|Fast Break: Paul Pierce, Celtics run Kings out of Garden||01.30.13 at 9:54 pm ET|
In their first full game since learning they would finish the season without All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce (16 points, 10 rebounds) and the Celtics ran the Kings out of the building in a 99-81 victory that had the fans who stayed until the end of the blowout on their feet in appreciation.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Running men: Before Tuesday’s practice, Doc Rivers said his team would kickstart the transition game by way of the pass (rather than Rondo’s dribble) — a la the Celtics of the 1980s — and for one night they succeeded. By halftime, a C’s team that entered the game averaging 13.4 fast break points had already reached double figures, and the running game was a big reason for their 62.5 field goal percentage at the break.
Front of the house: While much of the focus remained on how the backcourt would perform, just about everybody in the C’s frontcourt came to play — thanks in large part to a complete lack of interest from DeMarcus Cousins. Kevin Garnett (13 points, 9 rebounds) and Jeff Green (12 points) combined for 10-of-10 shooting and 21 points in the first half, Pierce got his double-double and Brandon Bass (12 points) played admirably off the bench.
JET taking off: Over the past three games, Jason Terry has made 13-of-25 shots (6-14 3P) and scored at least 12 points in each game. In the first 12 games of this month, he finished 27-of-72 from the floor (9-35 3P) and reached 12 points only twice. The C’s Sixth Man also had at least four assists for the first time in three weeks. All positive signs that the backcourt can replace some of Rondo’s offense.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Back in the saddle: For the first time this season, Jared Sullinger‘s health became an issue. His back is the reason he dropped to the Celtics at No. 21 in the draft, and he asked out of the game in the first quarter against the Kings, walking gingerly back to the locker room ahead of team trainer Ed Lacerte and team physician Dr. Brian McKeon. While the team originally announced Sullinger was “likely to return” despite back spasms, the Celtics stormed to a double-digit lead and quickly declared the rookie “out for the night.”
Foul mood: Has Jason Collins always been this foul happy? He came into the game averaging 8.3 personal fouls per 36 minutes, and things got worse when he committed three personal fouls in 2:38 during the first half. That number is by far the worst of his career, and Collins averaged almost half as many fouls per 36 minutes last season. This year? He has almost as many personal fouls (56) as points and rebounds combined (60).
Royal pain: Basketball fans suffered for having to watch the Kings play on Wednesday night. Outside of Tyreke Evans (19 points, 11 rebounds), nobody played well for Sacramento, especially Cousins, who rarely found the energy to leave the perimeter on offense and played like a saloon door on defense. Kings fans deserve better than losing their team to Seattle for having to watch this group over the past several years.
|Keyon Dooling: ‘I wont be returning this season’||01.30.13 at 2:58 pm ET|
Former Celtics guard Keyon Dooling, who currently serves as a player development coordinator within the organization, announced via Twitter that he will not be returning to play for the team this season.
— Keyon Dooling (@AmbassadorKD) January 30, 2013
After the C’s announced Rajon Rondo‘s season-ending ACL injury, Dooling originally told The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn he’d consider resuming his playing career. Celtics coach Doc Rivers also expressed interest in adding the 32-year-old guard, although team president Danny Ainge shot down that notion.
“We don’t have anything on the trade cooker. We weren’t going to trade Rondo,” Ainge told the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy. “But I’m not going to bring someone in now who is just going to sit on the bench. We could sign a couple of players to minimum contracts, but that’s all we can do right now. We have to see whether someone becomes available through trade or free agency who can actually crack our rotation.”
It’s unclear whether Dooling could have returned, even if both parties agreed, after the Celtics waived him prior to his retirement before training camp in October. Here’s how NBA salary cap guru Larry Coon explains it.
There’s nothing binding about a player announcing his retirement. The player can still sign a new contract and continue playing (if he’s not under contract), or return to his team (if he is still under contract) and resume his career.
The only exception to this is when a player is still under contract, wants to quit, and his team doesn’t want to let him out of his contract. Under these circumstances the player can file for retirement with the league. The player is placed on the league’s Voluntarily Retired list, forgoes his remaining salary, and cannot return to the league for one year.
|Paul Pierce: ‘I want to retire as a Celtic’||01.29.13 at 1:06 pm ET|
Since Rajon Rondo‘s season-ending ACL injury, there’s been plenty of talk about trading Paul Pierce, but the Celtics captain made his plea to the media before the team’s first practice since losing their All-Star point guard.
“I want to retire as a Celtic,” said Pierce. “That’s been my longtime goal, but it’s not under my control. The organization, they make their decisions, but it’s something I’ve desired since being here so long.”
While Pierce has $15.3 million on his contract next season, only $4 million of that deal is guaranteed, so Celtics president Danny Ainge will surely be fielding phone calls inquiring about the 35-year-old. Still, responding to a question about whether or not the Celtics are already looking to fill one of two open roster spots, coach Doc Rivers said Ainge “has not brought up anything” in terms of roster changes in the aftermath of Rondo’s injury.
