|02.26.14 at 11:34 am ET|
HANDS ON HIS KNEES, gasping for air, there stood a teenaged Danny Ainge. Covered in sweat, surrounded by members of the Portland Trail Blazers, Ainge looked up to see the greatest Blazer of all. With his shaggy beard and full head of red hair, there was a smiling Bill Walton.
“I’ve known Danny since I moved to Oregon 40 years ago,” said Walton. “He was just in high school in Eugene when we got there. Danny would come up and play with us when he was in high school, and he would do just fine. In fact, he was incredibly fun to play with.”
The young Ainge, still sharpening his teeth as a three-sport All-American at North Eugene High School, would impress his NBA teammates with a strong handle and perfect jumper. The piece of his game that most impressed these professional basketball players was one that still cannot be found on a stat sheet. Ainge’s intelligence put him on another level as a basketball player.
“Danny Ainge is brilliant,” said Walton. “Even at a young age, he was very motivated, dedicated and committed. He’s always been a visionary.”
Ainge has always embraced different ideas. Conventional wisdom is not a phrase you hear the 54-year-old utter to defend his thought process. Just as Ainge was dedicated to the idea of playing professional basketball, he’s now applied his drive to his role as a president of basketball operations for the Celtics. And, depending on who is speaking, his latest big idea may be his greatest.
THE BOSTON CELTICS are spitting in the face of history. Luring Brad Stevens away from Butler and flying him first-class to Boston is a daring move even for a team with a deep history of bold moves. The Celtics, after all, hired the first African-American head coach in the NBA. Amidst all sorts of race issues in the United States, this franchise started the first entirely black starting five. The team, led by the undaunted Red Auerbach, was never hesitant. The Celtics thought differently, courageously, unafraid — in 1950, one year before Oliver Brown and friends began their battle against the Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas — the Celtics used a second-round pick on Chuck Cooper, the first black player to be drafted by an NBA team and the second to appear in a game (one day after Washington Capitols forward Earl Lloyd). Trendsetting rarely has surfaced as an issue at 151 Merrimac Street. Yet with Ainge’s hiring of Stevens, the fabled Celtics franchise is following a trend with an extremely high failure rate. College coaches from the past two decades have not succeeded in the NBA. But here are the Celtics, hiring a 37-year-old coach who never played a second of pro basketball, reintroducing the league to a rather old concept. Not that Stevens will fail, but that the Celtics — led by Ainge — will reset the trend. The rest of the league, pawns outplayed by a dominating queen, will see the Celtics succeed with Stevens.
“Brad is smart, he has great integrity, his teams execute and play hard, and he’s a great communicator,” said Ainge. “Experience as a player can help as a coach, but it’s not mandatory. Experience as a coach in college can make a big difference as well. Coach Stevens has proven he’s a great coach. Coaching in the NBA is different, I understand, but in terms of coaching experience, there have been a lot of guys who have become really good coaches that weren’t NBA players.”
|02.25.14 at 2:49 pm ET|
|02.25.14 at 2:34 pm ET|
Celtics guard Rajon Rondo was not scheduled to play in Saturday’s game against the Kings in Sacramento — the second night of a back-to-back that started with a game against the Lakers — but he apparently did not have the team’s permission to stay in Los Angeles rather than accompany the team on its flight north.
The Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett reported that Rondo stayed in Los Angeles to celebrate his 28th birthday with family, and that he might have assumed he didn’t need to fly with the team as he had been left home rather than make a trip to Milwaukee for a Feb. 10 game that was the second of a back-to-back.
Rondo implied that the matter was settled, telling the Herald: “We already talked about it. There’s nothing to talk about.”
However, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge did not sound as convinced.
“I plan on talking to Rondo when he gets back into town,” Ainge told the Herald. “I’ll find out more about what went into it, and then we’ll handle it internally. We handle all of those kind of issues internally.”
|02.24.14 at 11:30 pm ET|
This was the Celtics‘ chance.
After losing 17 straight games on the road against Western Conference teams, including all 12 this season, the C’s respite from their cross-conference road suffrage was set up perfectly for them: a matchup with a hapless Jazz team that entered Monday night’s game just half a game ahead of the last-place Lakers.
Instead, the streak moved to 18 as the Celtics fell, 110-98, at Utah.
Now, it’s exceedingly possible that the Celtics (19-39) will go the entire 2013-14 season without beating a West team on the road. They still have two games remaining out West, but Boston squandered an opportunity on its four-game road trip that just concluded. Boston lost all four games, despite three of the games coming vs. the worst three teams in the West record-wise.
