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Doc Rivers on loss of Jared Sullinger: ‘We’ll have to play differently again’

02.01.13 at 7:18 pm ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers says his team will have to play more small ball now that big man Jared Sullinger is lost for the season to lumbar disc surgery in his back, surgery that took place Friday at New England Baptist Hospital.

While the news was somewhat surprising to outsiders on Friday, the Celtics knew all along that this was the risk of drafting Sullinger, who missed nearly half of his final (sophomore) year last winter with Ohio State, a team he led to the Final Four. Sullinger’s bad back dropped him on draft day last June and the Celtics took the gamble, taking him 21st overall.

“We knew this could happen,” Rivers said. “We knew it a month before the draft that this could happen and at some point it probably would happen. We were hoping it would be a summer thing, rather than the middle of the season, but it happened now. He was playing great and the good news is we know he can play. We know he’ll be a very good player and, in the long run, this will make him healthier.”

As for Rivers’ reaction to the news, “My emotions are to the team, I have to give them that. I told them after shootaround. Our goals haven’t changed, nothing’s changed. We will have to play differently, again.”

Rivers said he would use more of a “small-ball” approach, like the Magic and Knicks already do in the East. Rivers also inserted Brandon Bass back in the starting lineup and hinted that he would use Jeff Green more at the power forward spot, with the following caveat.

“It’s probably not fair but I’m going to lean more on Jeff to do more rebounding,” Rivers said. “When he’s rebounded for us, he’s played well.”

“I think we’re still working on what we may have to do. But I think we definitely have to be a small-ball team. We’ll start big, as usual with Brandon and Kevin [Kevin Garnett] — I don’t know if that’s big, but that’s how we’ll start. After that we just have to put our five best players on the floor, so we’re going to have to be creative.”

As for leaning on rookie center Fab Melo, don’t expect Rivers to be using the Syracuse product, meshing with what Danny Ainge told reporters before Friday’s game.

“I know how people here love the young guys — love to see the young guys,” Rivers said tongue-in-cheek. “I’m sure at some point, Fab will find his way on the floor. Obviously, I think you try to give him as much as he can handle. You do try to put him in situations like when he’s on the floor, Kevin’s on the floor with him to help him.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Jared Sullinger, Jeff Green

NWOA Injury Report: When we can expect Rajon Rondo to return

02.01.13 at 6:32 pm ET
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Danny Ainge: ‘We’re not ready to cave in yet… It’s going to take more than that’

02.01.13 at 6:29 pm ET
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Celtics chief basketball executive Danny Ainge says it was the right thing to do for the career of Jared Sullinger to end the rookie’s season and have back surgery now, leaving the Celtics without yet another weapon in their lineup.

The team announced late Friday afternoon that Sullinger underwent successful lumbar disc surgery Friday at the New England Baptist Hospital. Surgery was performed under the direction of Celtics Team Physician, Dr. Brian McKeon. The team announced through its release that Sullinger is expected to be ready in time for training camp for the 2013-14 season.

Ainge said Sullinger spent the last two days in the hospital before the decision was made Friday on advice from specialists to go ahead with the surgery.

The Celtics lost Rajon Rondo for the season to a torn ACL in his right knee on Sunday. Five days later, they have lost their most physical rebounder. The Celtics are 22-23 and have won two straight after a six-game skid, and are hanging on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Still, Ainge isn’t giving up on the season.

“We’re not ready to cave in yet, are you kidding? It’s going to take more than that,” Ainge said just before Friday’s game with the Magic at TD Garden. “We’ll just have to win in a different way. Jared’s our best rebounder. We don’t have to play that way. Last two games, we played without Jared last game and I think our team looked great. The second half and most of the Miami game, we played smaller ball and were able to win. Against New York, they’re a small-ball team, we played small against them, had a win against them in New York.

“I think we’re going to have to win in a different way without Jared and without Rajon. We’ll see what we have.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Dr. Brian McKeon, Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger out for the season after back surgery

02.01.13 at 4:10 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger.

