|Fast Break: Jerryd Bayless, Celtics ground Hawks||02.26.14 at 9:55 pm ET|
If the entire Eastern Conference weren’t so dreadful, the Celtics might have a shot at two lottery picks this June.
The C’s handed the undermanned Hawks their 10th loss in 12 games with a 115-104 win at the Garden on Wednesday night. It was a welcome respite for the Celtics, whose own rough streak included falling to 0-13 on the road against Western Conference on their recent road trip. The C’s own the lesser first-round pick between Atlana and Brooklyn, which may come into Boston next week with a sub-.500 record.
As for Wednesday’s game, Jerryd Bayless led all scorers with a season-high 29 points. Rajon Rondo (22 points, 11 assists) and Gerald Wallace (12 points, 10 rebounds) added double-doubles. Jeff Green (17 points), Brandon Bass (14 points) and Kris Humphries (10 points) also reached double figures, as the Celtics improved to 20-34.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Rondo ready: While others may rant and rave about the birthday bash drama, Rondo hasn’t been effected. He scored 11 of the C’s 25 first-quarter points, attempting six shots in the opening frame and making four of them. He then began directing an offense that shot 53.7 percent and scored 58 points by the break. Rondo logged his fourth double-double in as many appearances, and he’s beginning to prove that the double-digit assist streak awhile back wasn’t solely dependent on his superstar teammates.
Expect more. Bayless: Starting in the absence of Avery Bradley, Bayless netted 20 points for the first time this season since scoring 22 against the Celtics as a member of the Grizzlies on Nov. 27. He connected on eight of his first 12 shots, including a trio of third-quarter 3-pointers that gave the Celtics a five-point cushion midway through the third quarter.
Board to death: In the absence of three of their six frontcourt rotation players, the Celtics wings banged the boards against a Hawks squad without the services of stars Al Horford (torn pectoral) and Paul Millsap (knee). Green, Wallace and Chris Johnson combined for 25 rebounds as the C’s outworked Atlanta 46-29 on the glass.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Injury bug: A rash of injuries left the Celtics with just nine available players for Wednesday’s game against the Hawks. The absences of Jared Sullinger (concussion), Kelly Olynyk (toe) and Vitor Faverani (knee) left the Celtics particularly shorthanded in the frontcourt, which meant more minutes for Joel Anthony. While Sullinger and Olynyk could return as soon as Saturday, Bradley’s absence from the backcourt remains uncertain, as the soon-to-be restricted free agent missed his eight straight game with an ankle injury.
3’s a crowd: As has been the case for years, Kyle Korver continued to be a thorn in the C’s side. The league’s second-leading 3-point shooter connected on his first four triples, leading a 9-for-19 Hawks effort from beyond the arc.
Going Carroll-ing: Perhaps motivated by the rumors that had him potentially headed to the Celtics in exchange for Green, Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll had his way in the paint opposite the undermanned C’s frontcourt, collecting 24 points on just 11 shots and adding seven boards.
|Celtics trade rumor: More Rajon Rondo rumblings||02.18.14 at 9:42 am ET|
As Rondo said, “It’s been like that my last eight years as a Celtic.” Other teams want an All-Star, All-Defensive point guard, and they want him cheap.
Here’s the latest that’ll make Danny Ainge chuckle.
According to the Toronto Sun (h/t SB Nation), the Raptors would like Rondo, and the C’s may budge on the alleged asking price of two first-round picks, citing a source who believes Ainge would welcome “at least one lottery pick and talented young player.”
It’s no secret Boston has dangled four-time all-star Rajon Rondo league-wide and while the asking price is steep, he has piqued the interest of Toronto’s front office, according to multiple sources. Toronto is eager to up its ‘star’ quotient and is also enamoured with Rondo’s resume, particularly his four all-defensive team selections (two all-NBA first team). He has many backers in the organization.
Oh, one of the game’s top five point guards has piqued their interest? Well, then, we might as well lump the remaining 28 teams into this rumor. And is it no secret the C’s have dangled Rondo league-wide? Time and again, Ainge reminds everyone willing to listen the phone may ring but he’s not making the calls about his lone star.
Take this retread rumor, for example. As a number of less reputable outlets reported two months ago, the Kings offered Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore and a pick in exchange for Rondo, according to Yahoo’s Marc J. Spears. Except, “Rondo wasn’t interested in re-signing with Sacramento and the Kings strongly value McLemore.” Let me get this straight: Sacramento didn’t want to part with Ben McLemore for Rajon Rondo. That must be it. And there’s the small matter of that deal missing roughly $10 million in salary to make it work.
|Celtics trade rumor: Danny Ainge wants two first-round picks in exchange for Rajon Rondo||02.17.14 at 4:05 pm ET|
The first ambiguous Celtics trade rumor of NBA trade deadline week comes courtesy of Sam Smith at Bulls.com (h/t HoopsHype): “The asking price if you can get [Rajon] Rondo is said to be two unprotected first rounders.”
