|10.29.14 at 7:15 am ET|
Marcus Smart’s shooting was a topic of many discussions during the preseason, to the point that it has begun to steal the spotlight from exactly what kind of player Danny Ainge and the Celtics may have acquired in Smart.
Smart is a premier defender and an elite athlete who may be much more talented on the offensive side of the ball than we give him credit for. We still need to see Smart play alongside Rajon Rondo, but so far Smart is the one who has been keeping himself from being far more efficient.
Ben Rohrbach wrote a well-researched piece earlier in the preseason that focused primarily on Smart’s poor 3-point shooting — something that Smart should try to stay away from early in his career. As Ben points out in his piece, Rondo and Avery Bradley both have significantly improved their shooting in one way or another since the beginning of their careers. So as a long-term goal, Smart never should give up on developing a shot from downtown in the NBA. But now is not the time to pretend to have one already.
Three-point shooting is something that Smart should be working on — and has been working on daily behind closed doors. But if he plays to his strengths, Smart can be far more efficient than we saw overall in the preseason. He did give us glimpses, though, and they looked mighty good.
The best example of what Smart is capable of came in the preseason finale against the Nets. Smart only played 16 minutes, but he dropped 16 points to go along with his four assists and two steals. The important part is that Smart shot 5-for-8 from the field, including 3-for-3 in the paint and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. The numbers can’t get any more efficient than that, but they can grow in volume. Smart rarely attempts 2-point field goals. So much so that he only attempted two per game in preseason action.
Are you ready for this? Smart attempted 7.5 field goals per game in the preseason and 5.5 of them were 3-pointers! This is a 25 percent 3-point shooter we’re talking about who attempted a league-leading 44 3-pointers in the preseason (and made just 11, if you’re not good at math).
|10.28.14 at 6:52 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: Vitor Faverani.
Ever since Boston heard Vitor Faverani’s name, he’s been an enigma. The Brazilian behemoth arrived at media day last year and declared, “It’s not difficult coming here; it’s the best team in NBA,” and then amassed 18 rebounds, 12 points and six blocks as the Celtics‘ starting center in their home opener. Only one other player matched that stat line all of last year: Anthony Davis.
A year later, we’ve learned little about the so-called “El Hombre Indestructible.” After losing his starting job to Jared Sullinger and seeing his minutes steadily decline before undergoing season-ending knee surgery on a torn left meniscus, Faverani proved the project many expected when he arrived from the Euroleague.
His averages of 12.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and two blocks per 36 minutes as an NBA rookie remain encouraging, even if advanced metrics (11.0 player efficiency rating, 50.2 true shooting percentage and a minus-5.5 overall rating per 100 possessions) suggest otherwise in a limited 488-minute sample size.
At the very least, we can all agree he’s not Anthony Davis. Who is he, then?
|10.28.14 at 4:09 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: Brandon Bass.
The Celtics shopped Bass at the trade deadline, and over the summer we learned from Grantland’s Zach Lowe that team president Danny Ainge has “tried like hell” to move the veteran forward. Yet, he remains in Boston. For now.
The Bass experience has been a strange one. He collected 20 points and 11 rebounds in his first game for the Celtics — on Christmas Day of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season — and then came off the bench for a few months as he adjusted to Kevin Garnett‘s defensive demands. Doc Rivers finally inserted Bass into the starting lineup around the All-Star break, the C’s won 60 percent of their games down the stretch and they made a surprising run to the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, aided by 27 points from Bass in Game 5 against the 76ers.
Boston came to love Bass for his understated, undersized and — at the time — undervalued effort. The 6-foot-8, 240-pound brick quietly protected the paint defensively and knocked down mid-range jump shots at a remarkable rate (49 percent) offensively in 2011-12. He was an appropriate complement on a team that still required touches for Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo.
The ensuing summer, Bass signed a three-year, $19.35 million contract that seemed appropriate for a 27-year-old starting power forward on an Eastern Conference contender. And then everything went south.
|10.28.14 at 1:50 pm ET|
It’s clear that Rondo has been improving, but he still can’t resist poking some fun at the media in the process. At Monday’s practice, Rondo gave himself a 79 percent chance of playing against the Nets on Wednesday. Then on Tuesday according to reports, Rondo told Brad Stevens he had upgraded himself to having an 83 percent chance of playing.
Rondo went on to say that he doesn’t like being called a game-time decision and he will decide whether or not he plays just a few hours before the game begins when he wakes up from his nap around 4:30 on Wednesday.
Rondo has one more "imaging thing" after practice. He told Stevens to say he has an 83 percent chance to return.
— Jay King (@ByJayKing) October 28, 2014
— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) October 28, 2014
|10.27.14 at 11:04 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: Gerald Wallace.
