|Goran Dragic ‘surprised’ Isaiah Thomas landed in Boston||03.25.15 at 11:54 pm ET|
Goran Dragic requested a trade from the Suns, so when Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough also dealt Isaiah Thomas minutes before the deadline, the news came as a bit of a shock.
“If I’m honest, I was a little bit surprised, especially because I asked for the trade,” said Dragic after his Heat beat the Celtics, 93-86. “But that’s how the NBA goes. It’s a business.”
Following Dragic’s Third Team All-NBA campaign in 2013-14, Phoenix acquired Isaiah Thomas on a four-year, $27 million contract in a sign-and-trade with the Kings — seemingly as insurance should restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe find a lucrative contract offer elsewhere.
Only the Suns then reached a five-year, $70 million deal to keep Bledsoe in Phoenix. In theory, the Suns entered this season capable of extending the two-point-guard attack that worked so well last season over a full 48 minutes, but reality eventually took over on the court.
“Unfortunately, we had three point guards at the same position and only one ball,” added Dragic, who scored a game-high 22 points Wednesday, “so it’s kind of hard to satisfy everybody.”
In the end, Dragic landed in Miami, where he’s excited about the Heat’s playoff potential, especially if they can ever get healthy, and Thomas found his way to Boston. While rumors spread that the two former teammates butted heads in Phoenix, both players squashed that notion.
Asked about the on-court dynamic between the two during their 46 games as a backcourt tandem, Thomas said, “It was nice. When we did play together, it worked. He’s a hell of a player.”
“I talked with Isaiah. He’s happy here. He was a great teammate. We had a good relationship,” added Dragic, who then offered a glowing scouting report on Thomas, who returned from injury on Wednesday. “He can score in bunches. He’s an offensive-minded player. If he’s hot, he can score 30 points easy. He has that quality to put his team on his shoulders, especially on offense.”
As for Thomas’ new backcourt mates, Dragic is also impressed and seems to think they complement him well. “[Marcus Smart] is aggressive like Avery Bradley. They’re really good defenders on the ball. … It’s always nice to have these kinds of players on your team, because you know they’re going to defend the whole game, and they’re going to cause a lot of problems for the offense.”
|Irish Coffee: The case for Brad Stevens as NBA Coach of the Year||03.25.15 at 3:28 pm ET|
For starters, I’m not saying Celtics coach Brad Stevens will or even should win the NBA’s Coach of the Year honor. Mike Budenholzer and Steve Kerr are the heavy favorites, and rightfully so, considering their Hawks and Warriors respectively perch atop the East and West.
Rather, this is the argument one could make for Stevens should anyone choose to do so.
There has been much discussion about the difficulty in evaluating a perceived increase in coaching influence around the league, but there are certain truths about a coach’s role we hold self-evident ‘ their ability to effect wins and losses, design effective offenses and defenses, and manage ebbs and flows of rosters often altered by trades and injuries.
With those in mind, let’s examine eight statistical measures as they relate to all 30 teams: 1) win percentage, 2) point differential, 3) offensive rating, 4) defensive rating, 5) net rating, 6) pace of play, 7) roster turnover and 8) total games missed by its members. The first five are objectively obvious, and the final three allow for subjective interpretation.
For example, no team slowed its pace more than the Lakers since last season, if only because of new coach Byron Scott’s grinding approach, no team turned over its roster more than the Cavaliers, as a result of King James and his court, and no team missed fewer man games during the 2013-14 regular season than the Thunder ‘ a stark contrast to this year’s edition.
So, let’s first look at how significantly each team changed from 2013-14 to 2014-15.
|5 things we learned as Evan Turner’s triple-double cuts down Nets||03.23.15 at 10:03 pm ET|
With their grip on a playoff spot slipping, the Celtics snapped a three-game losing streak in convincing fashion, defeating the fellow Eastern Conference postseason contending Nets 110-91 in Brooklyn on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Celtics won on the back end of a back-to-back for the eighth time in nine tries and improved their record to 31-39, which combined with losses by the Pacers (30-40) and Hornets (30-39) vaults them back into the East’s eighth seed. The Nets dropped to 29-40, and while they remain only a half-game back of the C’s, Boston’s victory gives them a 3-1 head-to-head tiebreaker for the season. Four and a half games separate the Bucks (34-36) in sixth and Brooklyn in 11th.
Avery Bradley led all Celtics with 20 points, and Evan Turner submitted a triple-double (19 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds). Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller each added 18 points, Brandon Bass netted 12 and Jonas Jerebko finished with 10. Seven different Celtics grabbed at least five rebounds.
For a complete box score, click here.
|5 things we learned as Russell Westbrook, Thunder snap Celtics’ streak||03.18.15 at 10:48 pm ET|
The Thunder scored 40 third-quarter points, and the Celtics never recovered, snapping a five-game win streak with a 122-118 loss in Oklahoma City.
The C’s fell to 30-37 on the season, losing a game on the Heat (31-36), who beat the Blazers on Wednesday night. Elsewhere, the Pacers (30-37) fell to the Bulls, the Bucks (34-34) lost to the Spurs, and the Cavaliers beat the Nets (27-39). The Celtics lead the idle Hornets by a half-game and remain tied with Indiana for eighth place, trailing Miami by a game for seventh and Milwaukee by 3.5 games for sixth.
