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Bulpett: Water woes in Flint, Mich., breaking Celtics swingman James Young’s heart and hometown

January 15, 2017 GMT

The water crisis continues in Flint, Mich., with lawsuits and governmental fighting. At a municipal meeting Wednesday night, protestors crunched plastic water bottles to signal their displeasure.

To James Young, however, the issue is simple: The problem of lead in the public water supply was allowed to get out of hand and needs to be corrected. Now.

“I can’t believe we haven’t fixed it yet,” the Celtics swingman and Flint native said last week. “It’s tough, but we need to do something ASAP. I can’t believe people have let it carry on this long.”

Last offseason, Young traveled home to help pass out bottled water to residents, and he’s been stunned at what he’s seen on his visits.

“It’s heartbreaking when I go there,” Young said. “There are a lot of things going through my mind when I’m there. There’s so much they still need to take care of, and it’s something we need to do, like, right now. This is bad.

“When I was there giving bottles of water to the families, I could see the smiles on people’s faces, but it was tough. It’s very tough to live like that. I don’t know how people are surviving like that. It’s just heartbreaking.”

Unsafe levels of lead were introduced into the area’s system when in a 2014 cost-cutting move the city switched water supplies from the Detroit Water Authority to the Flint Water System, which took in water from the Flint River.

Officials failed to warn residents that the aging service lines presented lead risks and didn’t correct the matter, creating a major health problem for residents.

“I mean, when I stopped by some of the houses and looked at the water, you could smell it,” Young said. “It was very bad. I can’t believe they would let it get that bad to where it is right now.

“It didn’t feel like we were in the U.S. It was just so bad.”

Asked if he believed such a problem would have occurred in one of the nicer suburbs rather than Flint with its majority African-American population, Young said, “I don’t think it would have, but they just need to stop it now. That’s all I can say.”

This week’s C’s timeline

Tomorrow, vs. Charlotte, 7:30 p.m. — There are still miles to go until the playoffs, but the way things have been shaking out, it’s certainly possible the Celts and Hornets could be first-round dance partners. From what we’ve seen so far, the C’s probably wouldn’t mind that so much. They have taken down the Hornets in both meetings — one there, one at the Garden — and there are two more left in the regular-season series that has proven quite entertaining.

Wednesday, vs. New York, 7:30 p.m. — Who knows what drama the Knicks will bring with them into this Garden. There was the Derrick Rose MIA issue last week, and it’s always interesting to see how the Celts deal with Carmelo Anthony. And unless the visitors get their act in gear, this will be the last time to see Kristaps Porzingis in Boston until 2017-18. The C’s have won the first two games against New York this season.

Saturday, vs. Portland, 5 p.m. — Note the earlier-than-usual start time. And those with tickets will surely want to be there to welcome back Evan Turner. (Pretty sure Jae Crowder will give the fans a pass if they applaud the former Celtic.) The Blazers are finding themselves in a fight with Sacramento for the last playoff position in the Western Conference, and there was expectation that they’d be further along. But, again, there are still miles to go and time enough for Portland to get itself straightened out.

HAVING STARRING ROLE OF NO CONCERN TO STEVENS

The Celtics have three weeks to get past the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference standings and get Brad Stevens a job that really doesn’t interest him from a personal standpoint.

The coach from the team with the best record in each conference through the games of Feb.?5 gets to coach his side of the league in the All-Star Game, and we’re leaving Cleveland out of the equation because Tyronn Lue got the gig last season, and the same staff cannot go in consecutive years. There is, as well, the possibility that Atlanta or some other club could make a push to the No.?2 spot in the East, but most likely it will come down to the C’s or Raptors.

If Stevens had his wish, he’d like the Celtics to earn him the honor — but then be able to decline.

“Obviously you want to be in the best position your team can be in, and if you get to do that, that means you have a good team,” he said. “But as far as me coaching in an All-Star Game, I could care less.”

Might his son Brady have a different response?

“Probably,” Stevens said.

“And I want to make it clear,” he added. ??I want our team to be in the best position possible, and if that’s the result, then I’ll be thrilled, because that means we’re in good shape. But as far as me being on the sidelines or all that, I don’t get into All-Star stuff all that much. I know it’s important for the players, and I want our players that are candidates for that to get a chance to experience it.”

Stevens has previously taken the opportunity of the break for brief family trips, heading to a wedding in Cleveland one year, Phoenix another and going early to Utah before the Celts began their post-All-Star schedule there against the Jazz last year.

GRUNFELD: PATIENCE NEEDED IN BUILD JOB

Two years ago, the Wizards finished 10 games over .500 and, with Paul Pierce offering some veteran leadership, made it into the second round of the playoffs before falling in six games to Atlanta.

Last season, injuries played a large role in making them a .500 club that missed the postseason. Now they’re in a tight race in the lower half of the Eastern Conference playoff seeding. As much as anyone, Washington shows the difficulty of the NBA building process.

“It’s always been hard,” team president Ernie Grunfeld said. “It’s always been hard to build teams. Sometimes you have to get a little bit lucky, and you have to plan for it, too. And you have to have patience. It’s difficult to make moves, but not impossible.

“If you have a lot of cap room, the right players have to be available to spend the money on. And then, of course, the draft is always a crapshoot. You never know about that. But patience is really important, and you have to have good ownership that understands what the plan is. And then you have to follow through on your plan, whatever that may be.”