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Kevin Garnett puts Rajon Rondo on the same level as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James

11.17.12 at 6:48 pm ET
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After Rajon Rondo tallied 20 assists for the second time in nine games in a 107-89 victory against the Raptors on Saturday, new Celtics teammate Jason Terry declared him an NBA Most Valuable Player candidate — and even Rondo himself admitted “MVP is in the picture” — but Kevin Garnett saw this coming three days after first coming to Boston five years ago. We’ll let the league’s 2004 MVP explain.

“I’ve never played with a point guard who is in control of the flow the way he is,” said the 14-time NBA All-Star. “Probably if anybody comes to mind I’m thinking Sam Cassell. He was pretty good at controlling the flow; he could score the ball. But as far as both ends, controlling the game, understanding the flow, knowing when to slow it down, [Rondo]‘s probably the best at it. He’s very conscious of the game from both ends. Usually, you have a point guard who’s a scoring point guard or you have a point guard on the other side of the ball, which is the defensive side, but but as far as 48 minutes on both sides of the ball, he’s the best at it.

“I’ve always looked at someone as the MVP as someone who makes his player not only better, but is able to dictate the game from different stat-wise, is able to get rebounds, does multiple things for his team. That’s personnel. That’s preference. Obviously, I’m going to be biased, because I play with him, and I see his growth and I see how hard he works, but when it comes to his presence on the game, that’s hard. That’s up there with the modern day Kobe [Bryant]s and LeBron [James]es and all that, so I think he gets his knock, because he doesn’t score the ball and all that stuff. But when you look at the overall package, it’s unbelievable what he’s doing.

“After the third day when I first got here, we were doing pickup without you guys knowing, and you could see his potential from how he was dictating the pickup games. I’m not saying he was scoring the ball, but he was dictating a lot of plays from both ends. I evaluate the game from not just a scoring perspective, but a defensive perspective, too. I told him a long time ago, when I first met him, that he had the potential to do both — that he had the energy and the IQ to do both — and it was up to him. Obviously, you all see what this product is coming out to be, and the future is whatever he wants it to be. I’ve always said with Rondo it’s always between his ears, and consistency is everything. Whatever you put into this, that’s what your’e going to get out of it, and he’s doing a great job of it.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James

Fast Break: Rajon Rondo, Celtics tame Raptors

11.17.12 at 2:59 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo didn’t just reach double-digit assists for his 33rd straight game, he notched 20 dimes for the second time in nine games, and the Celtics rolled to a 107-89 Atlantic Division victory against the Raptors.

Rondo reached that plateau while playing just 32 minutes and sitting the final 10:33 of the C’s first comfortable victory of the season (and, obviously, Gino’s first appearance in the Garden this year).

Jared Sullinger (12 points, 11 rebounds) posted his first career double-double, Jason Terry reached 20 points for the first time this season and the triumvirate of Leandro Barbosa, Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green all scored at least eight points off the bench, giving Paul Pierce (19 points in 25 minutes) and Kevin Garnett (15 points in 17 minutes) the rest they’ll need in Detroit on Sunday.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Early Bird special: Despite the 12:30 p.m. Saturday start, the C’s Big Three awoke early. Garnett started 3-for-3 in his first five-minute stint, Pierce netted eight points in the opening 10 minutes and Rondo showed no ill effects from the sprained right ankle that kept him out of Thursday’s game, finishing the first quarter with seven assists. As a result, the Celtics shot 73.7 percent as a team and established a 30-17 lead through 12 minutes.

Domesticated dinosaurs: Raptors attack in packs, like hyenas. Unless they’re the Toronto kind. Even when the Celtics fell into their usual jump-shooting comfort zone, at least they were open shots. Wide open shots, to be clear. Toronto imports Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas were particular dreadful defensively. That repeatedly left Wilcox open for lobs, inflating Rondo’s ballooning assist total.

Tapping Sully: In recent games, Celtics coach Doc Rivers has avoided giving Jared Sullinger minutes without Garnett on the floor, but some Brandon Bass foul trouble forced the issue. And Sullinger delivered, grabbing six first-half boards off the bench and establishing a rare rebounding advantage for the C’s.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, NBA, Rajon Rondo

Opinion: Celtics have to find out what they have with Jeff Green

11.15.12 at 11:20 pm ET
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A technical foul was the perfect punctuation to Jeff Green’s dunk on Al Jefferson Wednesday night ‘€“ not because Green deserved the penalty, but because the stoppage in play provided the opportunity for Celtics fans to digest what they had just seen.

Up to that point this season, Green had been a bust. His contract seemed like an albatross of Carl Crawford proportions. With his four-year, $32 million deal, Green is the fourth-highest-paid player on the team, behind only Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. The problem is Green is playing like the seventh- or eighth-best player on the team, depending on where you rank Jason Terry, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee.

