|10.08.14 at 12:38 pm ET|
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 Rondo, Avery 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.
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.
|10.06.14 at 10:29 pm ET|
As if the start of basketball season starting up wasn’t reason enough for you to care about the Celtics‘ preseason opener on Monday night, then Marcus Smart and James Young making their NBA debuts — and leading the Celtics to an easy 98-78 victory over the 76ers — should be. (See the box score here.)
Smart spoke before the game about being nervous: “Of course, [there’s] always nerves,” he said. “First game at a different level, there’s always going to be nerves, but [I’ve] just got to figure out how to calm them down.”
His nerves were evident as he finished with just two points (0-8 FGs). Despite not shooting the ball particularly well, his effort on both ends of the floor was unmatched. He played lockdown defense on each and every possession coming up with three steals in the process. Although his shots weren’t falling, Smart did a good job running the offense, particularly leading the fast break. He ended up with six assists in his 27 minutes.
Young began the game cold, and his nerves were perhaps most evident when he missed his first two free throws just moments after stepping onto the floor. But he picked up the slack in the second half and was able to finish in double figures with 10 points on 3-8 shooting. Young was just 1-5 from 3-point land, but had several unlucky bounces off the iron.
OTHER REASONS YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT MONDAY’S GAME
Evan Turner shined while playing multiple positions.
In the absence of Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green, Turner was exactly what the Celtics needed to fill both roles. Turner started the game at small forward and started the second half at point guard for Brad Stevens, yet was the C’s best player regardless of position. Turner flirted with a triple-double in his 31 minutes, posting 15 points and 10 rebounds to go along with six assists.
Jared Sullinger still is a rebounding machine.
Sullinger got the start at power forward and was his usual self in terms of crashing the glass. Like much of the team, Sullinger did not shoot the ball well (4-15 FGs) but he still found ways to be effective. Sullinger ripped down 13 boards and still managed to score 10 points.
There still are some veterans who can score.
Not many people came into this season excited about Brandon Bass or Marcus Thornton, but they can both still fill it up. Bass finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in just over 19 minutes of action, while Thornton scored 14 in only 14 minutes off the bench. Bass and Thornton don’t figure to be a big part of the future in Boston, but with both of their contracts expiring at season’s end, their strong play makes them both viable trade candidates.
The Celtics will take on the Knicks in Hartford on Wednesday night.
|10.02.14 at 2:29 pm ET|
As the Celtics continued their training camp in Waltham on Thursday, one newcomer’s performance has commanded the attention of his teammates. Tyler Zeller’s name has been the first out of many players’ mouths when asked who has impressed them most in camp this fall.
“When you ask that question, it’s got to be somebody new, so it really narrows the list down,” Zeller joked. “But it’s one of those things where it’s really an honor for somebody to say that about you. But at the same time I’ve got to continue to prove that and continue to get better.”
Brad Stevens spent time recruiting the Zeller brothers for years while at Butler — all three of them. Ironically, Tyler may have been the brother that Stevens felt he was least likely to end up coaching one day.
“When I was an assistant I recruited Luke, who is the oldest, very hard and didn’t get him,” Stevens said. “And then [I] figured out we weren’t going to get Tyler pretty quickly. And then I recruited Cody, the youngest one, probably the hardest because I had known him since I recruited Luke.”
Joked Stevens: “But clearly, if he wanted to come, I would have taken him.”
Now that Stevens got his guy, or at least one of them, he is seeing a lot of things in Zeller’s game that are going to earn him minutes in his first year in Boston.
“Like I’ve said all along, he just runs the floor,” Stevens said. “He’s a very unselfish player, he’s a smart player. He stands out because he does little things well. He’s a guy that can score on the block in the right matchup, but his strength is in beating people to spots.”
|10.02.14 at 1:22 pm ET|
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 Rondo, Avery 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: Jared Sullinger.
Sullinger’s No. 1 goal this summer was to work himself into better shape, an objective both Celtics president Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens publicly supported, and then he showed up to training camp looking an awful lot like the guy who finished last season in need of improved conditioning.
“I’m not where I want to be, but really, really close,” said Sullinger. “Getting up and down in practice has really been helpful. Especially because of the pace that we’re playing, there’s no choice but for me to get in shape.
“So, as long as practices stay like this — and with the competition we have with Brandon [Bass] and Tyler [Zeller] and Erik Murphy and Dwight [Powell] and Kelly [Olynyk] — you have no choice but to play as hard as you can.”
That competition could further cut into his minutes, especially since Stevens has adopted the annual league-wide preseason mantra of pushing the pace and has other frontcourt contributors on the roster more suited to do so. After Wednesday’s practice, Stevens said of Olynyk, “I think our best bet is to make him a big part of what we’re doing,” and then added of Zeller, “He runs hard to the rim. … I think we’ll see a lot of that this year” — both of which could mean more time on the bench for Sullinger this season.
|09.30.14 at 7:04 pm ET|
The Celtics kicked off training camp Tuesday with two-a-days at the team’s training facility in Waltham. It’s somewhat of a new trend for the team, which has journeyed to Newport, Rhode Island, for training camp the last several years.
