Archive for October, 2013

Celtics, for the last time: Brandon Bass

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

One of the most unpredictable Celtics seasons in recent memory begins Wednesday, and in order to determine the likelihood of each player reaching his full potential, we’ll be examining them individually in this year’s Green Street preview with one form of this question in mind: “When’s the last time ‘€¦ ?” Next up: Brandon Bass.

When’s the last time an overshadowed big emerged in the wake of his frontcourt mate’s blockbuster trade?

Commanding the Celtics frontcourt, Kevin Garnett was talkative, intensive and abrasive. Upon his arrival to Boston in 2011, an inaudible, tranquil and cordial Brandon Bass — Garnett’s starting frontcourt mate the past two seasons following the Glen Davis trade — had zero chance to shine in the shadow of such a bright NBA light.

Trading great bigs isn’t a standard basketball business practice, but it happens, particularly in the twilight of their careers. In the past 15 years, Chris Webber, Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, Shaquille O’Neal, Rasheed Wallace, Alonzo Mourning, Pau Gasol, Jermaine O’Neal, Dwight Howard and Garnett have all been dealt.

In their wake, each left a frontcourt mate who surely hoped to take a(nother) step forward in their departed mentor’s absence. Webber left Juwan Howard in 1998 and Brad Miller in 2005, Ewing left Larry Johnson in 2000, Mutombo left Alan Henderson in 2001, Shaquille O’Neal left the immortal Stanislav Medvedenko in 2004, Wallace left Zach Randolph in 2004, Mourning left Nenad Krstic in 2005, Gasol left Darko Milicic in 2008, Jermaine O’Neal left Troy Murphy in 2008, Howard left Big Baby in 2012 and Garnett left Bass this summer.

Those 10 sidekicks averaged 12.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 blocks and 0.6 steals per game during the season leading up to their star partner’s departure. Those numbers barely budged — dipping ever-so-slightly to 12.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.6 blocks and 0.5 steals — the ensuing season.

Not much changed, clearly. Most stepped back, if only because great players made their teammates better, and Davis took the biggest step forward, which either means nothing (considering Howard’s tumultuous final season in Orlando) or everything (since Bass mentored Big Baby throughout their Baton Rouge childhoods).

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Celtics, for the last time: Vitor Faverani

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

One of the most unpredictable Celtics seasons in recent memory begins Wednesday, and in order to determine the likelihood of each player reaching his full potential, we’ll be examining them individually in this year’s Green Street preview with one form of this question in mind: “When’s the last time ‘€¦ ?” Next up: Vitor Faverani.

When’s the last time an undrafted foreign-born rookie took the NBA world by storm?

Vitor Faverani arrived in Boston as a relative unknown, immediately announced his love of “physical plays, passes, dunks and pick-and-roll” and emerged from the postseason as a fantasy sleeper pick.

His 36-minute averages this October: 16.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks. El Hombre Indestructible, indeed.

Is it possible all 30 teams simply missed the next Anderson Varejao as the Brazilian big man went unnoticed in the 2009 NBA draft, played just 15 minutes a night for four seasons in the Spanish league and sat behind Varejao, Nene and Tiago Splitter on the national team? Generally, 7-footers don’t take scouts by surprise.

Jose Calderon proved undrafted foreign-born players groomed overseas can make an immediate impact in the NBA, but it’s unprecedented for big men. Only three players of that ilk have ever “contributed” to a playoff run as a rookie, and all did so in the past few years — a sign of the times as the influx of Eurobasket players has increased.

Mirza Teletovic appeared in 53 games for the Nets last year, but played all of one minute in Brooklyn’s first-round loss to the Bulls. Timofey Mozgov actually started the Knicks opener in 2010-11, played himself into the Carmelo Anthony deal and missed the final month of the Nuggets playoff run with a knee injury. And the Celtics dumped Semih Erden on a miserable Cavaliers team midway through that same season.

