins was traded from Boston to Oklahoma City on Feb. 24 that it must have a been an extremely difficult decision for the Celtics.

We just had no idea how truly difficult it was on both Perkins and Celtics coach Doc Rivers. They both opened up about it to Peter May of When is the last time you heard a coach talking about the decision to trade a player the way Rivers did here:

“It was the most difficult thing I have had to do since I’ve been in the league,” Rivers said. “It was like sending one of your kids [away]. It can be very hard to separate the basketball from the personal and this one was definitely that for me. Perk had great spirit. He had the intangibles you look for. We all decided to make the trade, but, for me, it hurt. It hurt a lot.”

The pain went both ways.

Perkins used words like “overwhelmed”  and “emotional” to describe his reaction, initially and to this day, about the deal that sent the Celtics’ low-post enforcer and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City in an exchange for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.

But unlike some other trades that leave scars that never heal, Perkins, Rivers and the organization are all healing from the whatever the initial surprise did to them all.

In fact, Perkins said he learned a few lessons about the business of basketball during the process. It can’t hurt that he went from one contender to another. The Thunder, fresh off of last night’s win in Miami, are 7-1 this month. And Perkins has already signed a contract extension with the Thunder. Still, the connection to Boston remains:

“Obviously, I am going to miss Boston a lot,” he said. “I talked to Danny [Ainge] on the phone the day the deal was done. It was hard for both of us. We go back a long way. But I understand that this is the business part of it. “I look back and I have to be pleased with everything they did for me, from bringing me there from high school. I am grateful for all the experiences, to be able to be a part of a championship team. It was all great. No complaints. I was blessed to be there for eight years.”