First it was Rajon Rondo and now Jared Sullinger. The Celtics rookie will miss the rest of the season after surgery Friday to repair his chronic back injury.

The team announced that Sullinger underwent successful lumbar disc surgery at the New England Baptist Hospital. Surgery was performed by the medical staff under the direction of Celtics Team Physician, Dr. Brian McKeon. The Celtics also announced Sullinger is expected to be ready in time for training camp for the 2013-14 season.

Sullinger aggravated his back in the opening minutes of Wednesday’s win over Sacramento. The news came just four hours before the Celtics host the Orlando Magic at TD Garden.

When Sullinger went down four minutes into Wednesday’s game, fears were raised that this was a recurrence of back problems that forced him to miss nearly half of his final (sophomore) year at Ohio State and fall to 21st overall in the NBA draft last June. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge confirmed those fears Friday. Head coach Doc Rivers said before Wednesday’s game that Sullinger was playing at a “top 5″ draft pick level.

The numbers support that. He averaged 7.0 points and 7.2 rebounds in 15 games in January, and finishes the season with averages of 6.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. He had four double-doubles, including three in January. Sullinger spent most of the season as one of the best weapons off the Boston bench but Rivers rewarded Sullinger for his development and play by moving him into the starting lineup last Sunday for the game against the Heat.

Sullinger started Wednesday and grabbed one rebound but did not score before coming out with what was first diagnosed with back spasms. He received ice treatment in the locker room and the team was hopeful he could return. Just before halftime, the team revised the prognosis and announced he would not be returning.

The story was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports Friday afternoon.

The loss comes just five days after the Celtics lost Rondo to a torn ACL in his right knee.

Read More: back surgery, Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, NBA

Danny Ainge ‘would like to see Paul Pierce retire as a Celtic’

01.31.13 at 5:22 pm ET
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Danny Ainge (AP)

As always, in his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Big Show, Celtics president Danny Ainge spoke openly about the state of his team. He made two things clear following Rajon Rondo‘s season-ending ACL injury: 1) “It’s silly” to think they’ll be better without him and 2) Paul Pierce trades haven’t been discussed.

“He single-handedly carried us many nights, and I don’t see how people don’t see that,” said Ainge. “When people say we’re going to be better without Rondo or the team’s going to do better without him, it’s silly. He’s a great, great player, and he’s proven that time and time again. The guy’s been MVP of probably four or five series over the last five years — not just individual games here and there or triple-doubles on national TV. He’s been the best player in a series against LeBron James. He’s been the best player in a series against Derrick Rose. He’s been the best player in three games of an NBA Finals.”

Even before Rondo’s injury, Pierce’s name has been thrown around in trade rumors. His contract, which has just $5 million guaranteed for next season, seemingly makes him an attractive target around the league.

“Nothing has been talked about with Paul,” said Ainge. “Nothing is close to being done. I too would like to see Paul retire as a Celtic. That would be great. We’re all attached to Paul. He’s been great for the city, the franchise, and he’s been a true pro. Having said that, if something came up, I would talk to Paul. My job is to do what’s in the best interest of our team, regardless of my personal ties or my personal feelings with the players.”

The Celtics president claimed few teams have come calling for any Celtics outside of Ray Allen the last few years — citing the fact “nothing got close” in the recent Rudy Gay sweepstakes — and explained that none of his players have asked that they be kept in the loop about trades (again, except for Allen last season).

Ainge also said he’s not searching for point guard help right now, allowing Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa to seize their opportunity.

“We are open [to making deals] and listening, but we don’t feel pressure to do anything,” said Ainge. “Whether we win every game or whether we struggle, I think it all depends on what opportunities are presented. We want to make some change to help improve our team.”

Meanwhile, Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger left Wednesday’s win in the first quarter with back spasms. He missed practice Thursday, is undergoing tests and remains day-to-day. The issues are apparently the same ones that led to Sullinger falling to the C’s in the draft. Ainge admitted, “I’m a little surprised that it’s taken this long.”

