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Tag: Brad Stevens

Sekou Smith (Eastern Conference Preview): Giannis’ Next Challenge? Being Great Every Game

Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t turn 23 until early December, but that hasn’t stopped some from mentioning him as a fringe MVP candidate. Guest Sekou Smith thinks it could happen (Erik Drost/Creative Commons).

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A number of stars, including Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Paul Millsap, no longer play in the East, potentially leaving the conference with ample playoff spots available for the taking. In addition, the reigning Eastern Conference finalists recently swapped star point guards, adding a special flavor to their existing rivalry. Meanwhile, teams like the Raptors, Bucks and Wizards hope their various brands of continuity can vault them to an elite class. To help us sort through it all, Sekou Smith, NBA.com writer and host of the Hang Time podcast, appears for a can’t-miss episode. By all means…sample some Sekou snippets:

4:59-5:35: “[Dwyane Wade]’s been a starter basically his entire career. I think in his career, he’s maybe come off the bench 10, 11 times. To ask him to come in and play a role as a bench guy right now, [considering] the fact that he’s not a great 3-point shooter, that would have been asking a lot for him to come in cold and be effective and make an impact on that team.  I think, as a starter, you give him a chance to not only do what he’s always done as a scorer… but you give him an opportunity to get in a rhythm… and to play off of LeBron at a high level, which you know he can do.”

10:00-10:14: “The team that I like, that’s kind of my wild-card team in the East, is Milwaukee. I think they do have a depth of talent that could put them in a position to challenge for one of those top two or three spots if a bunch of things go right for them.” Continue reading

Wizards Must Overcome Road Woes to Advance, Featuring Chase Hughes & Michael Pina

The Celtics and Wizards won’t be friends any time soon, but they certainly have produced one memorable postseason series (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).

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Chase Hughes of Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic and Vice SportsMichael Pina (also host of The Big Three Podcast) deliver back-to-back interviews in which they delve deeply into the captivating Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics. While the Celtics lead 3-2, the home team has won every single game of the series. No love between the teams has been lost either.

Wednesday was a crazy day for D.C. sports fans as the Washington Capitals hosted a Game 7 in which they fell to the Penguins, sending the Caps home early for yet another summer. Also in the nation’s capital, the talented Nationals roared back from four runs down to defeat the Beltway rival Orioles on a walk-off single. That same night, the Wizards lost a one-sided road Game 5 to the Celtics. As the series shifts back to D.C., the Wizards hope to keep their home magic alive just long enough to get one more crack at that elusive road victory in a decisive Game 7. Our guests expertly detail what to look for the remainder of the series, beginning with Chase Hughes who is followed by Michael Pina in the final segment. Continue reading

Michael Pina: Celtics Should Keep Current Core, Resist Butler Trade

In addition to reigning over the fourth quarter most nights, Isaiah Thomas averaged 32.9 points per game in January, the fourth most prolific scoring month in franchise history (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).

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As Massachusetts readies for another Super Bowl appearance by its Patriots, the Boston Celtics are playing terrific basketball, guided by two-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas, who turned in one of the most prolific scoring months in franchise history this past January. To help us praise IT and get to the bottom of swirling trade rumors and Boston’s defensive woes, Michael Pina is on the scene. Pina, who covers the Celtics for Bleacher Report, hosts The Big Three podcast and writes about the league elsewhere, delivers a frank, spirited analysis of the team. In addition, this wide-ranging discussion hits on how Al Horford is fitting with this squad, how Brad Stevens’ coaching enhances Marcus Smart’s game, what the Celtics see in 20-year-old Jaylen Brown and why the Cavaliers and Tristan Thompson pose very specific problems for the postseason Celtics, among other topics. Oh yeah…the longtime Patriots fan also provides his Super Bowl prediction. Enjoy some excerpts below: 

7:38 – 8:04While Michael acknowledges Isaiah Thomas’ shortcomings on defense, he also highlights the diminutive point guard’s many defensive strengths:

“For all the bad things about Isaiah Thomas’ defense, I think his effort is always there despite the high offensive usage. He’s extremely tough, extremely physical, he does not die on screens, he fights over them, and really makes ball handlers work really hard, and he knows where to be. He gets up into guys, even when teams force switches and he’s up against a much larger player.”