The Celtics did call up rookie center Fab Melo from the Maine Red Claws. Rivers also confirmed that Courtney Lee and Jared Sullinger will remain in the starting lineup with Pierce, Avery Bradley and Kevin Garnett.
|10 options for Celtics to fill Rajon Rondo’s void||01.28.13 at 12:44 pm ET|
In the wake of Rajon Rondo‘s season-ending right ACL tear, the Celtics surely will be looking to add depth behind Avery Bradley, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa in the backcourt as soon as possible.
In all likelihood, that group offers the best four options for C’s president Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers to fill the void left by Rondo’s injury, and while nobody will replace the four-time All-Star’s impact, there are plenty of available players who could eat minutes in his absence. Here are 10 options.
NBA FREE AGENTS
Keyon Dooling: After abruptly retiring this past fall and accepting a player development role within the Celtics organization, Dooling told The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn he’d consider a comeback. This route probably makes the most sense, considering Dooling’s experience in the C’s system and his influence on the locker room. If he plays himself into NBA shape, his manic defense and 3-point shooting could also be useful weapons at the end of the bench.
Jonny Flynn: After a disappointing NBA career, the No. 6 overall pick in 2009 now plays for the Melbourne Tigers in the Australian National Basketball League. His contract reportedly includes a clause that allows him to return stateside should an NBA team come calling. Flynn’s averages of 5.2 points and 3.8 assists in 29 games for the Rockets and Blazers last season have translated into 16.8 points and 6.0 assists in the mediocre NBL.
Jeremy Pargo: The Cavaliers traded D.J. Kennedy for Pargo and a second-round pick, but they dropped the 26-year-old Gonzaga product after 25 games. He averaged 7.8 points and 2.6 assists in 17.9 minutes for Cleveland.
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo-less Celtics defeat Heat||01.27.13 at 4:08 pm ET|
Ray Allen returned to Boston, and it wasn’t even the biggest story of Sunday’s battle between the Eastern Conference rival Celtics and Heat. While news of Rajon Rondo‘s ACL tear trickled out around halftime, the C’s submitted their most impressive performance of the season in a 100-98 double-overtime victory.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Starting Sully: Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger‘s production was finally too much for coach Doc Rivers to ignore. The C’s are 9.3 points better when he’s on the floor than when he sits, the best of any player on the team, so his replacement of Brandon Bass in the starting lineup was practically inevitable. His rebounding, ability to score on the inside and willingness to hit the floor for loose balls helped the Celtics remain tied going into halftime.
Brazilian Blur: Likewise, Leandro Barbosa gave the Celtics an energetic lift off the bench, scoring seven points in 10 first-half minutes. Entering the game, Barbosa’s 15.8 points per 36 minutes ranked third on the team behind only Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. While Jason Terry continues to struggle, there’s no reason Rivers shouldn’t give his minutes to Barbosa to kickstart a woeful Celtics offense.
“Pitbulls”: Apparently, that’s the nickname for the starting backcourt of Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee, who started in place of the injured Rondo. They lived up to the moniker, holding their Heat counterparts Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers to subpar nights. Even on a tough shooting night for both, their defense made a definite impact on the game. That’s what the Celtics will have to rely upon going forward.
Heart of a champion: With Rondo out for the season, Celtics veterans Paul Pierce (17 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) and Kevin Garnett (24 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists) each came up huge in the final minutes of regulation and both overtimes, punctuating a valiant effort from a team without its brightest star. Pierce’s sweet spin move past Allen in the lane and Garnett’s 18-foot jumper gave the Celtics an 85-81 lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Pierce also fed Garnett for a pair of buckets to tie the game 93-93 with 1:14 left in the first overtime. And Pierce buried a jumper over LeBron James to give the C’s a 99-98 lead with 30.4 seconds left in double OT.
Of course, Jeff Green‘s dunk over Chris Bosh didn’t hurt, either.
|Celtics pay video tribute to Ray Allen||01.27.13 at 1:32 pm ET|
In somewhat of a surprise, the Boston crowd gave Ray Allen a standing ovation during a first-quarter video tribute from the Celtics. Those cheers quickly turned to boos once Allen checked into the game for the Heat.
|Is one NBA scout’s scathing take on Celtics accurate?||01.26.13 at 3:05 pm ET|
NBA general managers must be hovering like vultures over Danny Ainge‘s struggling Celtics, so it’s no surprise they are a main focus ESPN.com writer Marc Stein’s must-read Weekend Dime.
With all due respect to the NBA scout who rightfully ripped the Celtics to shreds in Stein’s piece, the outlook isn’t quite as bad as he makes it out to be, despite their current six-game losing streak.
“Their bench has to be playing at the top of their abilities for them to win.”
According to HoopsStats.com, the Celtics are 12-11 when their bench outperforms the opposing team’s and 7-11 when it doesn’t. That lends some credence to this statement, but they can win when their reserves don’t contribute. We knew these C’s would rely on their depth more this season than they have in the past, but Celtics coach Doc Rivers couldn’t even begin to structure a consistent rotation until Avery Bradley returned this month.
And they don’t have enough guys big-guy-wise that Doc [Rivers] is comfortable with.
The C’s everlasting search for frontcourt depth behind Kevin Garnett has been no secret. Hence, their rumored interest in both Marcin Gortat and DeMarcus Cousins. The struggles of Brandon Bass and the thumb injury to Chris Wilcox haven’t helped, but don’t rule out those two contributing more in the second half of the season.