Meanwhile, Gustavo Ayon averaged 5.9 points and 4.9 boards in 20.1 minutes a night for a Hornets team that could afford the luxury of such a player adjusting to the NBA in 2011-12. Likewise, Hamed Haddadi and Vyacheslav Kravtsov made no impact for the lottery-bound 2008-09 Grizzlies and 2012-13 Pistons, respectively.

And that’s it. Unless Faverani is truly unique, which he and his mohawk may very well be, his ceiling is Mozgovian.

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Celtics, for the last time: Avery Bradley

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

One of the most unpredictable Celtics seasons in recent memory begins Wednesday, and in order to determine the likelihood of each player reaching his full potential, we’ll be examining them individually in this year’s Green Street preview with one form of this question in mind: “When’s the last time ‘€¦ ?” Next up: Avery Bradley.

When’s the last time a player emerged as a defensive standout and then made the offensive leap?

Avery Bradley earned what should be the first of a long line of NBA All-Defensive nods last season, joining Mike Conley Jr. in the Second Team backcourt. Considering he returned midseason from surgery on both shoulders the previous summer, his offense continued to lag behind despite averaging a career-high 9.2 points per game.

Bradley’s 40 percent shooting from 3-point range and nearly five field goal attempts at the rim per 36 minutes during his sophomore season offered glimpses of his offensive potential, but his shooting percentages dipped dramatically in 2012-13 (40.6 FG%, 32.2 3P%). That pit bull defense, though, remained tough as ever.

At this point, Bradley is nearing a point where it’s time to either make the jump to becoming a two-way stud or accept an NBA life as a defensive hound. It’s the fork in the road that — in a best-case scenario — either leads to Bruce Bowen‘s career or Dennis Johnson‘s. So, which one is Avery Bradley?

Really, there’s no precedent for a guard establishing an All-Defensive reputation and later making an impact as a double-digit scorer. Guys like D.J., Maurice Cheeks and Joe Dumars had already proven themselves as valuable offensive weapons by the time they made their first All-Defense teams.

History would tell you Bradley’s on a similar career path to Michael Cooper, who made the first of eight All-Defense teams in his third season, submitted his highest scoring average the next year (11.9) and settled in as a career 8.9 points per game scorer. That’s not such a bad scenario, either, considering Cooper won five rings over 12 seasons and took home the 1987 NBA Defensive Player of the Year honor in his ninth year.

Except these Celtics aren’t those Showtime Lakers. They could use the 15.3 points per 36 minutes on 43.8 percent shooting from 3 that Bradley provided this preseason. All it would take is a precedent-setting performance.

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Celtics suspend Jared Sullinger for season opener

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

The Celtics announced the suspension of Jared Sullinger for the season opener on Wednesday night as the result of the Aug. 31 assault charges that were ultimately dropped on Monday.

“Jared’s case was dismissed yesterday in Waltham District Court,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. “While we are satisfied that this was the correct ruling, we are suspending Jared for one game because he failed to meet the high expectations we have for all Celtics employees.”

Sullinger was allegedly involved in a domestic dispute with his former girlfriend, but a Waltham District Court judge dismissed the assault charges when she refused to testify against him. The Celtics forward released an apology soon after the incident, saying he was “embarrassed” by it.

Celtics, for the last time: Gerald Wallace

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

One of the most unpredictable Celtics seasons in recent memory begins Wednesday, and in order to determine the likelihood of each player reaching his full potential, we’ll be examining them individually in this year’s Green Street preview with one form of this question in mind: “When’s the last time ‘€¦ ?” Next up: Gerald Wallace.

When’s the last time a declining over-30 former All-Star enjoyed a career resurgence?

In 2010, Gerald Wallace averaged 18.2 points (48.4 FG%), 10.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks for a seemingly lottery-bound Bobcats team that won 44 games and made the only playoff appearance in franchise history. Likewise, he received his first invitation to an All-Star Game for his efforts.

In the three years since, Wallace’s production steadily declined to last year’s line of 7.7 points (39.7 FG%), 4.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.7 blocks. Hence, the three trades of a former All-Star by his 31st birthday.

