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How good can Jared Sullinger be? ‘He’s not there, he can get better’

02.08.14 at 3:29 pm ET
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There’s not a big man hotter than Jared Sullinger, at least three games into February.

He is averaging 23.7 points and 12.7 rebounds in registering a double-double in his first three games of the month. Not coincidentally, the Celtics have followed up their worst month in history with a 3-0 start to February.

Friday night, he had a career high 31 points and 16 rebounds in posting his fourth straight double-double overall in a 99-89 win over the Kings. Perhaps just as impressive is the fact that he accomplished those numbers against another power big in DeMarcus Cousins.

“I think we’€™re doing a better job looking for him,” Brad Stevens said. “He feels a little bit better even though that dislocated finger’€™s still wrapped up. I think he feels better every day, and you know, it’€™s like we talked about last week: fair or unfair, that’€™s who we need him to be. And so that’€™s the opportunity in front of him. He’€™s capable and I’€™m not saying that you have to get a double-double every day but he’€™s darn near capable of doing that. And so I think that the more that we can continue to build off that, the better.

“[Sullinger] is a 6-foot-7 [big man]. That’€™s the one thing. And that’€™s what makes Jared unique is he’€™s a big, strong guy that can score over bigger guys in the post. But then, that’€™s why it’€™s so critical, and we’€™ve talked about it, that he continues to work and refine his perimeter game, which he’€™s obviously doing well with. But it’€™s not where it will be someday.”

What is Sullinger’s ceiling?

“€œHow high does he reach?” Stevens deadpanned. “He’€™s not there. That’€™s the good news. He’€™s not there; he can get better. And I think, obviously, 31 and 16 is great; can you do that every night? No one in the league is doing that every night. But the bottom line is, as he continues to improve, as he continues to get more games underneath his belt, as he continues to get further away from the surgery and gets another more freshness and another summer of work and all of those things, I just think that the sky’€™s the limit. He’€™s playing at a nice level, there’€™s no question about it, but I really believe that he can be a consistent double-double guy.’€

Sullinger is averaging 13.4 points and a team leading 8.1 rebounds in a season where he easily could be considered the team MVP. His scoring is up nearly four points from his rookie season and his rebounds are up one per game over last season.

“€œIt is just more space, in college I was double all the time so I had to find ways to score,” Sullinger said. “That’€™s why my offensive rebounding has been the way it has been, I had to find other ways to score in college.”

Something else that’s been better in the last three games is Sullinger’s demeanor on the court.

“I just went out and played my game I have been doing it for the last couple of games and just have been letting go. I am showing better body language according to my father,” Sullinger said with a sheepish grin.

While the winning may be hurting the team’s draft position, Stevens is just happy that there are clear signs that the right pieces are in place.

“I think the nice part about it is at the end of the day, you had Phil Pressey out on the floor at 22 or 23 years old, you had Kelly Olynyk on the floor, you had Jared Sullinger on the floor, you had a lot of young guys on the floor but it was also we had a lot of real savvy basketball players out there,” Stevens said. “And I think this team is really figuring out what they do best individually and playing off of that. I thought the guy who really lifted us in a lot of ways was Gerald (Wallace). I thought his physicality and toughness all over the court was great.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, NBA,

Mike Petraglia talks Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger with NBA insider Jessica Camerato

02.08.14 at 2:26 am ET
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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, Jessica Camerato, Mike Petraglia

Jared Sullinger, Jerryd Bayless provide offensive punch, lead short-handed C’s to win

02.07.14 at 9:50 pm ET
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The short-handed Celtics have suddenly won three straight.

Jared Sullinger scored a career high 31 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead the short-handed Celtics to their third straight win, a 99-89 victory over the Kings Friday night at TD Garden. All three wins (Orlando, Philadelphia and Sacramento) come against losing teams that figure to provide much stiffer competition for draft position in the NBA lottery this spring.

Playing without Rajon Rondo (knee soreness) and Avery Bradley (ankle), Jerryd Bayless (19 points) and Kelly Olynyk (11 points, nine rebounds, five assists) also helped to pick up the slack.

