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Celtics practice notes: Rajon Rondo improves, Jeff Green returns, rotation starts coming together

10.14.14 at 2:01 pm ET
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The Celtics kicked off the preseason with a busy stretch of four games in just six nights. They since have had an off day, then practice resumed on Monday and Tuesday in Waltham leading up to Wednesday’s game against the Raptors in Maine.

Here are some notes from prior to Tuesday’s practice.

Rajon Rondo shows improvement

Rondo has been on the court shooting the ball prior to each preseason game, which is a very good sign. He also has been doing ball handling with his broken left hand (with a brace on it). All signs point to Rondo being right on schedule in his recovery, if not ahead of schedule.

“We’ve increased his conditioning within workouts,” Brad Stevens said. “So what we’ve done is, the last couple of days, we’ve actually worked him out with a couple of other guys early in a small group. And then he’ll do all of the non-contact stuff in our workout, which [Tuesday] will be most of the workout. So that’ll be good. He’s getting there, it’s just a matter of he can’t be involved in contact.”

Jeff Green returns from calf injury

Green has been practicing this week, and Stevens indicated he will be in shape to play against Toronto.

“Yeah, he’ll play [Wednesday],” Stevens said. “That’ll be part of his conditioning.”

With the emergence of Evan Turner so far this preseason, Stevens would like to find ways to get Turner and Green on the court at the same time now that Green is back. It’s something Turner sees going well.

“I think Jeff and I have a good rapport,” Turner said. “It’s all about communication, and once again, [Green] is our go-to-guy. I just want to play, so whatever he wants I’m going to do.”

Turner expressed confidence that he and Green will be able to play off one another.

“We attempted to,” he said with a laugh. “We played together before he got hurt, too, so I think clearly he will have to get re-acclimated because he hasn’t played in the last couple of weeks, but it should be fine.”

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Read More: Brad Stevens, Evan Turner, Jeff Green, Rajon Rondo

Is Celtics’ Marcus Smart really this bad a shooter?

10.13.14 at 1:48 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

If you’re one of the many folks still ripping Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley‘s perimeter shooting, wait until you get a load of Celtics rookie Marcus Smart.

Following a trend that’s been in decline since his days at appropriately named Marcus High in Flower Mound, Texas, Smart is attempting a higher rate of his shots from distance, even as his 3-point percentage progressively worsens.

Let’s take a look at Smart’s shooting percentages from inside the 3-point line — where he’s an exceptional finisher at the rim and gets to the free throw line with tremendous effectiveness — and beyond it since his junior year of high school.

2010-11 (high school junior): 176-292 2P (.603), 29-84 3P (.345)
2011-12 (high school senior): 143-216 2P (.577), 41-110 3P (.372)
2012-13 (Oklahoma State freshman): 113-243 2P (.465), 38-131 3P (.290)
2013-14 (Oklahoma State sophomore): 114-222 2P (.514), 49-164 3P (.299)
2014-15 (summer league/preseason): 14-41 2P (.342), 13-56 3P (.232)

At the prep level, Smart could get to the rim with ease, but his 6-foot-4, 226-pound frame becomes less of an advantage as the competition level rises. Likewise, scouting plays an increased role at each stage, and defenses are designed to encourage Smart’s shooting while discouraging his penetration.

As a result, the Celtics rookie’s long-distance attempts have increased from 27.6 percent of his total shots in high school to 38.8 percent in college and now 57.7 percent in nine games of summer league and preseason action. Granted, that’s a limited sample size in the NBA — where the 3-point distance is greater and he may be attempting more exhibition 3’s to adjust — but Smart’s excessive poor 3-point shooting remains a concern.

