Irish Coffee: Celtics answer questions, create more
|09.25.13 at 6:53 am ET|
The Celtics hosted their annual charity golf tournament on Tuesday, signaling the unofficial start of the season. While Media Day looms Monday, the C’s front office, their coach and players addressed a few pressing questions.
As Celtics president Danny Ainge said, ‘I’m very excited about the team, because there are so many questions to be answered and so many unknowns of what’s going to happen and who’s going to step up and who’s not.’
So, without further ado, the answers to the questions you’ve all been asking. And then more questions.
When will Rajon Rondo return?
Since this is the biggest question they face, it deserved its own post. The short of it: Rondo is ‘unlikely’ to start the season, according to coach Brad Stevens, and anything to the contrary would be ‘shocking’ to Ainge & Co.
Where does Jared Sullinger’s domestic violence case stand?
Ainge: ‘The outcome is looking good, but we can’t talk about any of that yet. It’s still pending that conclusion. Jared will be in training camp. He’s in our facility working out every day. I think he’s taking care of everything in the exact right way that he should, and I think that Jared is a good kid and he’s a good Celtic and he’s a guy that we have big hopes for. And we don’t think that he’s done anything so wrong that he shouldn’t be part of our team today.’
Now, how’s that for a non-answer answer? Carry on.
Have they discussed a new contract for Avery Bradley?
‘Sure,’ said Ainge, ‘but there’s nothing imminent there. … We may talk in October, but most likely next summer.’
If the C’s and Bradley don’t agree to an extension by November, he’ll be a restricted free agent after the season.
Ainge, who was in Tacoma, Wash., for Bradley’s mother’s funeral last week, said the 22-year-old ‘seems to be doing better,’ especially given the birth of his first son, Avery Bradley III, on Tuesday morning.
‘I guess we’ll call him AB III,’ said Ainge.
Why haven’t we heard from Gerald Wallace all summer?
‘I’m right there with you,’ said Ainge. ‘I’m anxious to meet Gerald. I’ve met him before when I was doing television, but I haven’t had much conversation with him. He’s really the only one, but he’ll be in town I think next week, so we’ll be watching closely and will sit down. I’ve obviously watched him play a lot of basketball.
‘It’s interesting. Gerald got a good contract in Charlotte, was their best player when they went to the playoffs and that led to a big payday for him. He was traded for two first-round picks to Portland. He played very well in Portland to the point where New Jersey wanted to give away Damian Lillard in order to get him, and then New Jersey wanted him bad enough to pay him a very lucrative contract, so it seems like everywhere he’s been he’s been well-liked and well compensated. He’s a good player.
“It wasn’t a great fit for him in New Jersey last year, but we’ll try to see if we can make it a better fit for us.’
Wait. Is it normal for an executive not to meet a guy he’s paying $10 million a year? ‘It’s a nightmare trying to get a hold of players in the summertime,’ added Ainge. ‘I was the same way when I was a player.’ Well, that explains it.
What can we expect from Jeff Green this season?
‘I think Jeff’s a really important player for our team,’ said Stevens. ‘The reason I say that is because he’s a guy with obviously a high ceiling. He’s very good in the open floor, and I think he can get even better in both the open floor and in the half-court. I think he’s hungry to do well. He’s been in the last nine days, and he’s been very active.
“The thing that Jeff also brings to us that is really unique is he could probably play 2-4 in a given scenario for us. Especially with Rajon out early in the season, you could see him all over the place. That’s going to provide some challenges for him, because he’s going to have to be that much ahead of everybody else in three positions.’
Finally, some basketball talk. And Green seems prepared to be a leader in that discussion. ‘When you start playing basketball, that’s what you want,’ he said. ‘That’s what you work hard for — to be called one of the go-to guys — and this is what I dreamed about. This is what I worked hard for. It’s all coming into fruition right now.’
In order to continue his post-All-Star Game success, Green studied film this summer of his late-season performance. ‘What I see is a lot of ball screens, a lot more open floor, I’ll continue to attack and my outside jumper has evolved. I’m just trying to ride off that.’ Green must take that next step, because he’ll be the focus of opposing defenses now that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce reside in Brooklyn.
