Archive for July, 2012

Ray Allen at Heat introductory press conference: ‘It’s a sad thing for me and my family’ to leave Celtics

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

New Heat guard Ray Allen downplayed reports of friction between himself and Rajon Rondo at his introductory press conference Wednesday afternoon in Miami. While Allen acknowledged “there’s differences” and noted that he has been in contact with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett but not Rondo this offseason, he insisted his move to Miami was not sparked by the Celtics‘ enigmatic point guard.

“I haven’t spoken with him at all,” Allen said when asked about his relationship with Rondo. “I know when I came down here I texted Paul and Kevin. Those are the guys that I talked quite a bit with over the years. We shared a lot of similar philosophies. Those are the guys, when we came into Boston together, a lot was put on our shoulders as to whether or not we were going to win. So, I look back at all our time spent in Boston. We’ve had a lot of disappointments, but we’ve shared a lot of thrills. And a lot of that’s off the court.

“So, it is sad to me, knowing that I’m not going to be with those guys anymore. But I’m looking forward to what we can do here in this organization, being a teammate of LeBron [James], being a teammate of Dwyane [Wade], Chris Bosh I just met, Joel Anthony, those guys are all excited to have me here.”

When asked again about Rondo, Allen said: “I can’t say it affected my decision. I think as teammates we were brothers. I’m around them more than I’m around my own family. There’s differences. We all have differences. Paul, he eats Corn Flakes, I might not like Corn Flakes. That’s just part of who we are as individuals. At the end of the day we have to buy into what the coach believes is best for us. As players we have to put our differences aside.”

Allen talked in more detail about the difficulty he had in making the decision and how it affected his former teammates.

“When I was knew I was leaning toward Miami, I actually sent a text out to Kevin, just to let him know,” Allen said. “I just remember this process in ’08 when [James] Posey left us. He left and we just really wanted him back. He went to New Orleans and we didn’t get a chance to try to get Danny to give him a little something extra, or whatever it was. I didn’t want that to be the case with me in this situation.

“So, I texted Kevin, I told him, I said, ‘Hey, I’m leaning this way. I just want you to know,’ without getting into the finite details of the deal. He said, ‘Well, Danny [Ainge] will step up to the plate and do whatever you need him to do.’ I was like, ‘Well, we’ll see.’ That was somewhat of the small discussion that we had.

“I just wanted those guys to know that I appreciate everything they’ve done for me, and it was a joy and a pleasure to play with them.”

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JaJuan Johnson’s fresh start and other day two summer league observations

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

ORLANDO — Late in the Celtics‘ 82-73 victory over the Nets on the second day of the Orlando Summer League, JaJuan Johnson found himself up in the air with nowhere to go but straight down. He landed hard — really hard — on his elbow — but after a brief second or two on the floor, the second-year forward popped back up and headed to the free throw line.

“I’€™m all right,” he said later. “It’€™s not the first time I fell, so it’€™s all good. Nothing a little ice won’€™t take care of. It’€™s part of the game. I’€™m fine.”

There’s a too-easy analogy to make here about Johnson getting up off the deck, but after a rookie season that was mostly spent on the sidelines, Johnson is trying to prove himself and carve out a role on a team that needs frontcourt help. With Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass back, the Celtics are set for starters, but behind them they have rookies and unproven players, for now. There’s opportunity for someone to grab a meaningful role, and frankly, they need at least two of their young players to grab it.

Johnson saw less than 300 minutes of court time as a rookie — only three other first-rounders saw less, not counting a handful of European players who haven’t come overseas yet. There’s no way to gauge anything from those minutes, but he did show some serious athleticism and the Celtics have always known that he can score if given the opportunity. Now they want him to show he can defend and rebound.

“We know he can pick and pop and shoot the ball, we just want him to do other things outside of scoring,” C’s summer league coach Ty Lue said. “Doing the right coverages on defense, blocking shots, running the floor, getting rebounds, stuff like that. He can score the ball so we want to see him do other things.”

Johnson attempted only five shots in their opener on Monday and he was more aggressive from the outset in their second game, knocking down a pair of outside shots. But the Celtics need to know A) if he can hold up against bigger opponents and B) what his natural position truly is in the NBA.

Johnson is too sleight to handle the physical pounding inside, but he is skilled and there was talk last season of ultimately making him into a small forward, albeit a long three. For now, he’s more comfortable playing the four, but he’s had a hand in guarding multiple positions in Orlando, which will serve him well down the line.

“Maybe the four, I think, because I’€™ve had the most reps at the four,” Johnson said. “I’€™m starting to feel comfortable at all of them. I think this experience being able to guard these positions will help me when his season starts.” (more…)

E’Twaun Moore’s big summer

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

ORLANDO — There is little doubt that E’Twaun Moore can play in the NBA. The question is whether he’ll be playing in Boston. If Moore isn’t waived by midnight on Sunday, July 22 after the Celtics‘ final summer league game in Las Vegas, then the second-year of his contract will become guaranteed.