Jeff Green produced his second-straight high-volume game, as he tossed in 21 points on 16 shots. Kelly Olynyk came off the bench to spark Boston with 21 points, Rajon Rondo recorded 18 points and Jerryd Bayless chipped in 13 points off the bench.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS
Shooting: The difference in this game can very simply be chalked up to the Celtics failure to shoot the ball compared to the Jazz‘s ability to knock down shots. Boston dug itself a hole in the first three quarters by shooting 40 percent from the field and finishing 1-for-9 beyond the arc, while allowing Utah to bury 59 percent of its shots, and convert on 5-of-12 3-pointers. The Celtics fought back in the fourth quarter and made the final shooting figures more even, but the 15-point third quarter deficit was too much to overcome.
Turnovers: When you’re not shooting the ball well, and the Celtics weren’t, it’s imperative to avoid turnovers and maximize the number of possessions. Boston did not do this, as it gave the ball away 14 times (leading to 15 Jazz points), with the starters accounting for 11 of those. Rondo committed a team-high five turnovers, and all three of the bench turnovers were credited to Bayless.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS
Rondo: You can argue that the Celtics are being overly cautious in holding out Rondo in the second game of back-to-backs, but the evidence that the extra day off benefits Rondo is indisputable. Entering Monday, Rondo had sat out the second game of three back-to-backs thus far. In the game following his rest, he’s averaged 13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists while shooting 68 percent from the field and 60 percent from 3-point land. He continued that trend of success against Utah as Rondo finished with 18 points, 10 assists and three rebounds, after sitting out Boston’s loss to the Kings on Saturday.
Olynyk: The Celtics’ top pick in the 2013 draft has fumbled through an uneven rookie season, but was one of Boston’s lone bright spots in the loss. Olynyk, who’s averaging 6.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, was the only Celtic off the bench with double-digits, as the 7-footer tossed in 21 points, and added eight rebounds, four assists and a steal.
|02.23.14 at 12:40 am ET|
The Celtics lost out on another opportunity to register their first win on the road vs. a Western Conference team this season, as they fell to the Kings, 105-98, on Saturday.
Boston’s (19-38) current four-game road trip looked like the perfect opportunity for the team to snap its road woes vs. the West, but after falling in Sacramento (19-36), the Celtics have now lost all 12 road games against the West this year, and their last 17 dating back to last season. Boston still has three road more cracks at it (the Jazz on Feb. 24, the Pelicans on March 16, the Mavericks on March 17).
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS
No Sullinger, Rondo, Bradley: The Celtics played without three impact starters in Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley. Bradley (ankle) did not make the road trip, necessitating a promotion into the starting lineup for veteran Gerald Wallace. Since returning from a lengthy absence due to a knee injury, the Celtics have avoided playing Rondo in back-to-back games (Boston lost to the Lakers, 101-92, Friday night). Phil Pressey stepped in for Rondo at point guard, but after an uneven first half, Bayless started for Pressey in the second half. Sullinger suffered a mild concussion in the game versus Los Angeles, and Humphries took his place in the starting lineup.
Green’s resilience: Green began the game ice cold as deep into the second quarter, his stat line was highlighted by his 0-for-9 shooting from the field, and an atrocious -19 plus-minus. But Green did not let his cold start ruin the rest of his game. His overall shooting night (7-for-25) doesn’t look impressive, but after missing his first nine shots, he put together a respectable 7-for-16 line. Additionally, Green reached the free throw line 18 times, converting on 13. Green’s faced constant criticism this season for his lack of aggressiveness at times, but no one could complain about his tentativeness Saturday after he attempted 11 more shots than his per-game average this season.
3-point shooting: Boston actually finished the game with more 3-pointers (six) than Sacramento (five), but for a few reasons, that simple statistic did not properly encapsulate the Celtics‘ disadvantage from beyond the arc. For starters, Boston missed 15 triples, and finished at 28.6 percent from downtown, compared to the Kings who missed just four treys. Additionally, every single one of the Celtics‘ missed threes ended in an empty possession — no second chances and corresponding points were recorded off of the 15 missed 3-pointers.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS
Rebounding: Without their top rebounder Sullinger, and facing a dominant offensive rebounding team, the Celtic could have been excused for faltering on the boards against Sacramento. But despite missing Sullinger’s 8.3 rebounds per game, Boston held the rebounding advantage (42-38), and limited the Kings, the NBA’s sixth best offensive rebounding team, to just three offensive rebounds. It took until the 7:05 minute of the third quarter for Sacramento to grab its first rebound on the offensive end.
Humphries starts: On Saturday, Humphries was summoned back into the starting lineup for the injured Sullinger, and he stepped up with a complete performance. Humphries’ 19 points (9-for-13 from the field) were the most he’s scored all season, and he stuffed the stat sheet with eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals. He also made life tough for Sacramento’s double-double machine Cousins. The two sparred all night, but Humphries got the best of the immensely talented, but equally hot-headed Cousins, who finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and six turnovers. The 6-foot-11, 270-pound center averages 22.3 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, and in Boston’s first matchup with the Kings, he went for 31 points and 16 rebounds.
Anthony contributes: Since the Celtics traded for former Heat forward Joel Anthony, his role with the team has been relegated primarily to a spectator. He entered Saturday with just 38 minutes in 17 games as a Celtic. But with Boston’s frontline thin, Anthony saw more minutes than he’s used to off the bench. The six-year veteran provided a spark in 10 minutes of game time, his highest total in a game since joining the Celtics. Anthony, never a prolific scorer to begin with, only tallied two points, but grabbed six rebounds, including four offensive, and blocked a shot.
|02.22.14 at 10:58 am ET|
In somewhat of a surprise, Danny Ainge watched Thursday’s trade deadline come and go without shipping any of the current Celtics out of town. Although there were no deals that will take over the headlines, there certainly were moves made that will affect the NBA draft.
Typically, the focus of this post is college basketball‘s top stars and their draft stock — with the possibility that they may end up in Boston. But with a quiet week for the prospects, this week’s focus will be on why Ainge’s lack of a move can only hurt Boston’s lottery odds.
While the Pacers are getting attention for adding Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen, it should not go unnoticed that the 76ers are subtracting those players from a 15-win team. In addition, Philly sent its starting center, Spencer Hawes, to the Cavaliers. These moves leave the 76ers roster without two of its top four scorers this season.
Although Philly landed a multitude of second-round-picks (crazy stat: the 76ers now have nine second-rounders in this year’s draft — 30 percent of the picks in the round), they have essentially guaranteed themselves to finish in the bottom three of the league. Although the Sixers became the biggest ‘tankers’ of the deadline, other teams made splashes, too.
The 10-win Bucks dumped Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour on the playoff-hopeful Bobcats. The Lakers shipped Steve Blake away to give the Warriors backcourt depth, despite Kobe Bryant tweeting that he’s ‘not cool’ with the move. And the Magic, who couldn’t find a trade to make, decided to simply buy out the contract of Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis.
So what’s the significance of all these seemingly insignificant moves? All of those teams that rid themselves of contributors sit below the Celtics in the standings.
Although Ainge was active earlier in the season, it appears he now has limited Boston’s odds at an elite draft pick simply by doing nothing. The idea of tanking rests solely on the GM’s ability to take key pieces away from the team; coaches and players are going to give it their all every night.
On the positive side of the spectrum, all the teams above the Celtics in the standings, aside from the Jazz, feel they have what it takes to make a playoff push. This still means in all likelihood that Boston can finish with the seventh-highest lottery odds at worst. But at the same time it makes it very difficult to see the Celtics landing inside the top five picks without a little help from the ping pong balls.
|02.22.14 at 1:05 am ET|
MarShon Brooks, who played 10 games this season for the Celtics before being dealt to Golden State, poured in 10 fourth-quarter points for a Lakers team that had acquired him from the Warriors earlier in the week. Brooks led a fourth-quarter surge by Los Angeles in which the Lakers outscored their visitors by 20 points (38-18) en route to a 101-92 victory at the Staples Center.
Brooks shot 7-for-11 from the field, joining a balanced offensive attack that featured six Lakers (including Pau Gasol, who scored 16 in his first game since Jan. 31) in double digits. Though the Celtics entered the fourth quarter with an 11-point lead, the Lakers blitzed them with a 13-2 run in the first 3:03 of the final quarter, with the two sides trading buckets and leads before Jordan Farmar‘s 16-footer put Los Angeles up for good at the 8:10 mark.
The Celtics were paced by Jeff Green‘s 21 points, but the forward battled foul trouble for much of the night. Jared Sullinger recorded a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) but shot 6-of-16 from the field, while Rajon Rondo misfired on 10 of his 12 shots (though he managed to contribute 11 assists and six boards).
For more from the game, click here.
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