Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
“I just think that they’ve figured out who they are,” Rambis said Friday night before meeting the Celtics at the TD Garden. “That’s what the really good teams in the league (do). Besides having talent, everybody understands their roles, they understand how to execute at both ends of the court, and they understand how to play unselfishly and off each other and for each other. When it clicks in with any team how to play unselfishly, then that team is going to grow and they’re going to prosper as a result of that.
This has become a fairly common refrain in coverage of the Celtics over the past two months. The players themselves are talking about it:
“I just like the way we play together, the way everybody’s playing for each other,” he said. “It’s something that’s not usual in the NBA.”
How not usual?
“It’s the first time I’ve seen it like this,” said the resident of the NBA since 2009 and — at 29 — two months older than the second-oldest Celtic, Amir Johnson. “That’s why I came back. I wanted to be a part of this. I knew we had something going on.”
“I think guys are starting to recognize just what they can contribute to the team — even coach recognizing minutes-wise when he can bring guys in,” said Johnson. “He has his two guys come off the bench, ET (Evan Turner) and Marcus, and then we’re all getting comfortable with the rotation. Guys know when they’re coming in and they know what their job is on the team.”
And the locker room vibe has gotten to be so positive that Ainge has started to walk back his ‘of course, this team wasn’t built to contend’ comments…
Although Ainge has said that the roster as currently constructed is not built to win a title, he left the door slightly ajar in a recent interview.
“I believe the extraordinary is possible,” he said, referring to the team’s championship aspirations. “What’s really important is that they believe, and that’s what I love about these guys. I love that they believe they’re gonna win every night they go out on the court.”
Of course, the mastermind behind the Celtics’ chemistry, Stevens, has his own thoughts:
“Our mentality is good,” he said. “Our mindset is good. We seem to be mentally fresh, and that’s a good thing because you’re over 60 games in, and guys are still in the gym staying after shooting.”
On Thursday, the coach canceled the formal practice after a 23-point victory against the Portland Trail Blazers extended Boston’s home win streak to 12 games the previous night. Yet his players were back at the Waltham facility on the day off shooting in preparation for Friday night’s game against the New York Knicks.
Enjoy this, guys, this is all gravy. Nobody expected the Celtics to be this good this soon. Nobody expected the Nets to collapse so quickly. Yeah, you could say that the Celtics have gotten lucky. On the other hand, I’m a firm believer in what Branch Rickey used to say: Luck is the residue of design.
Page 2: Sully learned to throw outlets because he didn’t want to run that far.
Not the most well-conditioned athlete — “I was overweight, couldn’t really get up and down the floor,” he explains now — he had by that time already developed vacuum hands and could throw one heck of a full-court pass. His coach, Trey Burke’s father, Benji, figured out a way to utilize Sullinger’s unique skills.
As Sullinger recalls, Burke’s father called for his son, who now plays for the Utah Jazz, to leak out on every third possession. The strategy was actually pretty low-risk because Sullinger grabbed just about every rebound.
Jay King’s article here underscores something that we might have overlooked: Sully’s still healthy. Look, the guy’s probably going to spend his whole career looking more like Wes Unseld than Kevin Durant, but this year has definitely shown his conditioning to be better, even if his shape is pretty much what it’s always been.
Finally: Let’s have fun speculating.
They’re playing their best basketball of the season, and still say they haven’t reached their potential.
The only direction they’re looking in is forward. And ahead of them are the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors.
The question: Can they catch them?
Well, sure. It won’t be easy, but who can doubt them right now? Currently, they’re 6.5 games behind the Cavaliers (who they meet Saturday night) and 4.5 games behind the Raptors.
If the Celtics beat the Cavs tonight, they’ll be 5.5 games behind them with 18 games to go, they will also own the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Cavs, 2-1. Of course the Cavs would have to cooperate by losing a lot before the end of the season, but hey, apparently Lebron’s already given up on winning a title this year. According to him, the Cavs don’t have an enforcer, and also according to him, he’s never won a title without an enforcer.
So hey, be a fan, daydream. Imagine crazy scenarios… ‘Anything is possible’, right?
The rest of the links
Boston Globe: Celtics beat Knicks, run home winning streak to 13