To listen to the entire interview, visit the Big Show’s audio page.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Jared Sullinger, NBA

Leandro Barbosa on M&M: Trade demand ‘definitely a miscommunication’

01.31.13 at 2:15 pm ET
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Leandro Barbosa

Celtics guard Leandro Barbosa chatted with Mut & Merloni on Thursday to discuss the team’s reaction to hearing the Rajon Rondo news, the rumors that he wanted to be traded and more Celtics topics.

Barbosa scored seven points in the Celtics’ 99-81 victory over the Kings on Wednesday night, the team’s second victory in a row since losing Rondo for the season.

It was announced on Sunday, during the nationally televised game vs. the Heat, that Rondo would be out for the rest of the season. The players did not find out the news until after the win, though.

“It was pretty sad, very sad and shock,” Barbosa said. “We saw him in the shootaround before the game, a couple of minutes before the game. He was walking and just talking about some weird pain that he had in his leg. We knew that he probably would be out that game, but not for the whole year. … We’re hoping he’s feeling OK and he gets back as soon as possible to the court.”

On Jan. 17, a report from his home country of Brazil indicated that Barbosa had asked to be traded numerous times from the Celtics, but the nine-year veteran denied it.

“It was definitely a miscommunication,” Barbosa said. “I never said that. I never said that I wanted to get traded, and if I wanted to get traded I wouldn’t be talking to the media first. I would have talked to Danny Ainge, and then after, my teammates, and then the media.

“I knew my role was going to be like that and that’s why I came to the Celtics. It was a dream come true for me and I’m happy to be here.”

With the injury to Rondo, players like Barbosa figure to receive more playing time, but he said he is simply happy to be a part of such a historic team.

“Like I said, [it's a] dream come true,” Barbosa said. “It was a team that I was always watching when I was a little kid and there was a lot of good players that [have] been around this team and I just thought that it could be a good experience for me, even though I didn’t have many minutes or opportunity to play. But it was a great situation for me to learn from the older guys and the experienced guys. So, it was great.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Celtics news, visit the team page at weei.com/celtics.

Read More: Leandro Barbosa, Rajon Rondo,

Doc Rivers: ‘Silly’ to think Celtics might be better without Rajon Rondo

01.31.13 at 10:07 am ET
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Doc Rivers made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan Show Thursday, the morning after the Celtics beat the Kings, 99-81, at TD Garden for their second straight win after six consecutive losses.

“In spurts, last night, we played well,” Rivers said of the victory over the struggling Kings, who beat the Celtics handily on December 30.. “The second quarter was as well as you can play. When you win games you would have to say, yeah, it’s going well.”

The Celtics are now 2-0 since losing Rajon Rondo for the season with an ACL tear in his right knee. A vocal minority have speculated that perhaps this team might be better off without the services of the All-Star point guard, a notion the coach dismissed quickly on Thursday.

“That’s silly,” Rivers said. “The bottom line is that you’d rather have him. But we do have other guys that can do different things. Having Courtney Lee and Avery [Bradley] gives you size at the guard spot. They are more physical guards so in that way that helps. Everybody does different things and that’s basically who we are now.”

Rivers was asked if other players might view the loss of Rondo as a chance for a greater opportunity to contribute to the team for the rest of this season.

“I don’t know, I just think more minutes helps anybody,” Rivers said. “We lost six games in a row and I thought it was time to start playing better. We did play well against Chicago, we just didn’t win a game. We played well against Atlanta and then lost the game. I thought we were starting to play better anyway, and that was with Rondo.”

With the February 21 trade deadline looming, there have been rumors that the Celtics might make a major trade that would signifiy the start of a rebuilding process for this franchise. Rivers, though, is hopeful that Danny Ainge doesn’t feel the need to make such a deal.

“I think Danny likes our team, I think he thinks we can be good with what we have and I think Danny is Danny. He’s got to do his job, he has to keep looking and see if he can help the team. But there’s been no talk about pulling the plug or anything like that. … We’re not out there searching.”

To hear the interview click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. For more Celtics news visit weei.com/celtics.

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