|04.17.14 at 10:20 am ET|
(Editor’s note: Updated after Jabari Parker announced Thursday afternoon that he would enter the draft.)
The NBA season came to a close on Wednesday night. After six consecutive playoff runs, the Celtics might have had their longest season in recent memory. Not in terms of games played, but in terms of how dreadful it was to watch drag on. The Celtics were here in 2007, and they were unconventionally rewarded, we’ll see if they are so lucky this time.
Following a 118-102 blowout loss to the Wizards on Wednesday, the Celtics finished the 2013-14 campaign with a record of 25-57. Just one victory better than the 24 wins that landed the Celtics the second-highest lottery odds in ‘07. Of course, they got the worst pick possible (fifth overall), but we all know what happened from there. This season’s 25 wins are good for a tie for the fourth-highest lottery position with the Jazz — meaning they split the odds of the fourth- and fifth-worst teams. Essentially, Boston owns the 4.5th spot in the draft.
Here is how this all shakes down: The draft lottery will be held on May 20, but Friday will be the first important date to mark on your calendars. A coin flip will take place, in which the winner between Boston and Utah will have a fractionally higher shot at winning a top-three pick. However, the more important aspect of the coin flip is that if both teams fall outside of the top three, the winner will pick one spot higher than the loser. This scenario is not out of the question after what we witnessed in ‘07.
The Celtics‘ official odds of landing the top overall pick in the draft are 10.3 percent. They maintain a 33.5 percent shot at selecting in the top three. This leaves the rest of the odds pointing to the C’s picking between fourth and seventh, unless they lose the coin flip, and miss out on a top-three pick along with Utah. In this unlikely scenario, Boston would be left picking somewhere between fifth and eighth.
So now that the season finally comes to an end, here is the clarity we are left with: The Celtics can select anywhere between first and eighth in the draft ‘ or seventh by Friday if they win the coin flip. The point? Although it is nice to know their final percentages, none of it actually matters until they pull the ping pong balls on May 20. That is when the certainty will be revealed.
|04.17.14 at 9:30 am ET|
Brad Stevens saw a lot in his first season in the NBA as a head coach.
After the 57th and final loss of the season, he gave some insight as to what he learned from his maiden voyage in the pro ranks of basketball.
“I think the best thing I learned is that this is not fun to not win but it doesn’t define who you are or how you go about your business. One of the things that I’m probably most happy about with our team is that they didn’t change necessarily who they were. They didn’t let the losing or the multiple losses affect them or their approach, and I hope that I was the same way.”
The best advice for what would be a long season came at the start of the season, when Celtics assistant coach and long-time NBA veteran coach and scout Ron Adams offered some perspective on patience.
“I learned a lot about the NBA game and how it’s played,” Stevens said. “It’s a different kind of basketball. Ron Adams told me at the beginning of the year, ‘If I went and coached high school after 22 years coaching in the NBA, I wouldn’t know what’s going on. It’s 32 minutes, no shot clock. I’d really have to adjust to that.’ I think that’s probably true no matter which way you go. But it is an adjustment. The part I felt most comfortable was in the game, once we got used to the time outs, the 24-second clock and all that other stuff.”
All that other stuff for Stevens starts and ends with better and more consistent defense. It’s what separates talented teams from winning teams in the NBA. It’s what separates teams that can close out games and protect leads from those – like the 2013-14 Celtics – who lose close games time after time down the stretch. Stevens very rarely called his team out after games of this lost season, with a notable exception coming after a lackluster home loss to the Sixers on April 4. But after the final game Wednesday, a 118-102 defenseless loss to the playoff-bound Wizards, he delivered a clear and present message to any player that might return next season.
“So there’s a couple different ways to look at it: are you going to get better in your role, or are you going to expand your role? What I mean by that is: are you going to get better at what you do well, or are you going to get better at some other things that make you, that give you the chance to instead of be the eighth guy be the fifth guy, instead of be the fifth guy be the third guy. We have a lot of great data to be able to share and subjective thoughts as well, and I think we can get better with the guys in the room. I think we clearly are going to need to add to our team to be better, but I told them at halftime, I said, ‘We can start it on October 1st or we can start it right now.’ That is, we’ve got to have a defensive DNA to start next season at a little bit different level than I thought we did at the end of this season. I thought we tried to compete defensively early-on in the year; I didn’t think we made the strides that I would’ve liked to have made.”
