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Fast Break: Tim Duncan, undermanned Spurs stop Celtics

02.12.14 at 9:46 pm ET
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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.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs,

Brad Stevens pays visit to former Butler player battling cancer

02.12.14 at 1:56 pm ET
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Celtics coach Brad Stevens took advantage of Tuesday’s off day to visit a former Butler player recovering from cancer treatment in Indiana.

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.

 

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Chris Mannix on D&C: Rajon Rondo will ‘be with this team through the offseason’

02.12.14 at 11:21 am ET
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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.

“€œI 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.

“€œIf 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.

“€œHe was off the table in the Omer Asik trade about a month ago,” Mannix said. “€œI 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.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Jeff Green

Fast Break: Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger help Celtics stop Bucks

02.10.14 at 10:23 pm ET
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Jeff Green scored a game-high 29 points and both Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk registered double-doubles, leading the Celtics to their fourth win in five games — 102-86 over the dreadful Bucks.

Behind 11 points from Green, the Celtics outscored Milwaukee 32-18 in the fourth quarter to improve to 19-34 on the season. While the Bucks remained atop the tank rankings at 9-42, the C’s now own the league’s eighth-worst record — four games out of a playoff spot.

While Sullinger (13 points, 10 rebounds) logged his sixth straight double-double, Olynyk (14, 11) had the first of his NBA career.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Bass kicking: If not for Bass, the Celtics would have been in serious trouble early against the Bucks. While the rest of his teammates shot a combined 6-of-17 from the floor (35 percent) in the opening 12 minutes, Bass finished 5-of-8 for 12 points to go along with four rebounds, and the Celtics led 26-24 after one.

Crash course: Perhaps motivated by the few Milwaukee fans in attendance who constantly chanted his first name, Gerald Wallace filled the stat sheet in the opening half. Starting in place of the injured Avery Bradley, he compiled eight points on three shots, three boards, three steals and two assists by halftime, helping the C’s take a 49-46 lead into the locker room. His production halted after the break, but …

Green thumbs up: After scoring just two points on four shots in the first quarter, Green progressively improved throughout the night, saving his best for the last quarter. He scored eight points on five shots in both the second and third quarters, and then erupted for another 11 on eight attempts in the fourth to close out the win.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Tank top: The Bucks sat Larry Sanders (eye), Ersan Ilyasova (back), O.J. Mayo (illness) and Caron Butler (ankle), and the Celtics countered with Rajon Rondo (knee), Bradley (ankle) and Vitor Faverani (knee) on the bench. If a February game against the NBA’s worst team in Milwaukee could get any uglier, it just did.

Oh, shoot: Midway through the third quarter, the Bucks were shooting exactly 50 percent from the floor (22-44 FG), taking a 61-59 lead after consecutive buckets by Khris Middleton (a 3) and Zaza Pachulia (a bunny). Milwaukee entered the game shooting a league-worst 42.1 percent from the field.

Zaza’s elbows: Pretty much everybody felt the wrath of Zaza Pachulia‘s errant elbows, but Bass got the worst of it, reportedly suffering a corneal abrasion to his left eye that kept him out of the fourth quarter.

Phantom Phil? This late Phil Pressey foul call had Jackie Mac doing her best Tommy impression, but alas it appears Rondo’s replacement may have tripped up Gary Neal well before the whistle.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, Jeff Green, Milwaukee Bucks

Celtics forward Jared Sullinger named NBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week

02.10.14 at 1:58 pm ET
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The NBA named Jared Sullinger the Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

Sullinger averaged 23.7 points (60.0 FG%), 12.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 blocks in three victories against the Magic, 76ers and Kings last week, recording three of his five straight double-doubles. Jordan Crawford (Dec. 2-8) is the only other Celtics player to earn the honor this season.

