|01.06.17 at 9:04 pm ET|
A lot of players have tried – in vain – to stop Isaiah Thomas this year. The Celtics point guard who
Philly’s Joel Embiid, before Friday’s game, was the latest to express his desire to get in on the action.
“I think it’s a reflection of how he sees himself,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said in his pre-game media session. “I think it’s a reflection of an attitude that I appreciate. There is an inner confidence. There is a self-belief. There is a fearlessness to say things kind of out of the box. He’s a big personality type player.
“Guarding him at times you may have to switch, because they have the ability to pick-and-pop Horford or Olynyk and those guys can shoots threes and that’s part of the challenge of guarding Isaiah in pick-and-rolls where when you give him attention they now have the ability to pick-and-pop guys that can shoot threes at a high percentage. So in that circumstance, Joel might find himself on Isaiah Thomas.”
As it turned out, Embiid didn’t have to chase Thomas, at least in the first half. The Celtics guard took it to him in the first half, with mixed results.
Thomas matched his season high with five turnovers in the first 17 minutes as Embiid flashed out on him a couple of times. The Celtics crowd, fresh from cheering for Gordon Hayward, starting chanting “Trust the Process” in an ode to his physical skills as well as an effort to get in his head.
But what the Sixers – and every other team that’s played Thomas – is aware of is his explosiveness in the clutch, namely the fourth quarter. Thomas scored 29 of his 52 points in the final 12 minutes against the Heat on Dec. 30.
“He almost singlehandedly beat us in that one-point loss in Philadelphia,” Brown said of Thomas’ 13 fourth-quarter points in Boston’s 107-106 win on Dec. 3. “He’s just so elusive. He’s got the ability to create off the dribble. That might sound like it’s common to say that, but it’s rare and it’s hard to guard somebody who can create their own shot and at times doesn’t need a pick and roll.”
Thomas finished that game with 37 points and the Celtics escaped with a win.
“So, we’ve got to choose the defenders we feel have a chance to guard somebody that elusive, that dynamic,” Brown said. “I had a chance to see his 50-whatever point game against Miami and that massive fourth period and he’s an All-Star for a reason so we have to really – as a team – just [mark] off a few guys we think can just stalk him and make his life as difficult as we can.”
|01.06.17 at 7:27 pm ET|
Listening to Brad Stevens before Friday’s game with the Sixers and you get the distinct idea that Celtics didn’t mind Jae Crowder being ticked off by the cheers for Gordon Hayward Tuesday night at TD Garden.
They could’ve just done without him taking his frustrations to social media.
“I think the chip on your shoulder thing is a good thing in a lot of ways,” Stevens said. “Jae talked about it again [Thursday]. I think the one thing that he said he wishes he wouldn’t have taken it to Twitter late. But at the end of the day, we’ve prioritized guys with chips on their shoulders and guys that really want to be good and believe they can be really good and work the right way because we think that’s contagious.”
Danny Ainge also indicated on the team’s flagship station Thursday morning that he wouldn’t mind Celtics fans cheering opposing team’s players if it’s going to inspire Crowder to greatness on the court. Stevens indicated he thought Crowder would not miss a beat and continue playing well.
“I would think fine,” Stevens said. “Yeah, I mean I would think fine. And he said his part [Thursday] and we’ve talked about it a lot. So, our focus since right after media was over [Thursday] was on the Sixers and getting ready for tonight’s game.”
Crowder is averaging 13.3 points, five rebounds and 2.3 assists this season.
Fingers crossed: The Celtics will be without back-up big man Tyler Zeller for two more games as he battles to return from a stomach bug that sent him to the hospital on New Year’s Day.
“Tyler is out for the next two games,” Stevens said Friday. “He got on the bike [Thursday]. He’s going to work out again today but he’s still pretty under weather. Jordan Mickey’s got it now so he’s out. That’s it for now. James Young continues to be out an ankle sprain.”
Stevens was asked if he was feeling OK. “I’m good, knock on wood,” the coach quipped. “Same precautions everybody else takes, right. Wash your hands and cross your fingers.”
What about a quarantine for Isaiah Thomas?