At the moment, Moore’s spot with the Celtics looks fairly secure. With Avery Bradley undergoing surgery on his right shoulder at New England Baptist Hospital on Tuesday, the depth in the backcourt is currently Rajon Rondo, a recuperating Bradley and Moore. Soon, free agent guard Jason Terry will join them when he officially signs a deal for the mid-level exception. The Celtics are actively working to acquire another veteran guard like Courtney Lee to offset the loss of Bradley, who could be out to start next season.

Even if they do land another guard, there may still be a place for the second-year player. He showed flashes in 38 games last season making 38 percent of his 3-pointers. His breakout moment happened here in Orlando when he came off the bench to score 16 points in 18 minutes in a dramatic comeback win over the Magic.

“I’€™m just trying to play,” he said on Monday. “Play hard and get better. That’€™s all I can control and that’€™s all I’€™m thinking about.”

From the day he arrived, Moore has handled himself confidently. He has no doubts that he belonged and it wasn’t an accident that he was usually among the 13 active players during the postseason where he saw action in nine playoff games, mostly in mop-up situations.

“I don’€™t think there’€™s ever a time when he’€™s not confident,” his former Purdue teammate JaJuan Johnson said. “He’€™s been the man since he was younger. He’€™s always been confident, he’€™s always been the better player where he’€™s from. I think that’€™s good for him. He’€™s mentally tough. I’€™ve never seen him playing basketball get down. He’€™s always focused on the task at hand.”

Moore has mostly run the point in summer league and while his size (6-foot-4, 191 pounds) says point guard, he may be better served playing off the ball. Moore had another good game in the Celtics’ 82-73 win over the Nets on Tuesday, scoring 15 points on 5-for-12 shooting with five rebounds, four assists and just two turnovers.

Through two games, he’s the team’s leading scorer with 31 points and has eight assists against just four turnovers. He’s shooting just 39 percent, but he’s also had to create most of his shots himself. He’s not a natural playmaker at the point, but he’s been solid.

“He’€™s growing, he looks good,” said summer league coach Ty Lue. “He plays at his own pace. You can never speed him up. You can never fluster him. He’€™s doing a good job.”

There’s a long way to go between now and July 22, but Moore is making the most of his opportunity.

More than eight teams in mix for Courtney Lee

Monday, July 9th, 2012

ORLANDO — Free agent guard Courtney Lee was talking with Pistons’ coach Lawrence Frank during the Orlando Summer League when the one-time Celtics‘ assistant asked how many teams were after him since the Rockets rescinded their qualifying offer and made him an unrestricted free agent. Lee started down the list of suitors, but there were so many he lost track.

“My brain froze so I couldn’€™t tell him all the teams,” Lee said. “There’€™s more than eight teams. Once they pulled my qualifying offer and made me unrestricted the phone kept ringing.”

One of those teams is the Celtics. Lee met with Doc Rivers over the weekend and the two expressed mutual interest in Lee coming to Boston.

“There was no verbal agreement or anything, we’€™re just hearing each other out,” Lee said. “They expressed their interest. I expressed my interest. It’€™s not basketball wise, there needs to be discussions with the front offices and my agent. They need to communicate and go from there.”

Asked how he would characterize the nature of discussions with the Celtics, Lee said, “I wouldn’€™t know how to characterize it. I have a great relationship with Doc from the first time I stepped on an NBA court. I would say our meeting went well. As far as characterizing where I’€™m at with the team; coach and player-wise we’€™re on the same page.”

Lee’s agent is Dan Fegan, who is well aware that it’s a buyer’s market for shooting guards. His message: Stay patient. Lee understands the situation he’s in and he knows that if he is to work out a deal with the Celtics it would require some maneuvering. The Celtics are over the cap, so any deal with Lee would have to be worked out in a sign-and-trade arrangement with the Rockets.

“There’€™s other ways,” he said. “You know Houston and [GM] Darryl Morey, he loves draft picks and that’€™s one thing you can do with a sign-and-trade.” (more…)

Irish Coffee: Fifty shades of Ray Allen

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Ray Allen‘s decision to take his talents from Boston to South Beach for half the price and better than twice the odds of winning another NBA championship ran most Celtics fans through the five stages of grief.

  • Denial: The Celtics offered Allen $12 million over two years. The Heat offered $9 million over three years. He’s already made $178 million in his career, but there’s no way he’s going to Miami, right? RIGHT?
  • Anger: If Judas Shuttlesworth prefers the glitz and glam of a team in its prime that eliminated the Celtics each of the last two seasons to the grit and balls of an aging team that took LeBron James & Co. to the seventh game of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, who needs him anyway?
  • Bargaining: Never a great defender, the 36-year-old Allen missed 20 games this past season due to a pair of bum ankles, and then averaged just 10.7 points on 39.5 percent shooting in the playoffs. In the end, all he really did was run around and make a couple 3-pointers every night. How hard can he be to replace?
  • Depression: Allen made 1,004 triples in a Celtics uniform, and each seemingly brought the C’s back from the dead, snared a lead or sent a nail through another coffin. Eight broke the NBA finals single-game record, and another set the league’s career mark — all against the Lakers. How can you replace that?
  • Acceptance: Playing through bone spurs, the ever-prepared Allen gave the C’s everything he had until the end, and that never stopped Danny Ainge & Co. from shopping him every trade deadline, benching him for a 21-year-old kid and always keeping his longterm future in Boston on the back burner. Who wouldn’t leave?

