|10.21.16 at 6:01 pm ET|
In the effort to trim the roster down to the maximum 15 players by next Wednesday’s opener against the Nets, the Celtics have said goodbye to another draft pick.
The team announced Friday that Ben Bentil, the second round pick out of Providence this June (51st overall), has been released while veteran swingman Gerald Green will make the final roster to begin the season. Bentil does receive a $250,000 guarantee after signing his rookie deal after the draft. ESPN’s Chris Forsberg was the first to report the news.
Bentil appeared in three preseason games for the Celtics, averaging 5.0 points, and 4.3 rebounds in 12.9 minutes per game.
Friday’s move means the Celtics roster stands at 16, one above the roster limit to start the season. Ainge indicated that former first-round picks James Young and R.J. Hunter are likely to battle it out for that last spot, unless he can swing a deal with a team, exchanging a player or two for a future draft pick. That would free up a roster spot and allowed the Celtics to finalize their opening night roster.
Ainge indicated that he and the organization would likely take the weekend to consider all possibilities before making a move on Monday. Green said Friday he had not been formally told he had made the team and said he was still trying to prove himself after missing time at the start of camp with a hip flexor injury.
Friday’s move means the Celtics have just two of eight picks left on their roster from June’s draft: No. 3 overall pick Jaylen Brown and No. 45 selection Demetrius Jackson out of Notre Dame.
On Thursday, the Celtics began their roster trimming by releasing camp invites Marcus Georges-Hunt, Damion Lee and Jalen Jones. All three players are expected to land with the team’s D-League affiliate in Maine, a possible destination for Bentil as well.
|10.21.16 at 1:48 pm ET|
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Celtics are trying to use a trade in order to find their final piece on the roster.
As cutdown looms, the Celtics continue to offer James Young or RJ Hunter for a second-round pick, league sources tell @TheVertical.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) October 21, 2016
The decision to finalize the Celtics’ roster is Oct. 26. Hunter and Young are considered the two candidates vying for the one spot. For more on that battle, click here.
|10.19.16 at 10:19 pm ET|
The Celtics ran into their first bump in the road, Wednesday night.
With 48 seconds left in the first half of the Celts’ preseason game against the Knicks, guard Marcus Smart injured his left ankle. Smart was helped off the floor and into the locker room, not putting any weight on the ankle.
According to multiple reports, Smart’s injury almost certainly will keep him out of next week’s opener against Brooklyn.
— Celtics News (@CelticsNewsNBA) October 20, 2016
Smart has experienced shooting problems throughout the preseason, going 3-for-22 from beyond the 3-point stripe. The guard was 1-for-5 from the floor in his 16 minutes before his injury in the preseason finale.
#Celtics coach Brad Stevens said the severity of Marcus Smart's ankle injury will have no impact on final roster spot decisions.
— Scott Souza (@Scott_Souza) October 20, 2016
Marcus Smart leaves Garden on crutches with boot on left ankle… He was more than a little frustrated.
— Steve Bulpett (@SteveBHoop) October 20, 2016
|10.18.16 at 2:13 pm ET|
With one final exhibition game left on the schedule, the battle for the last roster spot has intensified. James Young and R.J. Hunter figure to be battling it out to the end.
The Celtics have until the end of the week to determine who will fill out the back end of their 15-man roster and Young and Hunter have both made strong cases for themselves in their last two games.
Hunter, who has made the strongest statistical case of the two, scored a game-high 17 points against the Knicks on Saturday, capping off an impressive shooting performance. He scored 6-of-8 from the floor, including 2-of-4 from deep and not only knocked down open jumpers but made strong takes to the rim and got to the free-throw line.
Young, on the other hand, followed up Saturday night’s Celtics win with his best performance of the preseason Monday night.
It may not have been as flashy as Hunter’s 17 points at Madison Square Garden, but Young (10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, one steal) was able to make the most of his 16 minutes by stuffing the stat sheet in the win over the Nets at TD Garden.
He also looked a lot more comfortable on the floor, compared to the beginning of the preseason.
“I’m way more confident in my game,” Young explained. “A lot of people are backing me up to just go and be aggressive, so that’s really helped me.
“I’m just trying to do a little of everything — scoring, rebounding, passing, and not to do too much at the same time. Whatever coach has drawn up for me I just do it and help out the team.”
Both Young and Hunter are scoring at a similar rate — making the choice between the two very difficult. Throughout the preseason, Young has averaged 5.1 points, 3 rebounds and shooting 45 percent from the floor in 15 minutes per game. While Hunter is averaging 6.1 points, 1.5 assists and shooting 44 percent from the floor.
However, Young has been an efficient 3-point scorer, shooting at a 42 percent clip, whereas Hunter — recognized as a precise 3-point shooter — is shooting 27 percent from downtown.
Brad Stevens has certainly noticed the improvement, thus making the decision of cutting one of the two that much harder.
“They all really had good moments,” Stevens said. “As I said before the game, those are hard decisions because everybody’s improved. I thought they all played well at times.”
|10.17.16 at 9:51 pm ET|
The time remaining for the Celtics to tune up for the season is running thin — but they’re already looking to be in midseason form. Playing the same Nets team they will see in nine days on opening night, the Celtics ran through Brooklyn 120-99.