Brad Stevens had a simple state of mind as to why the team is staying local.
“Because my office is here,” he said. “The computer is there, the TV I know how to work is in the same place. The equipment guys don’t have to carry thousands of bags. The video guys don’t have to move their whole life. It made a lot more sense to stay here. … The kind of work we get done is a lot more important than anything else, like where we do it.”
Stevens indicated he may have moved things along a bit too slowly last season and wants to take a more aggressive approach this time around.
“I’ve got a great idea about how fast or how slow I need to go,” he said. “Right now, in a lot of ways I’m trying to throw as much at them as possible in the next three days and then we’ll break it down after that.”
Added Stevens: “I thought I was too gradual last year and so we’re going to be a lot quicker in that. But at the same time, at the appropriate time, after a couple of days we’ll stop and hopefully break it down.”
With Rajon Rondo out of camp with a broken hand, Stevens briefly explained the team’s point guard situation on the first day of camp: “We had three teams, Evan [Turner], Marcus [Smart] and Phil [Pressey].”
Turner is less of a true point guard than Smart and Pressey, but that doesn’t concern Stevens.
“One thing is you don’t really know [is how Turner will respond], but he’s better with the ball than not,” Stevens said, adding: “Not withstanding Rondo, he’s as good of a pick-and-roll player as we have.”
Continued Stevens: “We have one point guard healthy that has NBA experience and that’s Phil Pressey. And that’s not a lot of it. I’m not as worried about [the point guard position] because I think people are going to put you in a box for your position, and I’m just not going to do that. I’m not going to worry about it. [Turner’s] a ball handler, he can make plays, he’s smart. And then I think that keeps our other guys in the positions that they’re most comfortable.”
The Celtics continue camp in Waltham all week before hosting a practice at the TD Garden on Friday for season ticket-holders.
|09.30.14 at 12:33 pm ET|
Celtics rookie James Young knows he has a lot to learn in his first season, but he’d rather his classroom be the bench in Boston than the court in Portland, Maine. When asked if he’d welcome the possibility of playing 30 minutes a game for the Maine Red Claws — the C’s NBA Developmental League affiliate — Young was less than enthused.
“Definitely not,” Young said from the Celtics media day in Waltham on Monday, adding, “If it happens, it happens, but I just want to stay here and get better like that.”
While Maine may not be the most tantalizing of destinations for the first-round pick from Kentucky, it may be he best opportunity to develop his skills. Young is only 19 years old, and given the number of swingmen the Celtics have on the roster, it’s difficult to imagine him getting a lot of playing time early in the season.
Young will look to impress coaches during training camp and preseason, but if he’s unable to prove that he’s NBA ready, it’s likely he’ll quickly become familiar with America’s Vacationland.
|09.29.14 at 9:23 pm ET|
The Celtics have yet to name a temporary starting point guard while Rajon Rondo heals from a broken left hand that he suffered on Thursday. In all likelihood it will be Phil Pressey, who had experience in that role last year when Rondo missed time with a torn ACL. But it’s still too early to eliminate Marcus Smart’s name from the conversation.
Brad Stevens most likely will try multiple options during the preseason before deciding on his opening night starter. Whether it’s Pressey, Smart or even Evan Turner who steps into the role, we do know that we will be seeing more of Smart sharing the backcourt with Avery Bradley early in the season — a scary thing for opposing guards.
“First off, he’s a really good kid off the court,” Bradley offered on Smart. “He comes in every single day and works hard … and these were workouts that weren’t mandatory. He’s an amazing defender; he can really run a team. He’s a very good player, I’m excited to get a chance to play on the same court with him.”
Asked if he had thought about playing defense alongside Smart, Bradley said: “No, I haven’t pictured it. But a lot of people make jokes and say, ‘Man, I would hate to play on the opposite team against you and Marcus. Bringing the ball up the court and you guys taking turns picking people off full court.’
“It’s definitely cool to know that people are already nervous to play against me and Marcus on the same team on the court together. I’m excited, like I said, to get a chance to play with him and for us to be able to learn from each other.”
Smart was happy to hear Bradley’s comments.
“It means a lot,” he said. “Nobody wants to be known as not a hard worker or somebody that doesn’t work at all. You want to have that reputation of working hard and it’s just a sign of respect that that’s what people think of me.”
Added Smart: “Right now, yes, Rondo is out. And this team has taken a hit from that. I’m just going to come in and work my tail off just like if he was here. I’m going to embrace it.”
Although Smart never mentioned taking on the starting point guard role, he seemed very motivated to make good on the extra minutes he is sure to receive one way or another during Rondo’s absence. If there’s one positive to Rondo missing time from a fan’s perspective, getting to watch Bradley and Smart spend extra time hounding opposing backcourts is certainly going to be it.
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