|02.13.14 at 4:12 pm ET|
The Celtics head into the All-Star break with a record of 19-35. With this season’s diluted NBA product, that gives them the sixth-worst record in the league.
Even the smallest of streaks makes a difference when it comes to the number of ping pong balls owned come lottery time. Boston got hot and won 4-of-5 games starting on Super Bowl Sunday, a streak that took them from the third-highest odds of winning the lottery to the eighth. The C’s fell to the Spurs on Wednesday night, though, which, combined with unlikely recent wins by the Jazz and Cavaliers, has them sitting in the sixth spot.
The Celtics are on pace for about 28 wins by season’s end, but with the trade deadline around the corner, and the tanking only expected to become more obvious, no predictions are safe. The C’s could find themselves selecting anywhere in the lottery, which makes for excitement but also causes uncertainty.
Here’s a look at what some of the top draft prospects have done in the past week, plus a brief look at some players on the rise.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, sophomore ‘ As everyone knows by now, Smart only hurt his draft status in the past week. On Saturday night at Texas Tech Smart had a decent game, but his name was in the headlines for another reason.
With 6.2 seconds left, and the Cowboys on their way to a fourth consecutive loss, Smart’s frustration boiled over in the worst way. Falling into the crowd going for a block, Smart was helped up, but he did not head to the court as expected. Instead he went deeper into the crowd and argued with a fan who had been heckling him. Smart then shoved the fan, which isn’t tolerated in any sports forum.
Both the fan and Smart have since apologized for their actions, but that was not enough to save Smart from a suspension. Smart missed his team’s blowout loss to Texas on Tuesday, and will miss the next two games to round out a three-game ban. His return, oddly enough, will come against Texas Tech, but this time on Oklahoma State‘s home floor.
“Marcus made a big mistake [Saturday] night, he knows that,” Cowboys coach Travis Ford said Sunday. “We talked about it extensively. He knows we don’t condone things of that matter. He has owned up to it.’
Added Ford: ‘Marcus is a young man that has been in the public eye for quite a bit. And I think we’d all agree for the highest percentage of the time, he’s conducted himself as a tremendous young man. But he made a mistake that he’s going to pay for.”
Smart probably will end up paying a steeper price than his three-game suspension once the draft rolls around.
|02.13.14 at 12:28 pm ET|
An athlete can take anything and use it as motivation.
Sometimes it’s just for a game or a season but listening to Jared Sullinger after the final game before the All-Star break Wednesday night, being snubbed in the 2012 NBA draft is having a lingering effect.
With concerns over his back, which required surgery in his rookie year, Sullinger fell to No. 21 on draft night, just weeks after leading his Ohio State Buckeyes to the Final Four.
Usually for younger players selected to All-Star activities – like Friday’s “Rising Stars Challenge” – the weekend provides a chance to chill and show off their skills. But to Sullinger, this weekend means more, much more.
‘To me, it means everything,’ Sullinger said. ‘All the hard work. And also on top of that, being picked where I was picked, it was kind of a slap in the face towards me even though I had the back injury. But it’s a blessing.’
The slap in the face has apparently lit a fire under the big man. Only sickness (which required IVs earlier) Wednesday night could bring an end to his career-best string of six straight games with a double-double. He was named the Eastern Conference player of the week last week as he averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds. Sully had just four points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes in the 104-92 loss to the Spurs.
“I was a little sick. Still feel it a little bit, but I’m all right,” said Sullinger. “I missed a lot of shots, but I don’t really think [the illness] affected me. I think it was just that I was a little bit off in my routine, came in a little bit later because (team trainer) Eddie [Lacerte] wanted me to stay in bed. Just off my routine a little bit. As a result, I missed a lot of shots that I normally make.”
Just how long does Sullinger plan on using the motivation?
‘A long time? For the rest of my career,’ Sullinger answered.
Sullinger isn’t the first Celtics star to use a chip on his shoulder as motivation. Rajon Rondo does it every time people bring up his career at Kentucky with Tubby Smith. Paul Pierce, like Sullinger was projected by some as a “Top-5″ pick. He fell to 10th in the 1998 NBA Draft.
Now Sullinger, like Pierce and Rondo, are busy proving NBA executives wrong for passing on him. Sullinger is averaging 13.2 points and 8.2 rebounds in his second season in the NBA, earning a spot on the “Rising Stars” squad this weekend.
‘I don’t want to get satisfied,’ Sullinger said. ‘I never will get satisfied. I’ve got a lot more work to do.’
|02.13.14 at 1:45 am ET|
As Kris Humphries left on Wednesday night to begin a six-day NBA All-Star break leading up the Feb. 20 trade deadline, he gave his best to some of the team’s locker room attendants “in case I don’t see you again.”
Likewise, rookie Kelly Olynyk wanted to make sure Phil Pressey didn’t leave Chris Johnson hanging on a high five because “you never know what day will be your last.” (Pressey left him hanging anyway.)
But Rajon Rondo — the subject of so many trade rumors surrounding this team — kept a poker face. As if Rondo has another face. “I don’t watch TV,” he said of handling the uncertainty of his team’s future and his future with the team. “It’s been like that my last eight years as a Celtic. Until the trade gets pulled, I’ll play as a Celtic.”