11:47 – 12:13If Boston is able to hold the East’s No. 2 spot through Sunday’s games, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens will be coaching this season’s Eastern Conference All-Star squad:

“He deserves to coach an All-Star team. I think he’s one of the better overall coaches in basketball, let alone someone who’s that young, commands respect from everybody on the team. He’s fair to the players, and they appreciate that. He’s a great communicator. Since he was hired, he’s done a fantastic job of putting guys in positions where they can succeed, not asking too much of his players.” Continue reading

Previewing the 2016-17 NBA Season With James Herbert

James Herbert

James Herbert picked the rise of the Utah Jazz as his most compelling storyline of the NBA season (sixersphotos/Flickr).

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On this episode, James Herbert, NBA writer at CBSSports.com, joins the show to run through the most compelling storylines for the fast approaching 2016-17 NBA season. After an offseason filled with ample player movement and coaching changes, James helps us navigate the new landscape of the NBA, including which teams he thinks improved their chances and which he believes regressed. He also opines on possible breakout players, gives his season award predictions and offers his thoughts on the increasing social activism among NBA players and in professional sports in general.

1:40-4:38 Herbert is very high on the Utah Jazz’s prospects for the season. Here’s a taste:

“I just think they’re gonna be a monster this year. I think a lot of people really expected them to be that breakout team last year — some thought it would even happen the year before, they’d make it to the playoffs — but I think this is really the year that it’s going to happen. They should have been a playoff team last year. They just barely missed out, and that was when they didn’t really have a point guard for the whole season…so I’m a bit more bullish on them than I think even most NBA hipsters are…I think they’re seen as this big team, this enormous team that plays power basketball because of [Derrick] Favors and [Rudy] Gobert, but they can put Trey Lyles and Boris Diaw there as their frontcourt with their bench unit, and they can match up with small teams too. I think it’s really about versatility in the modern NBA, not just going small, and the Jazz have the pieces to play pretty much any way.”

11:03-11:50 Like many analysts, Herbert sees a significant drop-off after the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. Here’s what he had to say concerning the near-inevitability of another Cavs-Warriors Finals: Continue reading

Beantown Basketball Banter and the East No Longer the Least

Avery Bradley's development has been a big part of Boston's success this season (Mark Runyon/BasketballSchedule.net)

Avery Bradley’s development has been a huge part of Boston’s success this season (Mark Runyon/BasketballSchedule.net).

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Following Loren’s interview with Red’s Army’s John Karalis earlier in the week, the boys are back together serving up Beantown basketball banter. Among the appetizing topics on the menu are Jared Sullinger’s beastly rebounding, Marcus Smart’s return from injury and the Celtics’ chances of representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. Speaking of the East, what is this parity madness? Are Eastern teams really as good as the Western Conference squads all of a sudden? In the final segment of the episode, our co-hosts make sense of this surprising dynamic and discuss its importance to the league. 

Music: “Who Likes to Party?” by Kevin MacLeod

John Karalis: Regarding Preparation, Coach “(Brad) Stevens Is at Another Level” for Celtics

John Karalis (right) alongside the statue of Bill Russell in Boston's City Hall Plaza

John Karalis (right) alongside the statue of Bill Russell in Boston’s City Hall Plaza

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Danny Ainge and the youthful Boston Celtics are a fascinating study in team-building. On this week’s exhilarating interview episode, Loren is solo with Red’s Army’s John Karalis for a discussion of the Leprechauns’ current and future. Are they contenders or pretenders in the East? Among a number of topics, John explores in great detail the emergence of Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas’ adjustment to his starting role, team synergy and Brad Stevens’ superb coaching. Delectable sound bites can be found below:

3:38-4:13: “I still worry about them in the playoffs. I don’t think they have the type of makeup that will be a very successful playoff team, because rotations shrink, the game slows…it just becomes about talent overcoming other talent. So they’ve got enough to win a first-round series. I wonder how they’ll do in the later rounds, because they don’t have that one takeover guy.”

4:17-4:54:  “When Isaiah Thomas gets into hero mode, then the Celtics tend to have a little bit of a problem. It’s his greatest strength but his greatest weakness, because it’s that chip on his shoulder that makes him play so well at his size with his flaws, but when the game gets down to the last couple of minutes and the Celtics are down two or three, sometimes I think he plays a little outside of himself…and eliminates the ball movement that makes the Celtics so good.”

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