Thursday night failed to offer any additional clarity to Green’s situation, with the forward scoring five points in 25 minutes during the Celtics’ 102-97 loss to the Nets in Brooklyn. It was a performance that made Wednesday’s heroics seem like an aberration.

Even after Green’s 16-point contribution in the win over Utah, he ranked sixth on the team in scoring (8.8 points per game) and seventh in minutes (21.6 per game). At best, he’s marginally overpaid when you consider Bass and Terry will earn $6.5 million and $5 million this year, respectively. At worst, he’s Danny Ainge‘s recurring mistake, first as the centerpiece of the trade that cost the Celtics Kendrick Perkins, and then as a $32 million version of Rashard Lewis.

The dunk of the season so far gave us a chance to see what Ainge saw in Green all along. The 6-foot-9 forward can flush on Al Jefferson in traffic. He can score 16 points in the flow of the game without having a single play run for him. And evidently, his teammates love him.

After Green threw it down on Jefferson, the ensuing scene seemed reminiscent of an And1 Mixtape Tour. Green didn’t deserve a technical; he almost seemed to be staring down Al Jefferson to make sure he did, in fact, dunk on an All-Star center. But perhaps Green’s teammates deserved the technical. Garnett followed Green around the court, cursing in his ear and pushing him in the chest. Other teammates took turns pushing Green, who typically shies away from that kind of contact.

The celebration seemed to stem from the fact that the Celtics need THAT Jeff Green. Garnett’s been saying it, and he’s right. Green needs to be meaner, more aggressive. He needs to dish out more NBA fouls, and he needs to get down low in the paint when Garnett is on the bench.

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Read More: Al Jefferson, Jeff Green, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce

Al Jefferson: ‘I would’ve traded me for Kevin Garnett, too’ and other memories of Rajon Rondo and the 2006-07 Celtics

11.15.12 at 1:40 pm ET
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During the 2006-07 NBA season, when the Celtics finished last in the Atlantic Division and earned the No. 5 overall pick (Jeff Green) that became Ray Allen trade bait and eventually altered the franchise’s future, I bought a ticket to the Garden for $8. Eight dollars. Even on a measly sportswriter’s salary, that was a bargain.

As Tommy Heinsohn said, the young core of Al Jefferson, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen and Delonte West consisted of players who were “like puppies: Every time you saw them, you wanted to pet them.”

“We used to have a lot of laughs together, because when I was here, things weren’t going too well as far as winning,” Jefferson said. “But we always had the locker room live with me, [Rondo], Tony Allen, Kendrick Perkins and Delonte West. We all kept it live, and we were fun guys to be around. In the time we were here, when we were losing, we hardly ever got blown out. It was always close games, but we were just such a young team, we didn’t know how to finish those games. I knew if we could’ve stayed together, things could’ve got better for us.”

Considering how those players evolved — a double-double machine (Jefferson), a three-time NBA All-Star point guard (Rondo), a first-team All-Defensive wing (Allen), a starting center on a title team (Perkins) and one tough motherbleeper (West) — that team would’ve gotten better. Those Celtics wouldn’t have won a title in 2008, but you can see why some folks (wrongfully) thought twice about trading Jefferson as the centerpiece of a fairly famous 2007 trade.

“If I were Danny Ainge,” said Jefferson, “I would’ve traded me for Kevin Garnett, too.”

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Read More: Al Jefferson, Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA

Leandro Barbosa: Helping this Celtics team ‘all that matters to me’

11.15.12 at 10:50 am ET
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The marriage of Leandro Barbosa and the Celtics seems to be a perfect one.

Once again Wednesday night, Barbosa was just what Boston needed to overcome the loss of Rajon Rondo to a sprained right ankle.

“Just play the game, go with the flow,” Barbosa said of his mission after scoring 16 points in 23 minutes of a 98-93 win over the Jazz. “Bring a lot of energy. Make sure that I give [guys rest], especially Paul [Pierce] and [Kevin Garnett]. We are in the flow, now three games, and I just want to keep it going.”

Barbosa was signed on Oct. 18, not exactly sure how much time he would get on the floor. But the 29-year-old said he was a very happy to get another chance in the NBA after stints with the Suns, Raptors and Pacers.

“First of all, I’m happy to be here. Boston Celtics is a great team,” he said. “Great guys, great organization. I’m very happy to be here. When I got the call, it was a great surprise for me. Now that I’m here, I want to make sure I can help the guys out.”

One thing you won’t hear Barbosa do is whine about playing time. His 23 minutes on Wednesday were a season high after he averaged just over 12 in the first seven games.

