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Jared Sullinger on his contract year, Celtics: ‘It’s first team I played for in NBA and hopefully, the last’

02.26.16 at 4:03 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

WALTHAM — Jared Sullinger is enjoying the low profile and dim light during his somewhat complicated contract year. And he’s using that low profile to help build his case to stay in Boston for the long haul. 

The 23-year-old power forward, represented by the powerful David Falk, is in his fourth NBA season, making $2.2 million. Sullinger is eligible for restricted free agency this summer, with a qualifying offer of $3.27 million.

Sullinger, who said he had an epiphany and a family intervention with John Lucas about his weight and eating issues in the offseason, has committed himself to the Brad Stevens system. He’s been part of a starting lineup that’s remained the same for the last 15 games and is averaging 10.1 points and a career-best 8.6 rebounds this season. 

Does Sullinger, still only 23, see himself staying in Boston for a long-term deal?

“Most definitely. Most definitely. My oldest brother always told me that the worst thing to happen to me sometimes is change and that I don’t handle change well. I strongly disagree,” Sullinger said, referring to the fact that he thinks he’s handled change well in the past. 

But then he admitted, “Sometimes, you just don’t want to change the scenery. When you play for the greatest franchise in the NBA and you see all those banners and all the fans come at you, you don’t want to leave that place because you know it’s a special place in your heart. It’s the first team I played for in the NBA and hopefully it’ll be the last.”

Does he think about that at practice with all the banners hanging up?

“What comes to mind in practice and shootarounds and games is how can we get better? How can we make this team better?” Sullinger said. 

Sullinger has enjoyed the low profile this year, with the emergence of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley taking center stage. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Isaiah Thomas, Jared Sullinger

Isaiah Thomas on seeing Malcolm Butler court-side Thursday night: ‘He couldn’t intercept that one’

02.26.16 at 3:03 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Cameras didn’t catch him looking over to Malcolm Butler for approval but Isaiah Thomas did know Butler and Dion Lewis were court-side watching as Thomas dished one of the more famous assists of the season in a 112-107 win over the Bucks Thursday night. 

“Yeah, I definitely [saw] them. [Butler] couldn’t intercept that one,” Thomas laughed, referring to the pass with 50.6 seconds left that wound up in the hands of Jae Crowder. Crowder drilled a wide open three that put the Celtics up, 109-102 after the Bucks cut it to four.

“That’s what made it as good a pass as it was is that Jae hit a real clutch shot for us and got us the win,” Thomas said. “The the pass would’ve been good if he didn’t make it but it makes it that much better.

“Right before I picked the ball up, I was thinking of shooting a floater and I saw him. It was my bailout pass. I saw him in the corner. But then when I was guiding myself to jump, I couldn’t see him anymore. I was like, ‘That’s my only pass and hopefully, he’s still in that corner.’ And he was there and he got there at the right time to shoot the shot.

“The internet was broke last night Everybody has been hitting me about the pass. Guess it was a pretty nice pass.” 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dion Lewis, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder

Report: Heat front-runners to land Joe Johnson

02.26.16 at 1:32 pm ET
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WALTHAM — The Celtics returned to practice Friday in Waltham, getting ready to take on the Miami Heat on Saturday at TD Garden. 

Joe Johnson might be in the building when the two teams play but it won’t be for the Celtics

According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, the Heat have emerged as the “frontrunners” to land the 34-year-old sharp-shooter, who was bought out this week by the Nets and waived. 

Once he clears waivers, Johnson is free to negotiate and sign with any team. Johnson has reportedly indicated that he’s only interested in signing with a playoff contender, which immediately put the Cavaliers at the top of the list. 

But Broussard indicated Friday that the Heat, just a game behind the Celtics in the race for third place in the Eastern Conference, are the leading contenders for Johnson. Broussard reports that sources indicate that Johnson believes he would have “a larger role and more meaningful minutes” in Miami. 

