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.
The Celtics play at Minnesota today. Wonder who Kevin Garnett is rooting for?
KG is being enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame tonight as the greatest player in Timberwolves history, but even more so as the legend that he instantly became in Boston. And know this: he loves Celtics fans as much as we love him. His only regret: that he wasn’t a Celtic sooner.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 14, 2021
Garnett spent more years in Minnesota than Boston. He was the first great – and perhaps only great – Timberwolves’ player. But it’s the Celtics who are retiring his number. It’s Boston where he won his only NBA championship. It’s Boston that changed the course of his career, from a player unable to lift a franchise on his bony shoulders to prolonged prosperity to part of a Hall of Fame trio that started the trend of star players collaborating for titles.
“Getting with a storied franchise like Boston gave me light.”
— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 14, 2021
It wasn’t just that he was able to deliver banner No. 17, but the way Garnett did it that endeared himself to Bostonians. One of the fiercest competitors of his era, Garnett never shied away from a challenge; from 2007 to 2013 there was plenty of bad blood at TD Garden.
Normally in retirement players mellow, but Garnett admitted he still sees his rivals as just that.
“I haven’t gotten to the hug part yet,” Garnett said. “The competitive juices and friends and foes slowly diminishes as we get older, right? …one day I guess I’ll sit back and actually embrace it all, but I’m still in it, if I’m being honest. I’m still in it.”
KG arrived shortly after the Celtics had suffered through a 24-58 season. From Garnett’s first game as a Celtic, we knew that everything had changed completely. The box score shows KG posted 22 points, 20 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks that night. The Celtics won by 20 and never looked back, dominating the season at 66-16, and bringing home Banner 17.
Here are Garnett’s highlights from that exciting opening night. Watch this to remember just how special no. 5 was in Celtics green and white.
On Page 2: Who will be no. 8?
The Celtics are locked into the no. 7 seed in the East, with two meaningless games today and tomorrow. What they’re waiting to find out is whether the Hornets, Pacers or Wizards will finish no. 8, because that’s who will visit Boston for the play-in tournament.
Let’s put aside for a moment all the frustration about the season and the negativity about the Celtics’ chances, and just focus on the games ahead. Because the postseason is a fresh start, and once they toss the ball up, anything can happen.
With a game to go, there’s still more to play for as the Wizards are a game behind the Hornets and Pacers for the 8th and 9th spots. The difference between 8 and 9 is huge, obviously, going from a possible one-and-done game to needing to lose two games to be eliminated.
And guess what? The Wizards close the regular season against the Hornets on Sunday, while the Pacers finish with the Lakers (in what is a near must-win for LA). The Wizards hold the tiebreaker on the Pacers, which would bump them ahead if Washington closes with a win and the Lakers beat Indiana. The Hornets play the Knicks on Saturday, and with a win, lock up a higher spot than the Wizards by virtue of a 2-1 season series tiebreaker. But should the Hornets lose, it sets up a massive seeding game between Washington and Charlotte.
“Tournament” is a misnomer because the Celtics may only have to play once. If they win the 7 vs. 8 match-up, they become the 7th seed in the playoffs. If they lose, they could still get the 8th seed by beating the winner of the 9 vs. 10 game.
Boston won two out of three meetings with each of the three potential opponents. But being ahead of those teams doesn’t mean the Cs have an advantage, not with their record against the league’s lower squads.
Boston will enter the final weekend 35-35.
And how backwards a year has it been?
Celtics went 8-1 in winning the season series from..
Celtics went 3-10 in losing the season series to..
— Sean Grande (@SeanGrandePBP) May 13, 2021
It almost feels destined that Boston will have to play Charlotte and its trio of former Celtics (Rozier, Hayward, Wanamaker). If not, the Pacers are always tough, and the Wizards have the most star power with Bradley Beal and triple-double machine Russell Westbrook. It won’t be easy for the Celtics, because nothing ever is.
The standings, playoff bracket and play-in info are all available at nba.com/standings.
Related – masslive.com: NBA Playoff Picture: Who the Celtics could face in Game 1 of the play-in tournament between Hornets, Pacers and Wizards | NBC Sports Boston: Forsberg: Which team should scare C’s most in play-in tournament?
And, finally… Tatum with Woj
“This is really my first year dealing with this,” he said on the most recent Woj Pod with Adrian Wojnarowski. “It’s been a very unique year, up and down. This is kind of what you signed up for. Being in this position. It’s tough. But I think it’s just part of it, part of my growth. I think all the special ones, you know, kind of go through this at some point in their career, just trying to figure it out.” […]
“I think this is just a part of my growth from year to year, facing new challenges and learning from them,” Tatum said after the loss to Cleveland. “Obviously, not going to be perfect, but I’m trying to figure it out as best I can and help us in any way possible. … I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of things I can do better.”
Boston Sports Journal: Karalis: Jayson Tatum learning to lead in an unforgiving season
“I think there’s a lot that factors into that,” Tatum said, “especially with the extremely short offseason that a couple of the teams coming from the bubble that went deep into the playoffs and [had] a quick turnaround.”
Still, Tatum said, the Celtics have to take responsibility for the inconsistency, given how other teams have performed even in difficult circumstances.
“It’s easy to say don’t read too much into this season, but at the same time there are teams that are doing what they sought out to do,” said Tatum. “We’re still just trying to figure it out.”
Interesting conversation in which Tatum spoke frankly about this season, his learning experiences in the playoffs, the difficulties of playing without normal crowds of fans, his struggles with Covid, and the best day of his life (hint: it involved Kobe). Link in the tweet.
Boston Celtics star @jaytatum0 on The Woj Pod: The C’s season, his grueling Covid recovery, All-NBA candidacy, Olympics and Kobe. Plus: Best-selling author Harvey Araton on the Knicks and his book, “Our Last Season.”https://t.co/2bRVbENHSy
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 14, 2021
The Rest of the Links: