|09.27.15 at 12:57 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Brad Stevens has a lot to think about on his flight over to Europe to begin training camp.
First and foremost, who on the roster is going to step up and prove they deserve the most playing time – or any at all – in preseason and possibly the regular season.
That’s a question that needs to be answered before Stevens can even make decisions on who will fill out the backend of a roster that is nothing if not deep.
The forwards are David Lee, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko, Tyler Zeller and Perry Jones. The guards are Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Evan Turner to go with rookies Terry Rozier and RJ Hunter.
That’s a lot of options but a lot of decisions for Brad Stevens to wade through.
“I’m excited. Anytime you’ve got a group that you can work with and you feel that way headed into the season, you’re focused on basketball,” Stevens said. “Even though we’ve got to figure out who’s going to play and at what times, I think we’ll be able to focus on all the right things.”
But then Stevens was pressed about how he’s going to deal with players like Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Evan Turner, all veteran guards who will be fighting for playing time in a crowded backcourt that added rookies RJ Hunter and Terry Rozier.
“Every good team, you’re going to have discussions like that,” Stevens said. “Every good team that is challenging to be better is going to have depth. We’re going to have good players on our team that aren’t going to play. That’s the reality of it. That’s hard part of the job in some ways but you just try to be really frank and talk about it. I’m not here to predetermine anything. That’s why I think sometimes we should probably have media day two weeks in because I don’t know yet. We’ll find out.
|09.26.15 at 8:08 pm ET|
In preparation for the 2015-16 NBA season, James Young spent the majority of the summer working on his body and his one-on-one defense.
At Friday’s annual media day at the Celtics‘ Waltham practice facility, Young talked about gaining weight over the summer and how he’s entering his second season feeling more confident about his defense.
“I just got in the gym and worked out harder,” said Young. “This season is going to be special for the team and me. I just want it to be great — got in the gym every day, [twice] a day.
“Just to absorb the contact from bigger and stronger guys, you can’t just go in the lane and be at 200 pounds; you’re going to get pushed over. So, you [have to] add weight, and that’s what I did. I want to add more — not done yet.”
Young split his rookie year between Boston and Maine. He played 17 games for the Red Claws, averaging 21.5 points and shooting an impressive 44.2 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
Young finished his rookie campaign with the Celtics averaging 3.4 points in 10.7 minutes per game. While adding weight to his frame to improve his offense, Young says he has a better understanding of what to do on the defensive end.
“My footwork is a lot better,” he said. “I know what to do now. Pulling over, communicating, everything is working a lot better now. I know what to do now. I didn’t know then, but now I know.”
“He’s really improved his defensive abilities,” said Stevens. “His defensive awareness was great in summer league, and he’s a guy that we know offensively has some skill and some talent. The other thing about James that I’m excited about is he’s bigger and stronger, and he’s only 20 years old.”
|09.25.15 at 9:23 pm ET|
‘To get back to the playoffs and hopefully use all the experience we gained from last year to get further and have a chance to play in the championship,’ said Bradley. ‘Obviously, that’s our ultimate goal, and we’re going to try to prepare so we can get to that level.’
The championship? Really?
‘I feel like it’s definitely realistic,’ added the 24-year-old Bradley. ‘A lot of people laughed when I said we were going to make the playoffs last year, and we did.’
Well, he’s got a point there. Believe it or not, Bradley is the longest-tenured player of the Celtics, and as the lone remaining member of the team that reached the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, he should know what it takes.
‘I know that I want to take that role to help my teammates become the best players on and off the court,” said Bradley. “I’m going to try to speak up more this year. I’m definitely going to lead by example, no matter what, but I definitely want to try to be a role model for the younger guys and push them every single day so we can be the best players we can be, so we can achieve our ultimate goal — and that’s winning a championship.’
So, the goal really is winning a championship, then. (As it should be for every team worth its salt, by the way.)
‘If we continue to work hard, anything’s possible,’ said Bradley, who started for the 2014-15 team that got swept in the first round. “If you buy into what the coach is trying to do and this Celtics culture, I feel like anything is possible and we can definitely have a chance to make it to the championship if we do those things.’
|09.24.15 at 10:24 am ET|
Over the next month, we’ll chronicle the 25 most consequential trades of Danny Ainge’s tenure as Celtics president of basketball operations. When we’re done, we’ll have a better understanding of Ainge’s philosophy and success rate on the trade market. Perhaps by the end of this exercise we’ll even feel better about the future of this rebuild. At the very least, we’ll have something interesting to debate while we wait for training camp to open.
- No. 25: Hello, Sebastian Telfair.
- No. 24: Goodbye, Semih Erden.
- No. 23: Hello and goodbye again, Antoine Walker.
- No. 22: Hello, Ricky Davis.
- No. 21: Goodbye, Walter McCarty.
- No. 20: Hello, Keyon Dooling.
- No. 19: Hello and goodbye, Courtney Lee.
- No. 18: Hello, Kelly Olynyk.
- No. 17: Hello, Nate Robinson.
- No. 16: Hello, Brandon Bass.
- No. 15: Hello, Wally Szczerbiak.
- No. 14: Goodbye, Jiri Welsch.
- No. 13: Hello, Leon Powe.
- No. 12: Goodbye, Jeff Green.
- No. 11: Hello and goodbye, Jordan Crawford.