The Nets bought out the last year of Johnson’s $21.8 million deal, sending him to the waiver wire and free agency.

The Celtics enter Saturday’s 3 p.m. matinee with Miami, holding a 34-25 record while the Heat come in at 32-25. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Joe Johnson, Miami Heat,

Report: Celtics ‘expressed interest’ in Carmelo Anthony before trade deadline

02.26.16 at 8:16 am ET
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Carmelo Anthony (7) drives to the basket past Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) during the first half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden. (Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

Carmelo Anthony (7) drives to the basket past Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) during the first half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden. (Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

Last week, it became known that the Celtics nearly landed 20-year-old center Jahlil Okafor from Philadelphia before the 76ers pulled out before the trade deadline.

Well apparently, there was another player the Celtics were seriously considering making a play for on the other end of the experience spectrum.

According to ESPN, the Celtics reached out to the Knicks to see if 31-year-old Carmelo Anthony might waive his no-trade clause and accept a deal to Boston.

Citing league sources with knowledge of the situation, ESPN’s Ian Begley reported that it was unclear if there were any formal discussions between the teams and whether those talks ever reached an advanced stage. But, according to Begley, Ainge was informed that Anthony had no desire to leave the Knicks via trade to play for the Celtics.

That should be no surprise as Anthony has repeatedly said publicly that he wants to make a run at a title in New York.

“Doing it in New York is better than doing it any place in the world,” Anthony said before the deadline. “One in New York is better than multiple somewhere else. That was the reason I wanted to come to New York. That’€™s the reason I’€™m in New York. … I don’€™t want to run. I could have run somewhere when I was a free agent. I came back for a reason. I don’€™t feel like I got to keep expressing that part of why I came back to New York.”

Anthony, who is making $22.875 million this season, is signed through the 2018-19 season on a five-year, $124 million contract. His last season has an early-termination clause. His salary jumps to $24.5 million and $26.2 million in the next two seasons.

Read More: 2016 NBA trade deadline, Boston Celtics, Carmelo Anthony,

Isaiah Thomas relishes in Suns GM Ryan McDonough admitting mistake: ‘I’m starting to get more and more respect’

02.25.16 at 11:39 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas cracked a smile from ear to ear when he was asked about Suns general manager Ryan McDonough admitting Thursday morning on a Phoenix radio station that it was “a mistake” to trade Thomas to the Celtics at the 2015 NBA trade deadline.

Thursday night, after scoring a game-high 27 points and dishing out seven assists in a 112-107 Celtics win over the Bucks, Thomas took a little time to savor the recognition of his former employer. 

After making a couple of stunning passes to find open teammates, including one over three Bucks to Jae Crowder for a game-clinching three, Thomas was asked if he heard McDonough’s admission.

“Yeah, did,” Thomas said. “I mean it’s cool. I’m starting to get more and more respect, I guess. It feels good to hear him finally say that. But like I always say, I’m focused here on the Celtics. I’m not focused on what happened in the past. When I saw that this morning, it was nice to see somebody say something like that.”

Thomas might have felt snubbed by the Suns when he was traded but he’s turned himself into an All-Star scoring point guard for the third-best team in the Eastern Conference, so there is satisfaction in that.

“I’ve always felt overlooked,” Thomas said. “Ever since All-Star selection, guys are kind of liking what I do, I guess.”

Thomas admitted that he’s a much different player than the one that played in Phoenix even two years ago.

“The game’s slowing down for me,” Thomas said. “For the most part, I’m a better decision-maker. I’m not just trying to score every time. That’s something I’ve done my whole life where scoring has been easy for me but now, it’s just trying to pick and choose my spots, knowing when to be aggressive for myself and knowing when to get other guys going. I think that’s my next step, just becoming a more complete basketball player, just being unpredictable and going out there and trying to make the right play, each and every time.

“I think just because I’m labeled as a scorer. If you score too much, guys say you don’t pass. If you pass too much, like [Rajon] Rondo, they say you can’t score. They’re always going to say something so you’ve just got to take what the defense gives you.”