Whether like Doc Rivers you believe, “He should’ve stayed,” you lump in with the traitorous likes of Johnny Damon or like me you think his time in a Celtics uniform had come and gone, and his departure won’t change the fates of either team all that much, one thing is clear: Ray Allen didn’t want to be here anymore. Now what?

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Jared Sullinger takes over and other observations from first day of summer league

Monday, July 9th, 2012

ORLANDO — Jared Sullinger has always been the focal point of the teams he’s played on, but this was his first taste of life in the NBA and he didn’t want to seem presumptuous.

“I didn’€™t want to come into the game thinking like, ‘It’€™s all about me, it’€™s all about me,’” he said. “Playing all my life, where everything goes through you, I didn’€™t want to be like that today because I got some teammates that can really play. So I was just trying to feel it out in the first half and the second half, we were falling behind, so I decided to step up and try to score the basketball.”

That’s exactly what he did as he scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half of the Celtics‘ 73-65 win over Oklahoma City in their first summer league game. Sullinger worked down low and it’s clear that he’s comfortable on the block. He also stepped out and made a couple of mid-range jump shots. He even put the ball on the floor, spun into the lane and completed a three-point play.

“He’€™s just a gamer,” said C’s summer league coach,  Ty Lue. “He knows how to play the game. Guys can be taller and more athletic, but he just knows how to play. He’€™s very skilled and he knows how to play the game. We wouldn’€™t have won the game without him today.”

Ever since the Celtics were able to select Sullinger in the first-round of the draft, his ability to play has been a constant theme. He’s not the most athletic player and there are obvious concerns about his back, but his basketball IQ is high and it’s evident watching him operate on the block that he has put in work over the years.

Summer league games are what they are. They can run anywhere from highly entertaining to long, drawn-out slogs and this game ranked more toward the latter end of the scale. Points were tough to come by, but the Thunder also had four first-round picks in their starting five, including center Cole Aldrich and Sullinger more than held his own.

This raises an interesting question as to whether the power forward can slide over and play some center minutes with the Celtics. Team president Danny Ainge raised the possibility during the rookies’ introductory press conference and while it wouldn’t be wise to throw him out there against the likes of Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum, Sullinger said he welcomes the phsyical pounding that comes from playing with the big guys underneath.

“That’€™s fun. That’€™s always fun,” he said. “Get to bang around in the post, back to the basket. You get to guard someone taller than you, it’€™s a challenge. It’€™s always fun doing that. At the same time, it’€™s always fun guarding quicker basketball players. It was fun today.”

Growing up in Ohio, he was tested early by his brothers Julian and J.J. who made sure their little brother learned how take punishment, and more importantly, how to overcome it and still play your game.

“When you go through the air on concrete and they throw you to the ground and you’€™ve got scrapes all over your arms, you learn to concentrate on making the shots, instead of just scraping your arm,” he said. “Every time I’€™d cry, they’€™d yell at me because I’€™m always worried about the scab or something, instead of worrying about making the shot. When you’€™ve got two brothers like that, it’€™s not choice but to make the shots.”

All in all, it was a positive first step in Sullinger’s transition to the NBA. Here are some other observations: (more…)

Wyc Grousbeck on M&M: ‘I think we’ve gotten better’ despite losing Ray Allen

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Celtics managing partner and CEO Wyc Grousbeck joined Mut & Merloni on Monday to talk in-depth about Ray Allen‘s departure to Miami.

Allen chose the rival Heat over the Celtics late last week for less money, surprising a majority of Celtics fans.

“I was surprised, but I wasn’t utterly shocked,” Grousbeck said. “Let’s face it, he was not necessarily going to start. As Doc put it, he felt somehow that he was slighted possibly in the recruiting process in this offseason. … If Doc’s report is correct, Ray felt he was second fiddle to first, Avery Bradley and then Kevin Garnett, so he decided to go to our arch-rival for less than half the money, so be it.”

Added Grousbeck: “I would not blame him [for his negative emotions]. I’ve said to friends of mine and people that I work with over the last few days that the trade deadline and the fact that he was almost traded, it would bother me, if I was Ray. And he has every right to go down to Miami. And we have every right to try and beat those guys.”

There have been rumors circling that Allen and Rajon Rondo did not get along.

“Let’s put it this way, if Ray had come back … he would have played fine with Rondo,” Grousbeck said. “There was a number put out and there were also emotional issues out there. There was a price tag put out there [reported to be $27 million for three years], it just wasn’t one we could get to.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

On Allen’s legacy: “Let’s put it this way, Red Auerbach told me personally and told players in front of me, ‘It’s the name on the front of the jersey, not on the back.’ I think Ray always put the Celtics first and it was never about himself and I think if we’re going to be successful we have to keep doing it that way. We’re going to band together, we’re not going to cut down Ray Allen in any way. We’re going to say the name on the front of your jersey just changed, but you’re always a Celtic to us.”

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