‘The target is on Jeff’s back,’ said teammate Courtney Lee. ‘Last year, we had KG and we had Paul. You knew those were our go-to guys, and you had Rondo, who was going to make the play. Jeff is that guy that came along and just showed everybody what he’s capable of doing, and now everybody in the NBA knows that. He’s going to have a big target on his back, but talking with him I think he’s up for that challenge.’
Speaking of Courtney Lee, is he excited not to be coached by Doc Rivers?
It certainly seemed that way. Lee had his minutes slashed during the playoffs, and while the guard admits to struggling a year ago, you couldn’t help but notice how amped he seemed for the upcoming season.
‘Last year was probably one of my worst years I’ve had being in the NBA,’ he said. ‘I spoke about it all the time. I’ve got to find consistency. I got back in the gym. I worked on a lot of ball-handling, a lot of shooting, getting my shot back, and a lot of it had to do with my confidence. I feel that my confidence is skyrocketing right now, so hopefully I make that transition into the season and … get back to playing the way that I’ve always played.’
What’s the health status of Kelly Olynyk?
‘Kelly had some plantar fasciitis, and he had a little back tightness, but he’s fine now,” said Ainge. “He’s playing, he’s working out every day and he should be fine for training camp.’ He also had his chin busted open.
Oh, and the Celtics already have a nickname for the rookie: Sunshine.
What about Vitor Faverani?
Ainge: ‘Vitor’s been playing hard. He also has a little bit of plantar fasciitis, so he doesn’t do a lot of extra conditioning. He’s got his own conditioning. He doesn’t condition with the team as much, but he’s been playing.’
So, he’s still a mystery, then? ‘He’s a very talented player,” added Ainge. “We saw Vitor even before he got here. We’ve had no surprises. He’s got some great skills. He can pass, he can shoot, he can score in the post, but he’s going to have to be more consistent, take better care of the ball than he has in the past and really ingrain himself into our defensive system. Those will be the questions that we’ll see, but he’s a 6-11, 265-pound guy with some skill, and we’re excited about his possibilities.’ Yup, still a mystery.
Who will form the starting frontcourt?
Ainge: ‘I think you’ll see Kelly and Jared playing together. As for, ‘Who’s the 4 and who’s the 5?’ I’m not sure it really matters. I think depending on who we’re playing and how we’re playing, you could see Jared playing some 5 defensively. But that’s an interesting combination of those two guys. And Vitor fits into that mix also. But I’m not sure who’s going to win those jobs.’ For some reason, no mention of Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries.
Who are the non-roster training camp invitees?
Chris Babb, Damen Bell-Holter, DeShawn Sims and Kammron Taylor cement that list. While the Celtics have just enough money to sign one of the four out of camp, it’s unlikely any of them will make the roster.
Has Rondo taken Phil Pressey under his wing yet?
‘A couple weeks ago, when he was here, I talked to him,’ said Pressey. “He’s in my ear, telling me what I should do. I couldn’t ask for one of the best point guards in the NBA to be in my ear, so I’m just trying to listen and learn. ‘¦ I just try to watch everything he does and pretty much mirror him until I can get my feet under me.’
Oh, and what about Jordan Crawford? Has he changed at all?
Nope. Not at all.
‘I’m always competitive, so I don’t look at nothing as a competition,’ he said. ‘That’s just how I’m built. Yeah.’
Meanwhile, when asked who has taken him under his wing, Pressey said, ‘Me and Jordan, we get into it. He talks a lot of trash, so we compete every single day. He likes it; I like it, and it helps me out.’
There you have it. Lots of questions, some answers, and plenty more questions, I’m sure. It’s a brave new world these Celtics are entering without Pierce and Garnett. That much we know for sure.
‘I wouldn’t say this is a team you would put up there and say it was a perfect mesh of players,’ said Ainge, ‘but I would like to see how they play together, who sort of wins jobs and opportunities, and just see how players fit.’
Um, OK. Perhaps the players can put a more positive spin on the upcoming season?
‘You can’t control what’s not in your hands,” said Green, “so I just roll with the punches and move forward. We’ve got some great new faces on the team. I’m standing next to one of them right now (Olynyk). He had a great summer league. With the improvement of myself, Courtney, Jordan Crawford, Avery, with Rondo coming back and Sully, we’re going to have a great team, so we’ll just move forward.’
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2013-14 Boston Celtics. Just moving forward.