Speaking of Rondo, does Thomas think Rondo could’ve pulled off that behind-the-head, no-look pass with 50.6 seconds left Thursday night?

“No doubt. You all probably seen that before. He probably did something even crazier than that.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, NBA, Phoenix Suns

Studs and Duds: Amir Johnson, starters lead Celtics past Bucks

02.25.16 at 10:11 pm ET
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Celtics forward Amir Johnson celebrates against the Bucks during the first half of a bounce-back victory. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward Amir Johnson celebrates against the Bucks during the first half of a bounce-back victory. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

It’s good to be home.

In their first game back in TD Garden since the All-Star break, the Celtics defeated the Bucks 112-107 on Thursday night.

The C’s greatest strength may be their bench depth, but the starters led the way Thursday, dominating the Bucks in the first and third quarters. All five starters scored in double figures, led by Isaiah Thomas (27 points, 7 assists).

Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton and Greg Monroe each scored more than 20 points for Milwaukee, while 6-foot-11 “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo flirted with a triple-double (14 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) from his recently adopted point guard position.

The Celtics opened the game on an incredible pace, scoring 18 fast-break points in the first half. Despite missing their first 3-point attempts, the Celtics shot 55 percent, building a 62-52 lead at the break.

Two minutes into the third quarter, Jae Crowder was forced to the bench after picking up his fifth foul with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting. In the fourth quarter, with Marcus Smart and Amir Johnson also in foul trouble, the Bucks turned up the defensive intensity and dominated the paint, cutting the Celtics’ 18-point lead to just four with a minute to play.

After a Brad Stevens timeout, Thomas made an absurd behind-the-back pass to an open Crowder in the right corner. Crowder swished the 3 and effectively buried the Bucks. With the win, the Celtics (34-25) remain the third-best team in the Eastern Conference, one game ahead of the Heat, who they will play on Saturday afternoon in Boston.

For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on. Read the rest of this entry »

Brad Stevens working to keep young guns in the mix

02.25.16 at 9:16 pm ET
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Marcus Smart (36) trips over Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) in the second quarter at the Pepsi Center. (Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports)

Marcus Smart (36) trips over Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) in the second quarter at the Pepsi Center. (Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports)

While there was some discussion pre-game Thursday of how a veteran like Joe Johnson might add valuable versatility, there was also acknowledgment of the potential of the youth that remains on the roster.

With an average age of 24.4, the Celtics are tied with the Jazz for the youngest roster in the league this season.

The team they played Thursday, the Bucks are next at 24.5 and the Sixers come in at 24.7. The Celtics are by far and away the most successful in that foursome of youth. 

The Celtics have three rookies on their roster in Terry Rozier, Jordan Mickey and R.J. Hunter. Marcus Smart and James Young hail from the 2014 draft and Kelly Olynyk represents the Class of 2013 and Jared Sullinger was drafted in 2012.

Of the last two drafts, only Smart is seeing significant minutes and Young’s yo-yo between Boston and Maine is well documented.

How are the young guns handling not playing?

“I think it’s hard. They’ve played their whole lives,” Stevens said before Thursday’s game. “They’ve never had a year where they’ve sat. But it’s probably not all that unanticipated. It’s part of life as a young player, especially on a team that’s like ours. We’ve talked about that there’s not a ton of separation up and down the roster but there is a lot of depth.” 

With David Lee gone to Dallas, the Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson are the oldest at 28 years. Only five of the 14 players on the active roster are over 25.  

“All of our older players, and I say older kind of tongue-in-cheek, but they all are productive NBA players and have a real niche and role,” Stevens added.

R.J. Hunter has had the biggest impact of the 2015 class, averaging nearly 10 minutes a game in the 26 games he’s played. Rozier has played in 20 games and Mickey has seen action in just six games but does have three blocks. 


Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, James Young, Marcus Smart
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