- No. 10: Goodbye, Antoine Walker.
- No. 9: Hello, Kendrick Perkins.
- No. 8: Hello, Tony Allen.
With that out of the way, here’s No. 7 on the list of Danny Ainge’s 25 most consequential trades.
Dec. 18, 2014: Goodbye, Rajon Rondo.
|09.24.15 at 1:06 am ET|
Danny Ainge spent nearly eight seasons alongside Larry Bird, the man many consider the greatest shooter in NBA history, so he doesn’t say the following lightly: Stephen Curry is the best shooter he’s ever seen.
Ainge made the observation on Twitter during the playoffs, which ended with Curry’s Warriors claiming the title, and he explained himself earlier this week in an interview with WEEI.com from his Waltham office.
“I think Larry was as good a shooter as I’ve ever seen before Steph. And Ray Allen is up there, too,” Ainge said. “If anybody were to come in and tell me, ‘Larry Bird‘s the best shooter of all time,’ I wouldn’t have much argument. Same with Ray. I probably wouldn’t argue. It’s really close.
“The reason I think Steph is the best shooter of all time is simply the variety of shots he hits. Left-handed running hook shots, reverses, floaters, 3-point shots off the dribble, behind screens. It’s the variety and the degree of difficulty of the shots he hits.”
Ainge, who was no slouch in the shooting department himself (.378 lifetime on 3’s and .846 on free throws), got an up-close-and-personal look at Bird’s ability to score while surrounded by multiple defenders, but for sheer creativity, he’s going with Curry.
“That’s why I think Larry was always my first guy of being the best shooter of all time, up until Steph,” Ainge said. “To me, it was the difficulty of shots he made. I mean, Larry could shoot with two guys draped on him, and I used to play Larry one-on-one often before practice. I would be right on him and turn around, and the ball would be going in the basket. That’s what was always amazing to me, how he was able to create that shot and get that shot off with very little space. I see the same qualities in Steph.”
|09.23.15 at 1:16 pm ET|
If the C’s finish with the same 40-42 record they produced in 2014-15, they may not only fail to claim a No. 7 seed again, but miss the playoffs entirely. Just about every Eastern Conference team that finished below Boston last season has since upgraded its roster, save for the 76ers.
“From a coaching standpoint, I always go into a season looking at what I think we’ll be able to do well, and I think you look at what your potential challenges will be,” Stevens told the media gathered at Old Sandwich Golf Club in Plymouth for the team’s annual charity golf fundraiser. “So, I just look at it more as a job. I don’t look at it as what expectations are from results.
“We have such a long way to go to be where we want to be. We have to play better than last year overall to make the playoffs again. The East is better. Teams that didn’t make it really improved. We were as close to 12th as we were to fourth, so time will tell if we make the right strides, but if we take shortcuts or if we’re not connected, then we won’t. So, that’s our job.”
In what has also become an annual tradition, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge offered his list of contenders for the Eastern Conference crown this season.
|09.22.15 at 11:54 am ET|
As anticipated, negotiations between the Celtics and their trio of players entering the final year of their rookie contracts — Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller and Perry Jones III — haven’t moved beyond an initial discussion.
“I’ve had preliminary conversations with the representatives of those players, and we’ll see how it goes in October,” team president Danny Ainge said from Plymouth, where the C’s hosted their annual charity golf tournament to benefit the Shamrock Foundation. “We have until October to make those decisions, and we’ll see how training camp goes.”
Ainge and the agents for Sullinger and Zeller are expected to be far apart on negotiations. The C’s will seek team-friendly deals for a pair of players who haven’t established themselves as anything beyond role players, while those two — as all free agents will be — are anticipating hefty raises when the salary cap balloons $20 million in 2016. As for Jones, he may not even make the roster, so he won’t be signing an extension for an entirely different reason.
“Obviously, it would be nice to have an extension, just because it’s a little more security, but at the same time you’ve got to approach the year, and you can’t be heartbroken if you don’t get it,” said Zeller, one of two players (Jonas Jerebko) at the charity golf event. “You have to be fully prepared. Either way, I’ve got to do my job this year. I have one more year on my contract, so I’ve got to go out and do as much as I can to help our team this year.”
While Sullinger was not present Tuesday, his father was in a foursome at Plymouth’s Old Sandwich Golf Club. The Celtics brass has not seen Satch Sullinger’s son this summer, as the fourth-year big man is not one of eight players working out in Waltham, but Ainge has followed Jared Sullinger’s training regimen on social media. Sort of.
“My eyes aren’t good enough to see the Twitter pictures, nor do I believe most of the Twitter pictures, but I’m not worried about that,” said Ainge, who has criticized Sullinger’s conditioning in the past. “I know Jared is putting in the work this summer. It’s a big year for him and for us, and I’m confident he’s going to have a terrific year.”
But there’s at least a chance neither Sullinger nor Zeller will earn the starting positions they held at various points last season, since the arrival of veterans David Lee and Amir Johnson presents a logjam in the frontcourt. And that could present a problem for a pair of players who need playing time now to increase their value next summer.
“It’s one of those things where hopefully your play speaks for itself,” said Zeller. “You’ve just got to go and find your little niche and what your team needs, where you fit, and hopefully that will kind of talk for itself and get you playing time. And if it doesn’t, you’ve just got to keep working and keep trying to find a spot for you.”
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