Gerald Wallace added eight points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished nine assists as the Celtics have followed up their worst month in history (2-15 in January) with three straight wins to open February.

Jeff Green added 17 points on 6-of-20 shooting to help the Celtics improve to 18-33, which may not be great news in the long run. Boston moved 3.5 games ahead of last place Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division.

The Kings took advantage of the depleted Celtics early on, building a 29-19 lead late in the first quarter. DeMarcus Cousins was big early on, scoring 13 of his team-high 31 points in the opening quarter. Cousins and Sullinger each finished with 31 points and 16 rebounds. Sacramento led 29-21 after 12 minutes.

But Olynyk led the Celtics back in the second quarter, scoring nine of his 11 first-half points off the bench. Olynyk couldn’t miss in the first half, hitting all three field goals, including a 3-pointer, while draining all four free throws. Olynyk had eight of Boston’s 12 points in a 12-0 run that put the Celtics on top, 31-29. Boston outscored Sacramento, 28-17, in the second quarter to grab a 49-46 halftime lead.

The Kings scored the first six points of the second half, taking a 52-49 lead, moving coach Brad Stevens to call a time out. After the break, the Celtics responded with a 10-0 run. The Kings responded with the game’s next seven points to tie the game again, a trend that continued for most of the third quarter as the Celtics led, 71-69, heading into the final 12 minutes.

Isaiah Thomas added 24 points for the Kings and got into a brief scuffle with Bayless late in the fourth quarter under the Kings basket. The tussle came close to spilling into the stands but was brought under control just in time. Both players were assessed technicals but remained in the game.

The Celtics opened the fourth quarter on an 18-4 run and were never threatened down the stretch. The Celtics have Saturday off before hosting the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday evening (6:30 p.m. ET) at TD Garden.

For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, NBA, NBA Draft

Celtics sign Chris Johnson for rest of season

02.07.14 at 8:11 pm ET
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Chris Johnson (12) has earned a stay with the Celtics for the rest of the season. (AP)

Chris Johnson (12) has earned a stay with the Celtics for the rest of the season. (AP)

Chris Johnson has earned a stay with the Celtics for the rest of the season.

The team announced just before Friday’s game with Sacramento that they have signed 6-foot-6 swingman to a multi-year contract.

Johnson 23, has appeared in eight games for the Celtics and has averaged 7.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 21.6 minutes in eight games. He posted a career-high 12 points against Brooklyn on Jan. 26 and recorded a career-high four steals against Washington on Jan. 22.

He is currently shooting 40.0 percent from the three-point line which is tops on the Celtics since he signed his original 10-day contract with the Celtics on Jan. 17.

Johnson had appeared in 20 games for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA Development League earlier this season where he had averaged 19.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.0 block in 37.2 minutes per game.

According to Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com, Johnson will be paid at a prorated rate based on a salary of $320,000 this season, allowing the Celtics to stay below the luxury tax threshold.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chris Johnson, Memphis Grizzlies, NBA

Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk on same team for 2014 Rising Stars Challenge

02.07.14 at 9:57 am ET
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Jared Sullinger.

Jared Sullinger

During a draft of the 18 best rookies and second-year players Thursday evening, Celtics Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk were placed on the same team for the 2014 Rising Stars Challenge.

The two teams, which are managed by retired NBA players Chris Webber and Grant Hill, will face off next Friday night during NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans.

The draft took players out of a pool determined by the NBA’€™s assistant coaches. Webber picked Sullinger in the fifth round, and Olynyk, who was one of the last four players chosen, was selected via a blind draw.

Full rosters:

Team Hill

  • Damian Lillard (Portland)
  • Bradley Beal (Washington)
  • Andre Drummond (Detroit)
  • Harrison Barnes (Golden State)
  • Terrence Jones (Houston)
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee)
  • Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto)
  • Dion Waiters (Cleveland)
  • Pero Antic (Atlanta)

Team Webber

  • Anthony Davis (New Orleans)
  • Michael Carter-Williams (Philadelphia)
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. (New York)
  • Trey Burke (Utah)
  • Jared Sullinger (Boston)
  • Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn)
  • Victor Oladipo (Orlando)
  • Steven Adams (Oklahoma City)
  • Kelly Olynyk (Boston)
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Celtics set to sign Chris Johnson for remainder of season

02.07.14 at 8:47 am ET
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Chris Johnson‘s second 10-day contract expired at midnight, but the Celtics have already informed the 23-year-old wing they will sign him for the remainder of the season. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news.