As usual, DraftExpress did a nice job of breaking down Smart’s catch-and-shoot struggles at Oklahoma State, where he was just as bad — if not worse — from mid-range as he was from 3, per shotanalytics.com.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart, NBA,

Asset Management: James Young’s Celtics future

10.10.14 at 6:01 pm ET
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I think we can all agree the Celtics won’€™t be raising banner 18 in the immediate future, and more likely than not the 2014-15 NBA season will result in another lottery pick come June, regardless of how ardently Rajon RondoAvery Bradley & Co. argue the contrary. It’€™s been a year since Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, launching the process of stockpiling draft picks and cap-friendly contracts. Since the Celtics failed to cash in those commodities in exchange for fireworks this summer, this season’€™s preview will have a Wyc Grousbeck theme, focusing on the hodgepodge of C’€™s pieces in a series we’€™ll call Asset Management. Next up: James Young.

James Young

James Young

Young’s received an awful lot of praise before he’s played a regular-season NBA game. It’s curious how analysts already determined he’s the next Paul Pierce, Ray Allen or Bradley Beal, or why Comcast commentators questioned Avery Bradley‘s signing since Young is so clearly the starting shooting guard in waiting.

It’s a wonder he slipped to No. 17 in the draft. Maybe all they needed to see was his 20-point performance in the national title game, since a season-long look at Young’s Kentucky production reveals a worse true shooting percentage (53.6) than Marcus Smart (55.2), the other Celtics rookie whose stroke has been roundly criticized. Or maybe Young’s 3-for-8 effort in his preseason debut was enough to anoint him, since he missed all of Summer League with a concussion.

Truth is, James Young is a project. At the end of the 19-year-old’s assignment, we may look back on him as a steal. But odds are Danny Ainge didn’t find the next great Celtic in the latter half of the first round, especially since the C’s president has long stated that fewer stars existed in the 2014 draft than most believed.

Still, the early returns on Young are encouraging, at least from his coach’s perspective.

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Read More: Asset Management, Boston Celtics, James Young, NBA

Rebuild Spotlight: Who could we see shipped out this season?

10.09.14 at 10:03 pm ET
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With two preseason games in the books, the Celtics are off to a somewhat impressive 2-0 start. Let’s not overreact to a couple of dress rehearsals, but Danny Ainge has veterans who could be valuable contributors on contending teams — something the Celtics will not be this season no matter how many preseason victories they accumulate.

Obviously, the ideal move for the future would be to bring in a star to go alongside Rajon Rondo and Boston’s young core. The problem is that a player like that doesn’t exist on the trade market this season, at least for the moment. Anything is possible, but with the current drought of available star power not expected to change, the Celtics might need to continue shedding veteran contracts for assets of sorts. Digging deeper into the youth movement might sound like a long haul, but it could prove to be the faster path to return to contention.

Last year Ainge shipped Jordan Crawford off to the Warriors and Courtney Lee to the Grizzlies — both trades currently seem to be working in Boston’s favor for one reason or another. The Crawford deal was successful because they traded an overachieving player and brought back assets in the form of draft picks. Ainge has some players who fit the bill for that type of trade.

Outside of Rondo (who will be the topic of the final Rebuild Spotlight feature), the Celtics have three expiring contracts that could make sense to move. Ainge likely will let Joel Anthony‘s $3.8 million expire in Boston this season, but if his salary is needed to complete a larger trade he would gladly be shipped out. However, Brandon Bass ($6.9 million) and Marcus Thornton ($8.6 million) could be valuable contributors off the bench for a team that feels they are in the mix.

Both players already are providing a spark off the bench in limited minutes in Boston, what’s to say they can’t do that elsewhere? We already know what Bass has been during his time in Boston, and Thornton is averaging 13 points in just 17 minutes per game in his first two stints in green. Just last year the Nets added Thornton at the deadline to try to give Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce the help they needed in Brooklyn. It proved to be too little, but the point is: Why wouldn’t a team want to do that this season now that he and Bass are in the final year of their contracts? They are perfect rental players.