Still, while Rondo hears the rumblings — Jeff Green to the Hawks and Brandon Bass to the Warriors, Bobcats or Suns — he knows not to trust a word, because he’s seen every other member of the 2008 championship team leave that locker room and never come back with little warning (see: Perkins, Kendrick).
|02.13.14 at 1:15 am ET|
The ever entertaining Jimmy Toscano wandered the locker room asking various Celtics which Winter Olympics event they’d most like to enter, and Kris Humphries offered the best response (Rajon Rondo a distance second).
“It’s kind of weird. I don’t know if I’d want to play it, but I always grew up watching figure skating with my mom. It’s pretty impressive. I don’t think I could ever do that, but I’ve got a lot of respect for them. I grew up with the Tonya Harding “Tonya Tapper” and that whole deal, so I’m waiting for some action in that sport. It hasn’t come in a while.”
While he could easily be screaming “Why me?” crumpled on the floor somewhere in the depths of the Garden, Humphries isn’t taking the Nancy Kerrigan approach to this 19-35 Celtics season just yet.
“I didn’t come here thinking that we were going to be struggling like this,” he said. “I think you’re a loser if you come in and say this is where we’re going to be at, so I can’t really comment further than that.”
Since he arrived in Boston before training camp, Humphries has said all the right things about joining a rebuilding team 10 years into his NBA career, and his willingness to accept the various roles Brad Stevens has given him throughout the season may have made him more than just a $12 million expiring contract on the trade market. Not that he would know anything about that after another productive night (15 points, 6 rebounds in 23 minutes).
“I think you guys are more in touch with what’s going on than we are, so I’ll look and see what you guys are writing later. You just enjoy the break. If you get that call, you get that call. Otherwise, we’ll see you Wednesday in Phoenix.”
|02.12.14 at 9:46 pm ET|
Tim Duncan offered a reminder of what can happen when the Ping Pong balls don’t fall the Celtics way, turning back the clock 17 years after they missed out on one of the game’s great power forwards. Duncan finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds to held the Spurs hand the C’s their second loss in three games, 104-92.
Six Celtics scored in double figures — led by 15 points from Kris Humphries and Kelly Olynyk (10 rebounds, second straight double-double) — but the Celtics dropped to 19-35. Here’s what went wrong (and right) entering the All-Star break.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Worst first: Sans two of their big three — Tony Parker (back) and Manu Ginobili (hamstring) — as well as key contributors Kawhi Leonard (hand) and Tiago Splitter (calf), the Spurs still dug the Celtics an early hole. Led by Marco Belinelli, who posted nine first-quarter points and five early assists without Avery Bradley (ankle) to frustrate him, San Antonio shot 56 percent as a team and led 25-19 after one.
Green thumbs down: It was an ugly Jeff Green outing this time around. He missed his first six shots before knocking down a 3 at the end of the first quarter, and then failed on a couple bunnies before sinking a buzzer-beating layup to limit the damage to 48-44 at the break. He had more turnovers (2) than rebounds (1), assists, steals or blocks at the half. Green’s engagement early once again proved an indication of his overall performance.
Not going streaking: After logging six straight double-doubles, Jared Sullinger‘s string came to an end. The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week started 2-of-9 from the field (0-2 3P) and sat for a large stretch of the second half in favor of Olynyk, Kris Humphries and (wait for it) Joel Anthony.
|02.12.14 at 1:56 pm ET|
Andrew Smith, who was on the teams that made back-to-back appearances in the NCAA championship game and graduated last year, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma while playing professionally in Lithuania, according to the Indianapolis Star. He returned to his Indiana home to begin treatment.
‘ Samantha Smith (@Samantha44Smith) February 11, 2014
|02.12.14 at 11:21 am ET|
Sports Illustrated NBA writer Chris Mannix talked with Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday about Rajon Rondo, trade rumors, the NBA draft and more. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Mannix predicts that Rondo will remain with the Celtics this year, and Danny Ainge will look to keep him on board for the long term if he shows an ability to work with the team’s new coach.
“I think he’s a guy that Danny wants to build around if he gets along with Brad Stevens. … It’s still very much a wait-and-see situation with Rondo,” Mannix said. “You’ve got to see what you get from him next year. He’s not going to get traded before this year’s trade deadline, he’s going to be with this team through the offseason.”
Mannix didn’t guarantee Rondo would be in Boston after the season, saying Ainge would always listen to offers.
“If Danny gets a monster offer for Rondo, I don’t think he’s attached to him in the sense that he’s untradeable,” Mannix said. “But I think it’s going to take a huge, All-Star level Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen type of offer.”
Jeff Green, who has been part of recent trade rumors, might be writing his ticket out of town due to his inconsistency, following a strong start to the season.
“He was off the table in the Omer Asik trade about a month ago,” Mannix said. “I remember talking to people in the organization and there was no way they were going to trade Jeff Green in an Omer Asik deal. They thought Green was too valuable in the short term and the long term. Now, a month and a half later, and we’re now realizing that Jeff Green is kind of this Jekyll and Hyde type of guy where some nights he can go for 30, other nights 2-for-12 from the floor and totally vanish.”