Stevens took the time Wednesday at halftime of a game in which they surrendered 38 points in the first quarter and 68 points in the half to remind his team of exactly what he will expect going forward.
“At halftime, I was obviously disappointed in our defensive effort,” Stevens said. “I knew, just look out there, we were undermanned a little bit, but I thought we could play better defensively and it thought we came out in the second half with a great deal of spirit and fight, a little bit more aggressiveness, and it was great until we were worn out. And I thought we wore out and we didn’t have any juice in the last 10 minutes or so, prior to that little run at the end. Credit them; they put us in a world of hurt in a lot of different match-ups. It’s a good basketball team who’s playing well right now, who, as I said earlier, is really sitting pretty for the future because they’ve got really good players at the one and the two that are both very young, that have a chance to be elite at their positions.”
|04.17.14 at 12:12 am ET|
Following a season-ending 118-102 loss to the playoff-bound Wizards at TD Garden, Celtics captain Rajon Rondo talked about what he’s learned from this 25-win season and how he can become a better leader. Rondo also acknowledged that he would like input on the make-up of the roster next season.
“Every team is different,” Rondo said. “This is a new [situation] with me being the only guy here back when Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were here. [Roster rebuilding] isn’t new. I still think I have been involved. I was in trade talk myself. Danny Ainge has always been in communication with me, what he has planned and what he has in store for this team.
“Being a leader, I just have to do it more than talking.”
Asked if that means doing it more by example on and off the court, Rondo answered, “Correct.”
How will a 25-57 season drive him this offseason?
“Motivation for next year we have a lot to work on and I look forward to next year,” Rondo said. “A good group to play with and a lot of great guys a lot of young guys just trying to be better.”
Does he want to be back?
“Next question,” Rondo said, referring to comments he made a week earlier indicating he feels he is a part of the team’s future.
Rondo said he will not watch the NBA playoffs, which begin this weekend. Instead Rondo maintains he looks forward to a summer of work as he continues to build his legs back to 100 percent, 15 months after ACL surgery on his right knee.
If he puts in the work, Rondo figures the rest of the team will follow.
‘It shows the group of guys we have,” Rondo said. “It starts with Danny Ainge and it starts with Brad Stevens. We had guys like Chris Babbs and Chris Johnson to come help us and help brighten their future.’
|04.16.14 at 11:22 pm ET|
As a result, the teams split their lottery odds, each receiving a 10.4 percent chance at the No. 1 pick and a 33.5 percent chance at a top-three selection. A coin flip will determine their positioning should neither team end up in the top three on May 20, and the worst-case scenario for the Celtics is the eighth pick in the June 26 draft.
Meanwhile, the Wizards’ victory over the C’s pulled them even with the Nets at 44-38. Since the Celtics also own Brooklyn’s pick, another coin flip later this week will determine if they receive the 17th or 18th pick.
|04.16.14 at 10:19 pm ET|
Prior to the game, Jared Sullinger addressed the crowd on Celtics fan appreciation night, “Hopefully we’ll come back next year,” which wasn’t exactly a great omen for the final game of the regular season. While a handful of C’s scored in double figures, they fell under the Wizards spell, 118-102.
Kelly Olynyk led the Celtics with 24 points while adding seven rebounds and five assists. Jeff Green (20 points), Avery Bradley (18), Brandon Bass (16) and Chris Johnson (10) also reached double digits.
Sullinger, Rajon Rondo, Kris Humphries and Jerryd Bayless all sat out, nursing various minor injuries.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Rondo a no go: With what the team described as a sore left hamstring, Rondo called it a season before the final game of the year. His final home game came April 4. When all was said and done, the Celtics captain played 30 games this season, and the C’s lost 24 of them — including the final eight. Mission accomplished?
No defense: Prior to the game, Danny Ainge lamented his team’s lack of a post presence and a general absence of cohesiveness, and the Celtics held true to form on the defensive end. The Wizards shot better than 50 percent and reached 100 points midway through the fourth quarter. In the end, the Celtics were one of the NBA’s 10 worst defenses this season, and the C’s brass must address that issue from a personnel and tactical standpoint.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Turn up the Bass: The Celtics handed out the ninth annual Auerbach Award before the game, and there was no other choice but Bass. He’s been the most consistent green teamer all year, producing somewhere around his season averages of 11 points and six assists each month. And he had himself a game against the Wizards, too. Previous winners: Paul Pierce (twice), Al Jefferson, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Doc Rivers.
