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.

 

 

Adam Silver backs Knicks center Enes Kanter’s decision to skip London trip

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LONDON (AP) — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says the safety and security of players will always be paramount for the league after New York Knicks center Enes Kanter did not travel to London for his team’s game against the Washington Wizards.

Kanter said he feared he could be attacked or killed over his opposition to Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he were to travel to London. Istanbul-based newspaper Daily Sabah reported that an arrest warrant was issued for Kanter by Turkish prosecutors on Wednesday.

Silver, speaking ahead of Thursday’s game, says “it was never a suggestion from the league that (Kanter) was not welcome on this trip.”

“There are significant issues that he is dealing with, and I recognize that for the NBA, by virtue of the fact that we’re a global business, we have to pay a lot of attention to those issues as well,” Silver says.

Kanter, who has frequently criticized Erdogan, had his Turkish passport revoked in 2017.

Wizards beat Knicks with game-winning goaltending call in London Game

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The good people of England could use a break from the dumpster fire that is Brexit, so the NBA came to town to entertain with their very best… their biggest stars… the teams that were willing to go, the Knicks and the Wizards.

But the Londoners got to see one unusual ending.

The Knicks were up 100-99 thanks to a Noah Vonleh hook shot, but the Wizards had three seconds to try to get off a game winner. Scott Brooks designed an interesting play, with Bradley Beal starting in the backcourt and sprinting into the frontcourt, and when the defense moved to him as the likely shooter he passed to Thomas Bryant rolling down the lane, he put up the finger roll and…

That was a goaltend by Allonzo Trier to my eyes — the ball is just starting its downward trajectory, and it may have been over the cylinder (in an NBA arena there would have been an above-basket camera with a better angle on if it was over the rim, but that did not seem to be available in London).

The Wizards — who owner Ted Leonsis said will never tank, so forget about them trading away assets at the deadline — have won 3-of-4 and are 6-4 since John Wall was sidelined with his foot injury, with a +3 net rating in those games. Washington is now just two games out of the playoffs in the East and GM Ernie Grunfeld does not believe in tanking, so expect them to make a push.

Which is why wins like this matter.

PBT Extra: DeMarcus Cousins’ return will be big boost for Warriors. Maybe.

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The Golden State Warriors — the two-time defending NBA champs, the team on top of the Western Conference with the best offense in the NBA — are about to get a whole lot better.

Maybe.

Nobody really knows.

What we know is DeMarcus Cousins is scheduled to make his return to the court on Friday night against the Clippers in Los Angeles. Cousins missed the end of last season and all of this season recovering from a ruptured Achilles.

I get into all of it in this PBT Extra.

As NBC’s Tom Haberstroh pointed out, the history of big men bouncing back from this injury does not bode well for Cousins. On the other side, Cousins was so skilled, if the Warriors can get 75 percent of the old Cousins it will be an upgrade over Kevon Looney and give Golden State a guy who can exploit mismatches.

On paper, the Warriors should get better with Cousins in the lineup. But nobody really knows.

Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich says he doesn’t know whether he’ll retire after season

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Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich said in 2015 he made a commitment to newly signed LaMarcus Aldridge, presumably to coach through the five-year contract he signed in 2014.

That contract will expire after this season.

Then what?

Popovich, via Marc Stein of The New York Times:

“I don’t know the answer,” Popovich said when asked about his plans for next season in an interview Wednesday

Maybe Popovich is legitimately undecided about his future. Maybe he has a firm plan and was just being dismissive because he didn’t want to discuss it publicly. There’s obviously a massive difference between the two, but it’s difficult to parse from only his quote.

Popovich will coach Team USA in the 2019 FIBA World Cup and 2020 Olympics. That responsibility means a lot to the Air Force veteran. Some have even speculated he’ll retire from the NBA after this season to prepare for his USA Basketball duties.

In the meantime, Popovich remains one of the NBA’s top coaches. He has helped San Antonio turn around its season, building a strong offense around mid-range shooters DeMar DeRozan and Aldridge and getting everyone on enough of the same page defensively to be reasonable on that end. The Spurs aren’t a great team, but they’re good in ways that have Popovich’s fingerprints all over them.

Popovich could continue to succeed in the NBA for the foreseeable future. The question is – with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili gone and Popovich nearing age 70 – how much longer he wants to do it.