There are 58 players who will earn eight-figure salaries in the NBA this season, and only three of them project to fall outside a team’s top-six rotation when healthy: Gerald Wallace, Amar’e Stoudemire and Javale McGee.
Unlike Stoudemire, Wallace has another year left on the four-year, $40 million deal he signed in 2012. The Knicks can either let Stoudemire walk at the end of the season or find another team looking to shed $23.4 million from its books next summer. Meanwhile, the Celtics would have to part with too many assets to have any hope of shipping Wallace in a package this winter. And unlike McGee, Wallace isn’t seven feet tall and 26 years old. He turned 32 over the summer and sits third on the wing depth chart behind Jeff Green and Evan Turner, taking minutes from James Young on a roster built to develop younger players.
Wallace averaged 5.1 points (54.3 true-shooting percentage), 3.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 24.4 minutes per game last season, submitting the worst player efficient rating (10.0) of his career. It felt like he missed more than a third of last season, but the veteran forward actually appeared in 58 games before undergoing season-ending surgeries on the torn left meniscus in his left knee and the bone spurs in his left ankle.
|10.27.14 at 5:10 pm ET|
The Celtics finalized their 15-man roster on Monday, waiving Will Bynum, Tim Frazier, Rodney McGruder, Erik Murphy, Christian Watford and Jarell Eddie. All six players were added to the roster over the summer, and their departures do not come as a surprise.
The Celtics recently acquired Bynum’s expiring $2.9 million contract in a trade that sent Joel Anthony‘s expiring $3.8 million deal to the Pistons. It’s not clear whether Bynum accepted a buyout for less than his full salary this season.
Murphy was guaranteed just $100,000, and the remaining group all entered training camp on non-guaranteed deals. The C’s can assign up to four players to their D-League affiliate in Maine, and all but Bynum are candidates for the Red Claws. Eddie, in particular, was recently claimed off waivers and seems destined for Crustacean Nation.
The news comes as a welcome sign for Dwight Powell, the Stanford forward who the Celtics acquired from the Cavaliers as part of a package of players that also included Murphy in return for Keith Bogans. The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Powell averaged 1.7 points and 1.2 rebounds in 9.0 minutes over six preseason games.
Here is the final 15-man roster, barring a last-minute trade before Wednesday’s opener.
GUARDS: Rajon Rondo, Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Marcus Thornton, Phil Pressey
WINGS: Evan Turner, Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace, James Young
BIGS: Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller, Brandon Bass, Vitor Faverani, Powell
|10.27.14 at 1:48 pm ET|
All preseason long Brad Stevens has been unwilling to place a percentage on the chances that his star point guard, Rajon Rondo, will be available on opening night. Rondo is just over four weeks into his recovery from surgery on a broken left hand, but he seems to be way ahead of schedule despite the coach’s hesitancy to announce his return.
“There’s a lot of ifs there,” Stevens said regarding Rondo’s status prior to Monday’s practice. “I’d still say he’s somewhere in the realm of questionable, but it certainly looks like all signs have been moving forward.”
If you know Rondo, then you know he is a much more of a precise type of guy.
So what percentage would Rondo place on himself to play on opening night? “Probably 79 [percent] right now,” he concluded Monday.
Obviously, Rondo was asked to expand on his answer: “I feel good, it’s just that contact is a completely different thing if I land on it.” Rondo went on to explain that he has only been through one practice with contact so far, but has not landed on or been hit on the hand. Rondo did admit that he had gotten it tangled up in a jersey, however, it caused him no pain or issues.
“He was good on Friday,” Stevens said of the lone contact practice that Rondo referred to. “He’ll go full again [on Monday], then I think he’s going to re-see the doctors [on Tuesday], maybe Wednesday morning.
“It’s going to be about how he feels,” Stevens ultimately offered. “So if he goes through the next couple of days without pain and feels really good and the doctors give him clearance, then he’ll be good to go.”
So what could Rondo’s minutes look like on Wednesday?
“If he were to play as early as this week then I would probably play him in shorter stints, but still play him quite a bit,” said Stevens. “Obviously you want him to get a flow and rhythm, but when we’re talking about five- or six-minute stints, that’s plenty of time.”
On Rondo’s overall minutes per game, Stevens said: “I think we’ll probably play it as is once he’s ready to play. Again, it has not been a conditioning issue because he’s been able to run the whole time.”
It’s still too early to jump to any conclusions and rule Rondo a go for Wednesday, but his status clearly looks much more optimistic than anticipated. The original prognosis of 6-8 weeks suggested that Rondo would miss between 4-10 regular-season games, so simply the fact that he has a chance of playing in the first game is impressive.
Seventy-nine percent is a high number, though — and it seems to be getting higher every day. Without being overly optimistic, it feels like there’s a great chance we hear Rondo’s name announced when it’s time for the starting lineups on Wednesday night.
Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow
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