Still, Wallace’s “110 percent” effort, proclivity for demanding the same of his teammates, change of scenery from a Brooklyn playing style that didn’t suit his game and arrival to a team in desperate need of production might just be the perfect storm of opportunity he needed to reclaim his All-Star status.

In the past 40 years, however, only one player had at least three years and his 30th birthday pass between his first and second All-Star appearances. His name is Manu Ginobili, and he wasn’€™t in decline between All-Star campaigns in 2005 and 2011. (How Ginobili was snubbed in 2008 is a story for a different blog.)

The only real comparison to Wallace here is Archie Clark, who earned an All-Star invite on the Lakers in 1968, got shipped to the 76ers in the Wilt Chamberlain deal the next season, saw his numbers dip during his first year in Philadelphia and played his way back to an All-Star Game upon being traded to the Baltimore Bullets in 1972.

Only 10 other players made their second All-Star appearance more than three years after their first, including Antoine Walker and Tommy Heinsohn, but all of them did so before age 30. Both Rashard Lewis and Reggie Miller achieved the feat at age 29, and Miller made five trips in all. Larry Nance is the most interesting case. He made his first All-Star bid in 1985, his second on his 30th birthday in 1989 and his third at age 34 in 1993.

In other words, it’s probably best to set realistic expectations for just how far Wallace can resurge.

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Celtics, for the last time: Kelly Olynyk

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

One of the most unpredictable Celtics seasons in recent memory begins Wednesday, and in order to determine the likelihood of each player reaching his full potential, we’ll be examining them individually in this year’s Green Street preview with one form of this question in mind: “When’s the last time ‘€¦ ?” First up: Kelly Olynyk.

When’s the last time a middle-of-the-pack draft pick won NBA Rookie of the Year honors?

Overshadowed by their draft night agreement to send Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, the Celtics traded up to grab Kelly Olynyk in the No. 13 spot this past June, and the 7-footer has already been dubbed “the steal of the draft” in NBA.com’s annual survey of the league’s general managers.

Demonstrating an ability to run the floor and score both inside and out, Olynyk averaged 9.0 points (52.5 FG%), 4.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists during the preseason. But his defense isn’t quite so NBA ready. Quality bigs gave him the revolving door treatment, and his six personal fouls per 36 minutes is cause for concern.

Still, the lack of top-end talent in this year’s draft class combined with Olynyk’s early returns thrust the Gonzaga product onto a short list of potential Rookie of the Year candidates that includes heavy favorite Victor Oladipo.

Of the 64 players ever named NBA Rookie of the Year, only four were drafted in the double digits. The last to do so was Mark Jackson, who captured the award in 1987-88 when the Knicks selected him 18th. The others: Jamaal Wilkes (1974-75: Golden State Warriors, 11th), Woody Sauldsberry (1957-58: Philadelphia Warriors, 60th) and Don Meineke (1052-53: Fort Wayne Pistons, 12th). Amare Stoudemire, drafted ninth by the Suns in 2002-03, is the lowest draft pick of the 21st century to earn ROY. So, the next time you think about placing Olynyk in the NBA Rookie of the Year conversation, remember he’d have to be a real Woody Sauldsberry to do so.

Jared Sullinger cleared of domestic violence charges

Monday, October 28th, 2013

The domestic violence charges against Celtics forward Jared Sullinger have been dismissed, according to Boston Globe news reporter David Abel.

Sullinger’s former girlfriend refused to testify and requested charges be dismissed against him, Abel said, and the Middlesex County district attorney’s had no choice but to drop the case. The Waltham District Court judge obliged.

Sullinger reportedly would not comment on the case but offered this response to a question about his status: “Ready to play.” The Celtics are scheduled to travel to Toronto for Wednesday’s season opener.

In early September, Sullinger first appeared in court after being arrested and charged with assault and battery, destruction of an iPhone and intimidation of a witness for allegedly pinning his then girlfriend to the bed, pushing her, grabbing her iPhone and smashing it when she attempted to call police during an argument over perceived infidelity.

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