Garnett’s drive kicks into gear
Kevin Garnett has several reasons to feel vindicated these days.
One of his most demonstrable and emotive outbursts came after the Celtics’ 102-98 win over Orlando Wednesday when he loudly proclaimed Chelsea FC’s victory over Barcelona in a Champions League soccer game in London earlier in the day.
Garnett’s message, directed at a Celtics public relations staffer, seemed lost on most of the media awaiting his reaction to the Celtics clinching the Atlantic Division title.
But Garnett clearly was reveling in the role of underdog - identifying with a soccer club that had pulled off an upset.
Until recently, the situations of the Blues (Chelsea’s nickname) and the Green had been considered by many similarly hopeless. And though both teams have overcome obstacles and regained credibility, they could ultimately fail to win a championship, in part because of the likelihood of not having home-field/court advantage.
When Garnett got around to addressing the Celtics’ status Wednesday, he became animated about proving that the team had been underestimated. He talked about “pathetic articles’’ and “lousy analyses’’ that referred to the team as old.
“Obviously, you don’t know what drives us,’’ Garnett said.
Garnett has often said it does not take much to motivate him, and he apparently has been using the perceived negativity of naysayers lately.
“I appreciate it,’’ Garnett said, “because it lit a fire under us.’’
There have been reasons to count the Celtics out this season. But they have recovered after slipping four games below .500 early and slogging to a 15-17 record at the All-Star break.
The Celtics have developed several effective lineup combinations that function well because they understand the defensive schemes and are mobile enough to execute them.
The Celtics could struggle in matchups with low-post teams in the halfcourt game in the playoffs. But in most situations, they can set a defensive tone, their No. 1 ranking in field goal percentage defense (41.9 percent) as testimony.
Yet the Celtics’ 22-9 revival since Feb. 28 likely would not have occurred without the emergence of Avery Bradley. Early in the season, Bradley was a bit player shooting barely above 30 percent. But he has become a reliable ball-handler and tenacious defender, and the Celtics have compiled some of their best streaks when he has filled in for Rajon Rondo and, recently, Ray Allen.
In the early weeks of the season, it was difficult to imagine that Bradley would be tied with Garnett for third on the team in field goal percentage (50.6) and would have shot 71.4 percent (15 for 21) on 3-pointers in a 10-game stretch since April 5.
“To get anything, you’ve got to be able to take it,’’ Garnett said. “I told him [Bradley] if he continued to work, I felt like he had the tools and the ability to be something special in this league.’’
Sean Williams on board
The Celtics agreed to terms with former Boston College big man Sean Williams, and he is expected to be in uniform for Friday’s game against the Hawks, a team source said. Williams, 25, was a first-round pick of the New Jersey Nets in 2007. He was waived by the Dallas Mavericks March 23. The 6-foot-10-inch center has also played in the NBADL, Israel, China, and Puerto Rico. Williams has had disciplinary issues since being dismissed from BC, including a 2009 arrest at a Denver mall while with the Nets. The Celtics did considerable background work. Williams’s release from Dallas was not disciplinary based. To make room, the Celtics will waive Jermaine O’Neal, who is out for the season after left wrist surgery . . . The Celtics are expected to play two games in Europe next season, as NBA commissioner David Stern revealed the sites of overseas exhibition games for 2012 . . . Allen (ankle), Mickael Pietrus (knee), and Rondo (back) did not travel with the Celtics for Friday’s game at Atlanta. Their status has not been determined for the final two regular-season games next week.
Gary Washburn of the Globe staff contributed from Atlanta. Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.