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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

Why you should care about Monday’s Celtics game: Marcus Smart, James Young debut; Evan Turner shines

10.06.14 at 10:29 pm ET
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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.

Read More: Evan Turner, James Young, Marcus Smart,

Tyler Zeller impresses Celtics teammates in training camp

10.02.14 at 2:29 pm ET
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Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller

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.”

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Read More: Brad Stevens, Tyler Zeller,

Asset Management: Jared Sullinger’s Celtics future

10.02.14 at 1:22 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: Jared Sullinger.

Jared Sullinger

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.

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Read More: Asset Management, Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, NBA
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