Marcus Smart collected 25 points — including a franchise rookie record seven 3-pointers — to go along with nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks, leading six Celtics in double figures. Kelly Olynyk (20 points), Brandon Bass (20 points), Avery Bradley (13 points), Tyler Zeller (12 points) and Jae Crowder (11 points) rounded out the double-digit scorers, and Evan Turner chipped in with five steals, six rebounds, eight points and a team-high 10 assists.
Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 36 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and five steals, while Enes Kanter added 22 points and 10 rebounds. With the victory, Oklahoma City (38-30) opened up a half-game lead over the Pelicans for eighth place in the Western Conference sans Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka.
For a complete box score, click here.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics, playoffs and tiebreakers, oh my||03.17.15 at 12:44 pm ET|
The bad news: Contrary to popular opinion, the Celtics are not currently in the playoff picture, since as of today they would lose the tiebreaker to both the Pacers and Heat based on their sub-.500 record against Eastern Conference opponents.
The good news: If the Celtics (30-36) have one more win than Charlotte (29-36), Indiana (30-36) and Miami (30-36) when all is said and done, they’ll capture the same seventh seed they earned when last they made the playoffs in 2013.
Heck, based on their performance since the NBA trade deadline (10-5, including five straight victories), there’s even an outside possibility the red-hot Celtics could catch the reeling sixth-seeded Bucks (34-32), whose four wins in 13 games since trading Brandon Knight have come against the Nuggets, 76ers, Wizards and Magic.
Obviously, that’s jumping ahead a bit, so let’s step back and take a look at the remaining schedules of the four Eastern Conference teams now tied with 36 losses.
Wednesday: at Thunder (37-30)
Friday: at Spurs (41-24)
Sunday: vs. Pistons (23-43)
Monday: at Nets (27-38)
March 25: vs. Heat (30-36)
March 27: at Knicks (13-53)
March 29: vs. Clippers (42-25)
March 30: at Hornets (29-36)
April 1: vs. Pacers (30-36)
April 3: vs. Bucks (34-32)
April 4: at Raptors (40-27)
April 8: at Pistons (23-43)
April 10: at Cavaliers (43-26)
April 12: vs. Cavaliers (43-26)
April 14: vs. Raptors (40-27)
April 15: at Bucks (34-32)
BY THE NUMBERS: .498 opponents’ winning percentage; 9 games vs. teams above .500; 9 road games; 7 games vs. teams below .500; 7 home games; 4 back-to-backs.
|Irish Coffee: Bill Walton’s St. Patrick’s Day revisited||03.17.15 at 9:09 am ET|
The NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year as a member of the 1985-86 Celtics that finished 67-15 during the regular season — and 41-1 at home in the Boston Garden — on their way to winning 15-of-18 playoff games and the franchise’s 16th NBA title, Bill Walton can wish you a St. Patrick’s Day far better than I can.
So, without further ado, I give you Walton uncensored, about five or six Guinesses deep most likely (from his 2011 appearance on the Big Show four years ago):
“Go Green. Go Guinness. I’m popping one right now. Ten million pints poured every day around this great globe of ours — the globe, the most perfect orb, just like the basketball. The basketball by itself does nothing, but when you make it an extension of your mind the way that [Rajon] Rondo does, the way that Danny Ainge did and DJ [Dennis Johnson] and Larry [Bird] and Kevin [McHale] and Chief [Robert Parish] and Jerry [Sichting] and Rick [Carlisle] and Scotty [Wedman] and all the guys did — but when you’re able to make an extension of your mind, of what it is you’re doing in life, whether it’s drinking a Guinness responsibly, whether you’re bouncing that magic basketball for the Celtic Green, you can make a difference, and that’s what we’re calling everybody to do on St. Patrick’s Day, the start of the college tournament, the most perfect harmonic convergence ever. Be bold, stand tall, quit your job and chase your dreams. …
“I only drink Guinness, the holy water falling from the sky, delivering spiritual guidance. We’re blessed. We’re so blessed. We’re on record pace, and we’re having the time of our life. …
“When this morning started, and it started more than 24 hours ago, the call to action was to take the day off. Who wants to lead a watered down life? C’mon. Let’s get up and be bold. Forget just taking the day off, just quit your job. Make your dream your job, and that’s what I was able to do. My parents ask me to this very day, ‘So, Billy, did you ever get a job?’ I’m closer than ever to being able to say yes. It’s so special. The remarkable thing about Guinness in our world is that in the mother country, Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday. In Canada, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday. Somewhere, we got lost along the path, along the golden road to unlimited devotion. …
|Report: George Mason eyes Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga for vacant coaching position||03.16.15 at 10:24 am ET|
A Celtics coach is the focus of a college program’s search to fill its vacant position, and it’s not who you might have expected.
George Mason University is eyeing C’s assistant Jay Larranaga as a potential replacement for recently fired Patriots coach Paul Hewitt, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Jay’s father Jim Larranaga led George Mason to the 2006 Final Four during his 13 seasons at the helm of the Virginia-based school before accepting his current position as head coach of the University of Miami in 2011.
One of two holdovers from Doc Rivers‘ coaching staff (Jamie Young is the other), Larranaga deserves partial credit as Brad Stevens‘ top assistant for the C’s playoff push in the absence of Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and most recently Isaiah Thomas. Prior to joining the Celtics‘ staff in 2012, Larranaga enjoyed success as the head coach of the NBA D-League’s Erie BayHawks and an assistant under Mike Fratello on the Ukraine National Team.
Larranaga was a candidate for the C’s head coaching position before Stevens’ hiring in 2013 and twice interviewed for the open 76ers job before Philadelphia hired Brett Brown that same summer.
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