NBA

Ginobili needs time to decide on his future

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Manu Ginobili

San Antonio Spurs legend Manu Ginobili said Monday he would take his time before deciding on his future after an emotion-filled defeat to the Golden State Warriors.

The 39-year-old Argentine star, a veteran of four NBA championship-winning Spurs teams, left the court to a resounding ovation as San Antonio’s season ended with a 129-115 loss in Texas.

But the veteran guard, who turns 40 in July, said he planned to let the dust settle on his latest season before deciding on his future in the NBA.

Ginobili said he felt as if the San Antonio crowd were bidding him farewell, but was adamant he could still continue to play at the highest level.

“I felt more energetic, more needed, more useful to the team, so I ended up feeling better than the way I started,” Ginobili said.

“I do feel like I can still play. But that’s not what is going to make me retire or not. It’s about how I feel. If I want to go through all of that again. It felt like they wanted me to retire. Like they were giving me sort of a celebration night.

“And of course, I’m getting closer and closer. There is no secret, for sure. It’s getting harder and harder. But I always said that I wanted to let it sink in for three weeks, four weeks, whatever, and then I will sit with my wife and see how it feels.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he would not rush Ginobili into making a decision.

“If he decides he’s going to play again that’s up to him,” said Popovich. “Manu is a grown man. He’ll figure out what is best for him and his family.”

Ginobili meanwhile said whatever his choice — playing on or retiring — he would be happy.

“I have to choose between two truly wonderful options,” Ginobili said.

“One is to keep playing in this league at this age, enjoying every day, playing the sport I still love.

“The other one is to stay at home, be a dad, travel more, enjoy my whole family. I have a wonderful family and spend time with them.

“Whatever it is, it’s two unbelievable options. So there is no way I can be sad, because whatever I decide, it’s going to be great.”

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NBA

Celtics have validated season and have nothing left to lose

Jay Asser 17/05/2017
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Master and student: Brad Stevens and Isaiah Thomas. Picture: Getty Images.

Regardless of what happens in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics have validated their season and accomplished all that could have reasonably been expected of them.

Advancing two rounds in the playoffs, only to potentially get slaughtered by the defending champions, isn’t exactly the end-goal of a franchise hanging an NBA-best 17 title banners in the rafters. The Celtics have much grander dreams and goals, but their journey to reach this point from where they were four years ago is a major accomplishment in itself.

In the summer of 2013, Boston parted ways with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and pushed the button on a full rebuild that led to a 25-57 record in the first season under Brad Stevens. Isaiah Thomas showed up the year after and ever since, they have ascended to becoming one of the top teams in the league, culminating in a 53-29 record and top seed in the East.

Despite the success, Boston remain one rung below LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers and with little hope to challenge for the crown.

And that’s okay for now. With even the rosiest of preseason expectations reached, from here, the rest of these playoffs are gravy.

Boston have a long-term plan, of sustained contention, which still has a way to go to be completed.

This was never going to be the year where they had to capitalise on a championship window. That’s further down the line; maybe even next season, depending on summer activity.

And yet here we are, imagining the heights the Celtics could achieve in the future, while in the present watching them win Game 7 of the second round, land a draft pick and host the opener of the Eastern Conference Finals across three consecutive days.

Danny Ainge was criticised in the wake of standing pat at the trade deadline, failing to pull the trigger to upgrade the supporting cast or add a star. As unstoppable as Cleveland look, would any trade have moved the needle for Boston? Ask Toronto how much the short-term acquisitions for PJ Tucker and Serge Ibaka helped them against the Cavs. And that’s not even mentioning the Golden State Death Star.

It’s odd to say about a team preparing for their most important games of the season, but Boston truly have no worries.

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NBA

Celtics have work cut out to upset Cavaliers

Jay Asser 17/05/2017
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King's throne: LeBron James. Picture: Getty Images.

A quick turnaround forces the Boston Celtics to recalibrate and focus on taming a beast no team in the East has yet to conquer over the past three years.

As the roars at TD Garden slowly dissolved and the euphoria wore off following Boston’s 115-105 win over the Washington Wizards in Game 7 of the second round on Monday, reality hit. The Cleveland Cavaliers come to town, fully rested and raring to go as the Eastern Conference Finals get under way.

The defending champions, led by LeBron James, are rightfully heavy favourites after coming off back-to-back sweeps to reassert their dominance in the East.

There is little evidence to suggest the Celtics are anything more than a speed bump on the Cavaliers’ road to a third straight Finals, but Boston’s Isaiah Thomas is used to being counted out, both personally and as part of the team he’s helped revive.

“They didn’t give us a chance [against the Wizards]. They didn’t give us a chance when we were down 2-0 to Chicago. We got the No1 seed, they didn’t give us a chance,” Thomas said after scoring 29 points and dishing 12 assists to eliminate the Wizards.

“They don’t ever give us a chance and we just keep going. We don’t care about what others say.”

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If Boston are to pull off an upset and keep James from reaching a seventh-straight Finals, Thomas will likely have to be at this best.

The guard received a heavy dose of showing and trapping from Washington and Cleveland figure to follow suit. In the previous round against Toronto, the Cavaliers employed aggressive defence on Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan, forcing him to get the ball out of his hands and rely on team-mates.

Cleveland’s approach has seen defenders fly around much more than in the regular season, but they still yielded 40.5 uncontested field goals per game in the playoffs, including 20.5 from beyond the arc.

Al Horford in particular is positioned to take advantage of open looks when Thomas gets swarmed, with the centre hitting a scorching 58.3 per cent from 3 in the playoffs.

Of course, none of what Boston does on offence will truly matter unless they manage to slow down a red-hot Cavaliers offence, which is currently shooting lights out at 43.4 per cent on 3-pointers, a mark even better than their efficient 39.1 per cent in the regular season.

Boston were the second-best team this season at defending 3s, allowing 31.0 per cent – including 34.8 per cent to Cleveland in four meetings – and they’ve lowered that to 31.0 per cent in the playoffs.

Aside from contesting on the perimeter, the Celtics have their work cut out to stop the Cavaliers in transition.

Boston were often vulnerable on the break against the Wizards, especially after turning the ball over, and the Cavaliers are similarly deadly.

The scales are tilted against the Celtics, but Thomas isn’t ruling out a shock, adding: “The good thing about it is we’ve got home-court advantage, so we’re going to be ready to try to take care of home court.

“We know it’s going to be tough, but at this point, anything can happen. We really believe that.”

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