“Some days I won’t have a lot of minutes, and I knew that when they called me, but just being here and being here and try to help them get better on the court is all that matters to me,” he said.

‘€œHe’€™s earned it,” Doc Rivers said of Barbosa’s increased role, with or without a healthy Rondo. “I tell everybody, ‘€˜Listen, we sign you, and you come, and there’€™s no guarantees that you’€™re going to play. But if you earn it, you get to play.’ And he’€™s earned it. He deserves to play.’€

Rivers has simplified things for Barbosa, asking him not to run complex sets simply because he doesn’t have the experience yet in the system. He is running more transition offense and pick-and-rolls, fairly standard stuff in the NBA.

“Obviously, Rondo goes out in the second half and just putting LB in and we didn’€™t run much because he doesn’€™t know much,” Rivers said. “But everything was basically pick-and-rolls. We told him to just keep attacking to the basket and we’€™ll figure it out from there.’€

Admitted Barbosa: “For me, it’s much easier. I feel a lot more comfortable playing that way. But I feel comfortable, too, with the plays. The coaches have been very [helpful] coaching me on the side. I’m almost there.”

The reason Rivers is relying more on Barbosa is his veteran savvy on the court — like when two Jazz players doubled Garnett in the third quarter. Barbosa saw his man leave for KG and immediately went to the basket for an easy layup.

“I just saw that he was doubled,” Barbosa said. “My man went to double him so I just decided to come back and give some help, and it worked out.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Leandro Barbosa, NBA, The Brazilian Blur

Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin: Rajon Rondo ‘different’ than John Stockton

11.15.12 at 10:46 am ET
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Just before Rajon Rondo “slightly” sprained his ankle against the Jazz, the Celtics point guard stretched his string of double-digit assists to 32 games. Only John Stockton (37) and Magic Johnson (46) own longer streaks.

Utah coach Tyrone Corbin played his entire 16-year NBA career either with or against Stockton, including three seasons as his Jazz teammate from 1991-94. In 1992, Stockton recorded another stretch of 29 straight games with 10-plus assists, which Rondo recently eclipsed, so Corbin knows first-hand what that does for a team.

“[Rondo]‘s a great player, a great competitive player,” Corbin said. “He’s doing a great job. He’s a big asset for this team. He reads his team well; he makes the right plays for them. Any time you get a guy that makes double-figure assists every night for you, that’s a great honor and you’ve got a chance to win games as a result, because you know he’s going to be able to get the ball to the right guys and spread it out well, so he’s a tremendous player.”

Asked if he sees similarities between Rondo and Stockton, Corbin made it clear: “They’re two different players.” But how different are Rondo and Stockton? Here are their numbers through their first six NBA seasons.
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Read More: Boston Celtics, John Stockton, NBA, Rajon Rondo

Doc Rivers: Leandro Barbosa ‘bailed us out’

11.14.12 at 11:46 pm ET
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Outside of trainer Ed Lacerte, Leandro Barbosa was the most important member of the Celtics bench Wednesday night as he scored 16 points and steadied the ship when its leader Rajon Rondo went down with a sprained right ankle midway through the third quarter. The Celtics were able to hold off the Jazz, 98-93, Wednesday night at TD Garden.

But as coach Doc Rivers points out, it wasn’t just his time replacing Rondo and running the point in the second half that turned out to be so important.

‘€œBarbosa was terrific,” Rivers said. “I mean, he bailed us out. Not only just replacing Rondo; I thought in the first half ‘€“ I thought our starters started the game out pretty flat and I thought our second unit with Courtney Lee and Barbosa, Jared [Sullinger], that group gave us a spurt, Jeff Green. And then obviously Rondo goes out in the second half and just putting LB in and we didn’€™t run much because he doesn’€™t know much. But everything was basically pick-and-rolls. We told him to just keep attacking to the basket and we’€™ll figure it out from there.’€

Barbosa was so good, in fact, it kept Rivers from considering his worst nightmare, life without Rondo.

‘€œIt’€™s going to happen,” Rivers acknowledged. “He’€™s not going to play all 82 [games], I doubt. It’€™d be nice. You know how I think, guys, the next guy, just somebody has to step up and we have to figure it out. And tonight was a great example that we did that. We had other options; you could put JET [Jason Terry] in at the point. I mean, it was just one of those games. I thought the big lineup, or our semi-big lineup with Paul [Pierce] and Jeff changed the game for us as well. We had a post presence with those guys. So, it was an interesting game. When we get outrebounded by what we did, 18-4 [offensive rebounds], it’€™s hard to win a basketball game. And yet we still won it.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Ed Lacerte, Leandro Barbosa
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