It only took 15 points for Isaiah Thomas to drop 19 points on the flimsy Nets defense. The point guard cruised into the paint — oftentimes untouched — en route to a perfect 6-for-6 from the field including a 3-pointer, as he played exclusively in the first half.
“The lane was just open, I guess. Teammates just put me in position to try and be a little more aggressive for myself. I haven’t been that way this preseason yet. But teammates got me the ball in the right spots and I just did what I do, I guess,” Thomas said.
Thomas’ pace throughout his time on the floor was contagious and apparent from the onset, as halfway through the first period the Celtics surged to a 14-to-2 run that put them up by 13 points.
“We’ve been playing a lot better, things are slowing down for us,” Thomas said. “For the most part we’re getting there, we’re ready for the regular season to start so things can count, but we’re still working.”
The Celtics were playing with a regular season tempo that left the Nets visibly overwhelmed and outmatched. Though passing wasn’t as precise as it could have been at times, overall the Celtics transition game was quick and largely effective.
The bench didn’t make upcoming roster decisions for Brad Stevens much easier, as each player coming on demonstrated quite a bit of value in one form or another. The shooting stroke that James Young has struggled to consistently find was present on multiple occasions. R.J. Hunter continued to shoot the ball well from the perimeter. Demetrius Jackson grabbed the hustle play of the preseason, grabbing a steal and finishing it with a layup off an inbound pass following a Celtics basket, forcing the Nets to take a timeout from sheer frustration.
“I thought they all had really good moments,” Stevens said. “I thought they all played well at times, and certainly we gave up some baskets in transition, we did some things we’d like to do better throughout the course of the night, not throwing the ball to the other team as a team. But that’s across the board, that’s not just young, that’s young and old.
“But everybody showed as they have the whole time that they continue to improve, which is a good thing.”
|10.17.16 at 6:18 pm ET|
Since the Celtics rounded out their roster in September — complete with 16 guaranteed contracts and only 15 roster spots — the speculation has been near-constant as to who will be in and who will be out.
But with just one more preseason game and the first game of the regular season just over a week away, no final decisions have been made on the roster.
“We haven’t talked about any of that stuff, so I’m sure I’ll sit down with Danny [Ainge] at some point, but obviously we have 16 [contracts] and you can only carry 15,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said prior to Monday’s preseason tilt against the Nets. “It’s the unfortunate part of the business, but we haven’t talked in great depth about that. But I’m sure we’ll hit that in the next couple of days.
“Obviously we have conversations all the time, but we have not gotten to the point where we’re talking finality on anybody in large part because everybody has played very well or shown great strides.”
One player that has shown promise is guard Demetrius Jackson. In four games this preseason, the rookie out of Notre Dame has shot 7-for-14 from the field, as well as 4-for-6 from 3-point range, averaging 5.3 points per game. He’s helped run the offense as well, as he’s grabbed eight assists in his cumulative 38 minutes.
“I think he’s done a good job. You know it’s hard to sit for three quarters and play in the fourth, but I thought the other night he came in, handled the ball, made the right plays,” said Stevens. “His burst is pretty special, and he can go from zero to 60 in a heartbeat. He’s making shot and he’s doing a pretty good job of running that group when he comes in. So I’ve been impressed with him thus far.”
|10.15.16 at 10:18 pm ET|
In what didn’t feel like a preseason matchup, the Celtics offense erupted by scoring 119 points in the team’s final road game before the regular season.
The Celtics shot nearly 60 percent (58.9) from the floor en route to a 119-107 win over the Knicks.
After the Celtics held to a double-digit lead for most of the game, the Knicks cut the margin to one point (98-97) before R.J. Hunter went off in the fourth quarter, when he scored most of his game-high 17 points on 6-of-8 shots, including 2-of-4 from deep.
Horford caught fire early as he knocked down his first five attempts in the first half — including back-to-back 3-pointers — and finished with 12 points and two blocks. Avery Bradley’s 15 points on 7-of-9 shots led the Celtics’ first-half surge. Both starters led the offense and helped the C’s take a 59-50 lead into the half.
After the break, Marcus Smart (13 points, 3 steals) carried the momentum while most of the starters cheered from the bench. So far, Smart is shooting 70 percent (14-of-20) from inside the 3-point arc throughout the preseason. He may not be knocking down shots from deep but he’s been very consistent from the mid-range and continues to be a force on defense.
For a full box score, click here.
In what was a regular season-like atmosphere at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks erased their double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter before the Celtics put together a late-game run to close out the win and silence the raucous New York crowd. Horford’s presence continues to impact the Celtics’ offense as their best shooter in Bradley had plenty of opportunities to knock down open shots against the Knicks.
Horford and Bradley’s great shooting and strong defense — one that forced 20 Knicks turnovers — set the tone on both ends of the floor as the C’s dominated throughout most of the game.
Hunter — who’s believed to be on the bubble for making the team’s final 16-man roster — certainly made a case for himself in what may have been his best outing as a member of the Celtics. The second-year guard not only knocked down a pair of 3-pointers but also drove against the defense, got to the hoop and to the free-throw line.
The Celtics will close out their preseason schedule with a pair of home games this week on Monday against the Nets and Wednesday against the Knicks.
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