K.O. punch: Olynyk entered the night averaging 15.6 points on 62.1 true shooting to go along with 7.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game this month. As a result, he earned his third straight start to finish the season, and he didn’t disappoint. As Ainge said before the game, “I’ve been really happy with how he’s improved.”
Full-court Pressey: With Rondo on the mend, Phil Pressey made a serious case to stick around in the Celtics locker room next season as a backup point guard. He averaged five points and seven assists per game in the final month of the season and had at least nine dimes in four of his final six appearances of the year.
|04.16.14 at 9:13 pm ET|
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge addressed the media before the final game of the regular season. Here’s a transcript of his press conference (with a few notes sprinkled in between).
On the season: “It was a long season — I guess not that long — but it was a tough, tough year, and I saw a lot of positive things from individuals. I thought our team gave good effort most nights. I think consistency was our biggest challenge, and I don’t think the team was a great fit, great mix, but individually I like what I saw in almost every player. I just feel like we didn’t have the size inside to protect the rim. I thought that was a big factor that cost us a lot of games. And we didn’t finish a lot of games down the stretch.”
(Notice Ainge liked what he saw from “almost every player.” One comes to mind. His name rhymes with Ref Mean.)
On the personnel: “I think we started the season out very concerned with the personnel. I thought Vitor [Faverani] gave us some size at times; his injury hurt us some there. He was a rookie and playing inconsistent, but showing signs of being a presence inside. I think all the way up the trade deadline we looked at opportunities to make our team better, but we wouldn’t sacrifice draft picks to make us better for just this year. But we look for opportunities to make our team better in the longterm.”
(Take note that Ainge offered the caveat of “just this year” in regard to trading draft picks.)
On Brad Stevens: “I think Brad did a great job this year. He’s a special person and a great coach, and the players see it. The players see his work ethic, they see his integrity, and they see his intelligence, so I think he’s earned the respect of the team in a really difficult situation this year. And I know he’s going to get better. He’ll be better next year, and he’ll be better the next year. He’s a sponge, and he’s very intelligent with a great work ethic, and I couldn’t be happier. … I have no worries about Brad. Brad is maybe the only thing in this whole organization I’m not concerned about.”
(As for those “rumblings” that were reported recently, it doesn’t sound like the coach is going anywhere.)
On the future: “I don’t know. How does anybody know that? What do you want me to like make a prediction or something? I don’t know anything about what we can do. I’m hopeful. I’ll work my tail off to duplicate what we’ve done in the past, but there are no guarantees.”
(That “I don’t know anything about what we can do” is a little reality check, huh?)
|04.15.14 at 7:56 pm ET|
This is the second in a series on the parallels between Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge‘s last team to miss the NBA playoffs and this year’s lottery-bound squad. A deeper look at the C’s player personnel, potential trade packages and financial flexibility should offer insight into whether or not Ainge can recreate the 2007 magic of acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen seven years later in 2014. (Hence, Double ’07.)
In order to justify holding Pierce on ice as a keeper, Ainge needed to land a big fish who could restore a winning culture to the Bay State’s once proud basketball franchise. Garnett did that and then some. Now, seven years later, the C’s president must reel in another catch, and the solution may reside in the Land of 10,000 Lakes once again.
For all the bellyaching about whether or not Kevin McHale helped steer Garnett to his former team, the Celtics offered the best package at the time. In the end, the deal centered around a double-double machine in Al Jefferson, and it’s not Ainge’s fault the Timberwolves drafted Jonny Flynn over Stephen Curry.
Come to think of it, Minnesota’s failure to capitalize on that Garnett trade may ultimately force the T-Wolves to deal Kevin Love. If David Kahn had played his cards right in the draft since 2007, he could have revealed a starting lineup of Curry, Love, Jefferson, Paul George and DeMar DeRozan within three years.
But, alas, the Timberwolves aren’t an uber-exciting All-Star squadron. They’re a .500 team. In the Western Conference, that gets you a lottery pick, and it doesn’t sit well with a perennial NBA All-Star. Just ask Garnett. Like KG in 2007, Love is nearing the end of his contract (Garnett had two years left, Love has one) and would require some convincing to sign an extension in Boston beyond his current deal.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, Ainge must ask himself two questions: 1) Is Kevin Love the kind of franchise-altering player who can help return the Celtics to their former glory, and 2) Do they have enough to get him?