The 6-foot-6 Johnson has averaged 7.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 steals in 21.6 minutes over eight games in a Celtics uniform, registering an impressive 60.9 true-shooting percentage. His performance convinced Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to fill one of the team’s two open roster spots for a pro-rated minimum salary that translates into less than $500,000 against the cap.

“I think it’€™s a great story, but it’€™s not like it’€™s some miracle,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters after Thursday’s practice. “It’€™s the result of hard work, doing the right things, not being scared of the moment, taking advantage of opportunities, those type of things.”

As the Celtics did with Chinese imports Shavlik Randolph, D.J. White and Terrence Williams last season, they are expected to give Johnson, who was playing for the D-League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers three weeks ago, a non-guaranteed deal for next season that will keep him around until training camp.

Thanks to the Courtney Lee deal, the Celtics still have roughly $1 million worth of wiggle room under the luxury tax line after signing Johnson, granting them some flexibility as the trade deadline looms.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chris Johnson, NBA,

As Celtics head toward lottery, here’s a look at top prospects in NBA draft

02.06.14 at 10:07 am ET
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The Celtics are coming off of their worst month in team history — a record of 2-15 in January.

Jabari Parker (left) and Andrew Wiggins (right) are two of the top prospects for the 2014 NBA draft. (AP)

Duke’s Jabari Parker (left) and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins (right) are two of the top prospects for the 2014 NBA draft. (AP)

Wrap your mind around that: the worst month in Celtics history. The 2006-07 team that lost 18 straight never dropped more than 14 games in a month. Even M.L. Carr‘€™s 1996-97 tank-squad that won a total of 15 games never topped 14 losses in a single month.

So what does this mean? It means the Celtics are going to lose a ton of games this season, even with Rajon Rondo.

The trade deadline is looming, and Danny Ainge already has showed that he is not afraid to make moves for the future — trading Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford for expiring contracts and draft picks is evidence. And it’€™s safe to expect similar moves between now and Feb. 20.

It’€™s also safe to expect Ainge to hold a high draft pick come June. Boston currently has the sixth-worst record in the NBA and has reached as low as third (the C’s were fourth worst entering Wednesday). Recent wins over bottom-feeders Orlando and Philadelphia have the Celts sitting a bit higher in the standings. Losing another game or two would allow them to get in that bottom three, which yields a 96 percent chance at a top-five pick. The timing couldn’€™t be better, as the class of 2014 is loaded with prospects that project to be NBA stars.

Given the Celtics‘ current position, selecting somewhere in the top five seems reasonable. So let’s look at the top five prospects in the draft and how they would work in Boston.

Joel Embiid, Kansas, freshman – Embiid has scouts drooling over his NBA potential. He has grown from a mid-to-late lottery pick to a probable first overall pick in just about half a season.

Embiid is a 7-footer with a 7-foot-5 wingspan. And oh, yeah, he’€™s only been playing basketball for about three years. Originally from Cameroon, Embiid still is learning the game at Kansas under Bill Self. The conventional wisdom was that he would take more time to develop, but Embiid has been masterful on the defensive end and is far less raw on offense than we were led to believe. “He’s skilled, he’s tough, he’s learning quickly, he’s all of 7 feet and he battles,” ESPN college basketball analyst Jeff Goodman said in a Thursday interview with Mut & Merloni. “And he’s getting better.”

Embiid has posted season averages of 10.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.3 assists in only 22.7 minutes per contest. He has done all this while shooting 61.6 percent from the field and making plays that have (rightfully) drawn comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon. The lone flaw in his game? Embiid fouls far too often. His 3.5 fouls per game are much too high, especially considering his minutes.

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Read More: Andrew Wiggins, Danny Ainge, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid
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