“It’s all part of it,” Stevens said without missing a beat. “You go and see any game that’s played in the NBA right now, somebody’s been sick. You just move on with who’s available.”
All-Star push: The Celtics continued their social media and media relations campaign to get representation on the All-Star team this February in New Orleans. Friday’s focus: Avery Bradley. The guard is averaging career-highs in points (17.8), rebounds (6.9), assists (2.4) and 3-point percentage (40.8). Of course, Bradley is considered the Celtics best defensive player as well. Stevens was asked Friday if a player’s defense should factor in the selection of such honors as All-Stars and player of the month.
“Should be half because that’s half the game but that’s not the way those things are chosen,” Stevens said.
|01.06.17 at 12:02 pm ET|
Let us, for a moment, set aside our love affair with Gordon Hayward to focus on an even bigger fish — Bulls guard Jimmy Butler.
According to Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher, the Bulls quietly started shopping Butler weeks ago and are open to moving the All-Star for the right price. The Celtics have reportedly made a strong push in the past, with ESPN reporting last June that the C’s made the most aggressive offer for Butler right before the draft.
Their interest makes total sense, because Butler is blossoming into a star. He’s averaging a career-high 25.2 points and 6.8 rebounds a game, as well as 4.5 assists. He has become the team’s go-to scorer in crunch time — on Wednesday, he scored 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Bulls past the Cavaliers — and he’s solve a lot of problems for the Celtics on both ends of the floor.
A tremendous defender, he’s also shooting .456 from the floor. He’s not a great 3-point shooter (.336 this year, .329 lifetime), but he’s an accomplished scorer who’d give the team another option besides diminutive sparkplug Isaiah Thomas late in games.
The Bulls have benched point guard Rajon Rondo and are struggling to crack .500 in the Eastern Conference, so a rebuild could be in their near future, with Butler their most marketable piece.
|01.05.17 at 10:55 pm ET|
Actor Jerry Ferrara is better known as Turtle from the long-running HBO series (and movie) “Entourage,” and appropriate of someone who once called Marky-Mark boss, the New York native and unabashed Knicks fan has a new favorite player he’d like to see recognized — Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas.
In a series of tweets on Thursday night, Ferrara praised Thomas and implored NBA fans to vote for him to play in the All-Star Game.
— Jerry Ferrara (@jerryferrara) January 6, 2017
— Jerry Ferrara (@jerryferrara) January 6, 2017
Ferrara is as big a Knicks fan as they come, but even he recognizes the leap Thomas has made this season. In the last week alone, Thomas has scored 52 points one night and recorded 15 assists on another.
Thomas currently ranks fourth among guards in the Eastern Conference with 193,297 votes, well behind leaders Kyrie Irving of the Cavs (543,030), Dwyane Wade of the Bulls (278,052), and DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors (253,340).
Still, with Turtle on his side, anything is possible. After all, things always had a way of working themselves out for Vince.
|01.05.17 at 1:35 pm ET|
Jae Crowder is apologizing, but he isn’t backing down.
Speaking to reporters before Celtics practice on Thursday, Crowder said he regretted some of his “heat of the moment” comments on Twitter following Tuesday’s victory over the Jazz, when he blasted Celtics fans for cheering potential free agent target Gordon Hayward. But he stood by his assertion that home fans shouldn’t cheer rival players.
“I was really angry after the game, obviously,” Crowder told reporters, including Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston. “I said what I had to say after the game. I probably should have left it right there. I went on Twitter and said what I had to say, and there’s nothing that I regret going back and forth with fans on Twitter — that’s how I was feeling at the time.
“Obviously, I don’t want to leave Boston. Obviously, I love it here. Obviously, the fans have treated me great. No doubt about that.
“I still stand behind what I said about how I felt disrespected when they’re cheering for Gordon Hayward. I live with that. I stand behind that 100 percent as a man, as a basketball player who puts my time away from my family into it.”
Crowder got into a back-and-forth with fans over the intent of his remarks, tweeting — and subsequently deleting — that he’d be happy to leave Boston. He regretted that comment, but still doesn’t understand why Celtics fans would cheer Hayward, who played for head coach Brad Stevens at Butler. Celtics fans have similarly applauded Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins in the past.