Here are Sullinger’s performances last week:

  • Celtics 96, Magic 89: 21 PTS (10-15 FG), 12 REB
  • Celtics 114, 76ers 108: 19 PTS (6-11 FG), 10 REB, 5 AST, 4 BLK
  • Celtics 99, Kings 89: 31 PTS (14-24 FG), 16 REB

Sullinger has cemented himself as either a building block for the Celtics future or one heck of a trade chip (a la Al Jefferson in 2007). Not bad for an undersized big who fell to No. 21 and missed much of his rookie season due to back surgery.

Thunder superstar Kevin Durant took home the Western Conference Player of the Week honor.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, NBA,

Celtics trade rumor: Brandon Bass is Danny Ainge’s most likely deadline deal

02.10.14 at 1:32 pm ET
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Ten days before the NBA trade deadline, Celtics forward Brandon Bass is the most likely player on the roster to be dealt, according to a Sporting News report.

The Warriors, Bobcats and Suns are reportedly the most likely destinations for Bass, who is owed $6.9 million next season — the going rate for a player with his production (10.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.2 apg, 54.1 TS%, 15.0 PER, 1,425 minutes).

‘€œHe is a good fit in a lot of places,’€ a league executive told the Sporting News. ‘€œHe can start, he can come off the bench, he can make shots, he can play center against small lineups. A lot of teams need a guy like that.”

Golden State’s best offer? Something like Marreese Speights (owed $3.7 million next season), injured center Festus Ezeli, Jermaine O’Neal‘s expiring contract (bought out before he ever returned to Boston) and a future pick (the Warriors don’t have a No. 1 this season). But does that really upgrade their roster?

The Bobcats could package either of their protected first-round picks (Blazers, Pistons) along with expiring contracts (Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions) or recent lottery disappointments (Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo). Bass and Keith Bogans‘ expiring contract for Gordon’s expiring deal and Portland’s No. 1 pick is an intriguing possibility that would save the Celtics $6.9 million next season and another pick in the loaded 2014 draft.

Likewise, the Suns’ best trade chips are Emeka Okafor‘s $14.5 million expiring contract and any number of four protected 2014 first-round picks (Timberwolves, Wizards, Pacers and their own). Given Suns general manager Ryan McDonough‘s prior work under Celtics president Danny Ainge, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the two sides hammer out a deal should their pursuit of Pau Gasol fall through. Bass and Jeff Green for Okafor’s expiring contract and the Pacers pick would save the Celtics $25.3 million over the next two seasons, for example.

Read More: 2014 NBA trade deadline, Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, NBA

On a milestone night, Rajon Rondo getting closer to where he wants to be

02.09.14 at 10:53 pm ET
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On his second of 12 assists of the night, Rajon Rondo became the 101st player in NBA history to amass 4,000 assists and just the sixth player in the storied history of the Celtics to reach the plateau. Bill Russell is next with 4,100. Bob Cousy is the all-time franchise leader with 6,945.

But that milestone was just one significant milestone for Rondo Sunday in a 102-91 loss to the Mavericks at TD Garden.

“It’s definitely an honor, especially to have so many in this organization,” Rondo said. “It’s right up there. It’s definitely an honor to get that many assists. I’ve played with a lot of great players. Give them credit. They have to make the basket.”

The Celtics point guard played a season-high 36 minutes and looked good doing so.

“I played 36 tonight and I’m a little sore but I’ll be fine,” Rondo said. “I try to listen to my body as much as possible.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the game that he spoke with Rondo and believes the time restrictions are all but gone after his return from ACL surgery.

‘€œTime limit’€™s off, yeah,” Stevens said after the game. “Not playing in the back-to-back. Probably will be cleared to play in back-to-backs again very soon. I asked the question right after we met prior to the game and it sounds like, again, that’€™s sooner rather than later but no time issues.’€

Rondo clarified that position when he spoke post-game, about 45 minutes after Stevens made his initial proclamation.

“I wouldn’t say [limit] is completely off. I won’t be playing 40. When I’m out there and my adrenaline is going, I’m fine,” Rondo said.

Rondo will not be playing in Milwaukee on Monday night. Rondo would not say whether he would travel with the team or not on Sunday.

Read More: Bill Russell, Boston Celtics, NBA, Rajon Rondo
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