Boston’s hit that special time of year where they don’t care again

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Ah, the early weeks of spring. Winters still lingers at the edge, nipping at heels. The NCAA tournament provides all sorts of drama. And the Celtics completely and totally stop giving a flying crap about their effort in regular season games.

It’s become a yearly tradition to see the powerhouse contender tail off their efforts, struggling to beat mediocre-to-terrible teams, not closing games effectively and generally showing the exact opposite kind of performance they’ve been giving for months. And unlike previous seasons, you can’t get sucked into believing this stretch has any sort of impact on the postseason. Don’t buy in. The Celtics are just trying to trick you with their laziness. They’ll be ready. But for now? It’s ugly.

First the Celtics suffered a close loss to an underrated Grizzlies team that really is worthy of a loss for the Celtics with the way they’ve been playing (consider last night’s three-point edging by the Bulls over the Grizzlies just more proof). But the way the Celtics lost is the problem. They coughed up the ball constantly, showing little or no intention of running the offense smoothly.  But that loss was understandable, it happens. Then the Bobcats, who every season seem to sneak up on the guys in green, came to town, came back from a sizable deficit, and wound up holding off the Celtics as Boston missed two threes to tie on the final possession.

The Celtics are now two games back of Chicago for the top spot in the East, and only a half game above Miami. As for the fans? Well, they’re not taking this streak of subpar efforts super well:

I feel sorry for anyone who has tickets to the remaining regular season games. The Celtics have flat out quit. Thats the only explanation for the pitiful performance we witnessed tonight.

via Recap: The Celtics are dead – RedsArmy.com – The Voice Of Celtics Fans.

There are those two words again, “no urgency”. Celtics fans heard that enough last season to last a lifetime. And oh yeah, let’s not forget “bored with the regular season”, something Doc Rivers also alluded to after Friday night’s loss.

Old habits die hard.

If you think Rivers ripped into his team after the game, think again. The only message given to the players was the time of practice on Saturday – 12:30. He’ll let the rest sink in over night.

As for the rest of the season, that’s on the players. Rivers says that for things to change they have to be honest with themselves – he’s right. They certainly talk a good game, maybe the best in the league, but if they play the way they have the last two games it won’t matter what seed they get – they’re first round exits.

And if that happens, Danny Ainge will take no prisoners.

But it doesn’t have to end like that. It wasn’t built to. The Celtics need to get back to what brought them so much success.

Ultimately, it’s Ubuntu, and for the Celtics it’s time to practice what they preach.

Enough talking about it.

via Where Are You Ubuntu? – CelticsBlog.

But the Celtics won’t correct this. Not for another eighteen days. They simply can’t be bothered to gear up for the regular season. But when the time comes for them to deliver the goods in the postseason, they’ll be ready. We can say that because they’ve always been ready before. Even the 2009 team gave a good effort and was simply overmatched without Garnett against a red-hot Orlando team. But then there’s last season and the remaining belief that the Celtics might have toppled L.A., even without Kendrick Perkins, had Game 7 been in L.A.. There was an emphasis on homecourt advantage this year for Boston. And instead they seem content to surrender it without much of a fight.

Anyone would trade a handful of meaningless late regular season games for championship intensity in the playoffs. But that won’t stop the frustration over what amounts to an inability to summon the effort to beat teams Boston is clearly capable of beating.

 

 

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.