“I didn’t like that, either,” Crowder said. “I just remember when I got here a couple years ago and we were however many games under .500, the fans cheered for us. Not one time did they cheer for another player when they came into town. Things have changed since then, I’m aware of that. That’s never happened in an arena that I’ve been in. I’ve never been on the road and got cheered for, or even one of my teammates get cheered for by the opposing team.
“It’s just something different for me that really set me off. I don’t like when they cheer for DeMarcus Cousins, I don’t like when they cheer for Kevin Durant. I don’t think you should do that. That’s all I was saying.”
|01.04.17 at 12:32 am ET|
Jae Crowder, in many ways, is the heart and soul of the Celtics. He’s the one who basically said, “Who needs him?” after Kevin Durant spurned the C’s this winter, and he was none too pleased with fans who cheered a rival on Tuesday night.
The C’s beat the Jazz, 115-104, but what got Crowder going was the reaction to Jazz forward Gordon Hayward, a potential free agent target this summer. Celtics fans cheered Hayward during introductions and Crowder took it as an insult.
“I heard the cheering before the game,” Crowder told reporters, including Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. “I didn’t like that at all. I think that was a sign of disrespect to me from the fans. That sparked a little fire in me.”
Hayward led the Jazz with 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting, but was a minus-21 overall. Crowder, meanwhile, scored 21 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including 5-for-6 from 3-point range, and went for a plus-22. He kept up his diatribe on Twitter, in part, perhaps, because he and Hayward play the same position.
HOME TEAM FANS CHEERING FOR THE OPPOSING PLAYERS NOW.. AW MAN OK… SMH BUT GOOD WIN FELLAS ONTO THE NEXT ONE.!!
— JAE CROWDER (@CJC9BOSS) January 4, 2017
Give Crowder this much — he’s consistent. If someone does something that ticks him off, he’s not keeping his mouth shut about it.
That said, Hayward would be a valuable addition to the Celtics. The 6-foot-8 26-year-old is averaging over 22 points and 6 rebounds a game for the resurgent Jazz, who are 22-14 and ranked fifth in the Western Conference.
|01.03.17 at 10:03 pm ET|
Sitting at No. 3? Jaylen Brown.
Such identifications start making some wonder. What if this player who was supposed to emerge into piece of the Celtics’ foundation was a miss.
Brown came into the Celtics’ tilt against the Jazz Tuesday night 24th among rookies in points per game (4.9), having also landed at 26th among the group for minutes per contest (13.4). Both classifications would certainly support the notion that things weren’t going as planned for the No. 3 overall pick.
But the reality is that Brown will ultimately be just fine. And proof of the promise came in the Celts’ 115-104 win over Utah, with the forward scoring 10 minutes in his 12 minutes. It was the first time since Dec. 11 he had totaled double-figures, and only third occasion since Nov. 11.
With the roster as currently constituted, the Celtics will continue to patience. But performances like Tuesday night make one wonder if the training wheels might be at least loosened a bit.
Clearly, Celtics coach Brad Stevens wants to prioritize those who he know can defend off the bench. That was once again made clear with Stevens’ comments prior to his latest win. And this might be a good reason while Brown hasn’t played more than 18 minutes in any of the last 12 games.
But it would also behoove the Celtics to find out if Brown is ready to add some offensive electricity. It’s not as if Brown hasn’t been efficient, having made 10 of his last 16 shots from the field over the past three games.
And while it might seem this isn’t a priority, especially considering the Celtics’ offensive output the best of any opponent against the Jazz this season, time is somewhat of the essence. The C’s simply have to start figuring out what they have — whether it’s for their future, or somebody else’s.
It’s ironic that Joe Johnson was in uniform for the opposition on this night considering he represents what could be a very real scenario for Brown and the Celtics. It was Johnson who was dealt to the Suns by the C’s after averaging 6.9 points in 48 games as a rookie.
That Johnson deal brought the Celtics Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk, and with them came a legitimate path to the Eastern Conference. At the time, it was worth it for the Celts. Now, with Brown as perhaps one of their best non-draft pick trade chips, they have to figure out if it’s worth it once again.
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