While Bass and Thornton are good candidates to be moved for future assets, the Celtics also have some Courtney Lee-style trade pieces. Lee had multiple years left on his contract when he was sent packing for Jerryd Bayless, who arrived on the last year of his deal. The whole idea of the trade was that Lee would not be worth paying in the future, so Ainge brought in Bayless, who only had to be paid until the end of last season.

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Rodney McGruder flushes fantastic alley-oop in Celtics preseason blowout of the Knicks

10.08.14 at 11:15 pm ET
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In all likelihood, Tim Frazier and Rodney McGruder won’t be on the Celtics much longer, but the two combined for a memorable highlight in a 106-86 preseason blowout of the Knicks in lovely downtown Hartford. Frazier’s alley-oop feed found a flushing McGruder. Not to be confused with “MacGruber,” despite the flowing hair. #RippingThroats

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Rodney McGruder, Tim Frazier,

Why You Should Care About Wednesday’s Celtics Win: Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart stand out

10.08.14 at 10:27 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

HARTFORD — The Boston Celtics beat the New York Knicks 106-86 Wednesday night at Hartford’s XL Center in Hartford (see box score here). With few standout individual performances beyond Jared Sullinger’s 23 points on 12 shots, the real star of Thursday night’€™s game was the Celtics‘ team defense.

The Celtics played  aggressive,  jumping in passing lanes and contesting jump shots. They finished with x14 steals and held the Knicks to 40 percent shooting.

The young Celtics guards, especially Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley, played at a frantic pace, leading to a number of scoring opportunities in transition. And the Knicks did not do themselves any favors, as they committed 28 turnovers.

Self-proclaimed underrated supserstar Carmelo Anthony also struggled, scoring just 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting from the field opposite Evan Turner.

OTHER REASONS TO CARE AOBUT CELTICS-KNICKS:

Marcus Smart made a shot!

Four, actually. After an 0-for during his NBA debut, Smart scored 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting. He scored 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, in the second quarter. Smart, who normally looks to attack the basket, showed no hesitation taking jump shots. He also looked adept at running the offense, leading the team with six assists.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart, New York Knicks

Asset Management: Marcus Thornton’s Celtics future

10.08.14 at 12:38 pm ET
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I think we can all agree the Celtics won’€™t be raising banner 18 in the immediate future, and more likely than not the 2014-15 NBA season will result in another lottery pick come June, regardless of how ardently Rajon RondoAvery Bradley & Co. argue the contrary. It’€™s been a year since Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, launching the process of stockpiling draft picks and cap-friendly contracts. Since the Celtics failed to cash in those commodities in exchange for fireworks this summer, this season’€™s preview will have a Wyc Grousbeck theme, focusing on the hodgepodge of C’€™s pieces in a series we’€™ll call Asset Management. Next up: Marcus Thornton.

Marcus Thornton

Marcus Thornton

The second-round pick that later became Marcus Thornton was traded for a dude named Stanko Barac when “Li’l Buckets” was still a Kilgore College sophomore, and thus his well traveled NBA road was paved before it even started.

Dealt again on draft day for a pair of future second-round picks, the LSU transfer immediately launched an assault on a list of doubters that’s weirdly evergrowing for a player whose NBA potential as a volume scorer was rather accurately assessed by DraftExpress from the start. In his only full season on the Hornets, Thornton averaged 14.5 points on 55.0 percent true shooting in 25.6 minutes a night alongside point guards Chris Paul and fellow rookie Darren Collison.

Traded in season twice — from New Orleans to Sacramento for Carl Landry in 2011 and from the Kings to the Brooklyn Nets for Jason Terry and Reggie Evans last season — Thornton has been consistently productive ever since. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound shooting guard has averaged between 17.3 and 20.3 points per 36 minutes and produced a PER between 14.0 and 18.2 each step of the way — save for a 46-game stretch in Mike Malone’s system to start last season.

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Read More: Asset Management, Boston Celtics, Marcus Thornton, NBA
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