Boston Celtics head coach Rivers argues with a call against the Dallas Mavericks during their NBA basketball game in Boston

Celtics focus on improvement, believe wins will follow


Focus on the next step and you will arrive at your destination.

No, it’s not one of Phil Jackson’s coaching mantras, it’s what the Celtics are doing in the wake of a five-game losing streak and a 4-8 record that has them looking up at the playoffs right now.

Focus on getting better and the wins will follow is basically what the Celtics told A. Sherrod Blakely of this week.

“For us, we believe that we’re not that far away,” said Jermaine O’Neal, who had a season-high 12 points and 11 rebounds against the Thunder….

“There’s nothing positive about losing; that’s first,” Garnett said. “But in trying to make progress, you have to pull the pluses out of everything. We’re making progress.”

It is strange to have Garnett speak of moral victories, but he is right — the loss to Oklahoma City saw the Celtics play maybe their best overall game of the season. Their defense wasn’t great but it was better and held the high-scoring Thunder 4.3 points per 100 possessions under their season average. Rebounding and turnovers also have been issues, but again there has been improvement in recent games. There are legitimate questions about how good this team can be — it’s not winning a title as currently constructed — but it can be a lot better than it has played.

The rest of this week sees three beatable teams — Toronto, Phoenix and Washington. Games where the Celtics can get some wins and start crawling back up the standings. But in the end, the steps of improvement will bring the wins, it cannot happen any other way.

Gordon Hayward goes behind Jordan Clarkson’s back with dribble

Gordon Hayward, Nick Young
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Utah’s Gordon Hayward abused the Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson on this play.

First, Hayward reads and steals Clarkson’s poor feed into the post intended for Kobe Bryant, then going up the sideline he takes his dribble behind Clarkson’s back to keep going. It all ends in a Rudy Gobert dunk.

Three quick takeaways here:

1) Gordon Hayward is a lot better than many fans realize. He can lead this team.

2) It’s still all about the development with Clarkson, and that’s going to mean some hard lessons.

3) Hayward may have the best hair in the NBA, even if it’s going a bit Macklemore.

(Hat tip reddit)

Could Tristan Thompson’s holdout last months? Windhorst says yes.

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five

VIZZINI: “So, it is down to you. And it is down to me.”
MAN IN BLACK nods and comes nearer…
MAN IN BLACK: “Perhaps an arrangement can be reached.”
VIZZINI: “There will be no arrangement…”
MAN IN BLACK: “But if there can be no arrangement, then we are at an impasse.”

That farcical scene from The Princess Bride pretty much sums up where we are with the Tristan Thompson holdout with the Cleveland Cavaliers, minus the Iocane powder. (Although that scene was a battle of wits in the movie and this process seems to lack much wit.) The Cavaliers have put a five-year, $80 million offer on the table. Thompson wants a max deal (or at least a more than has been offered), but he also doesn’t want to play for the qualifying offer and didn’t sign it. LeBron James just wants the two sides just to get it done.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN thinks LeBron could be very disappointed.

Windhorst was on the Zach Lowe podcast at Grantland (which you should be listening to anyway) and had this to say about the Thompson holdout:

“I actually believe it will probably go months. This will go well into the regular season.”

Windhorst compared it to a similar situation back in 2007 with Anderson Varejao, which eventually only broke because the then Charlotte Bobcats signed Varejao to an offer sheet. Thompson is a restricted free agent, meaning the Cavaliers can match any offer, but only Portland and Philadelphia have the cap space right now to offer him a max contract. Neither team has shown any interest in doing so.

And so we wait. And we may be waiting a while.