Seven teams other than the Celtics currently own two first-round picks in the 2014 NBA draft: Charlotte, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Utah. Only the 76ers and Magic currently own a pair lottery picks this June, and Philly already appears to have a point guard of the future.
Naturally, a host of other teams would have multiple picks to offer over the next couple years, but the hard part is also finding a lottery-bound trade partner with expiring contracts to match Rondo’s $12 million salary (because who wants late first-round picks and more money on the books?). Plus, the Celtics already own as many as 10 first-round selections over the next five seasons, and at some point they have to find players rather than assets to rebuild the franchise.
|Celtics captain Rajon Rondo on Valentine’s Day, trade rumors, Mexico and snowboarding (seriously)||02.13.14 at 1:45 am ET|
As Kris Humphries left on Wednesday night to begin a six-day NBA All-Star break leading up the Feb. 20 trade deadline, he gave his best to some of the team’s locker room attendants “in case I don’t see you again.”
Likewise, rookie Kelly Olynyk wanted to make sure Phil Pressey didn’t leave Chris Johnson hanging on a high five because “you never know what day will be your last.” (Pressey left him hanging anyway.)
But Rajon Rondo — the subject of so many trade rumors surrounding this team — kept a poker face. As if Rondo has another face. “I don’t watch TV,” he said of handling the uncertainty of his team’s future and his future with the team. “It’s been like that my last eight years as a Celtic. Until the trade gets pulled, I’ll play as a Celtic.”
Still, while Rondo hears the rumblings — Jeff Green to the Hawks and Brandon Bass to the Warriors, Bobcats or Suns — he knows not to trust a word, because he’s seen every other member of the 2008 championship team leave that locker room and never come back with little warning (see: Perkins, Kendrick).
|Figure skating expert Kris Humphries is the Scott Hamilton of the NBA||02.13.14 at 1:15 am ET|
The ever entertaining Jimmy Toscano wandered the locker room asking various Celtics which Winter Olympics event they’d most like to enter, and Kris Humphries offered the best response (Rajon Rondo a distance second).
“It’s kind of weird. I don’t know if I’d want to play it, but I always grew up watching figure skating with my mom. It’s pretty impressive. I don’t think I could ever do that, but I’ve got a lot of respect for them. I grew up with the Tonya Harding “Tonya Tapper” and that whole deal, so I’m waiting for some action in that sport. It hasn’t come in a while.”
While he could easily be screaming “Why me?” crumpled on the floor somewhere in the depths of the Garden, Humphries isn’t taking the Nancy Kerrigan approach to this 19-35 Celtics season just yet.
“I didn’t come here thinking that we were going to be struggling like this,” he said. “I think you’re a loser if you come in and say this is where we’re going to be at, so I can’t really comment further than that.”
Since he arrived in Boston before training camp, Humphries has said all the right things about joining a rebuilding team 10 years into his NBA career, and his willingness to accept the various roles Brad Stevens has given him throughout the season may have made him more than just a $12 million expiring contract on the trade market. Not that he would know anything about that after another productive night (15 points, 6 rebounds in 23 minutes).
“I think you guys are more in touch with what’s going on than we are, so I’ll look and see what you guys are writing later. You just enjoy the break. If you get that call, you get that call. Otherwise, we’ll see you Wednesday in Phoenix.”
|Fast Break: Tim Duncan, undermanned Spurs stop Celtics||02.12.14 at 9:46 pm ET|
Tim Duncan offered a reminder of what can happen when the Ping Pong balls don’t fall the Celtics way, turning back the clock 17 years after they missed out on one of the game’s great power forwards. Duncan finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds to held the Spurs hand the C’s their second loss in three games, 104-92.
Six Celtics scored in double figures — led by 15 points from Kris Humphries and Kelly Olynyk (10 rebounds, second straight double-double) — but the Celtics dropped to 19-35. Here’s what went wrong (and right) entering the All-Star break.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Worst first: Sans two of their big three — Tony Parker (back) and Manu Ginobili (hamstring) — as well as key contributors Kawhi Leonard (hand) and Tiago Splitter (calf), the Spurs still dug the Celtics an early hole. Led by Marco Belinelli, who posted nine first-quarter points and five early assists without Avery Bradley (ankle) to frustrate him, San Antonio shot 56 percent as a team and led 25-19 after one.
Green thumbs down: It was an ugly Jeff Green outing this time around. He missed his first six shots before knocking down a 3 at the end of the first quarter, and then failed on a couple bunnies before sinking a buzzer-beating layup to limit the damage to 48-44 at the break. He had more turnovers (2) than rebounds (1), assists, steals or blocks at the half. Green’s engagement early once again proved an indication of his overall performance.
Not going streaking: After logging six straight double-doubles, Jared Sullinger‘s string came to an end. The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week started 2-of-9 from the field (0-2 3P) and sat for a large stretch of the second half in favor of Olynyk, Kris Humphries and (wait for it) Joel Anthony.
|Fast Break: Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger help Celtics stop Bucks||02.10.14 at 10:23 pm ET|
Behind 11 points from Green, the Celtics outscored Milwaukee 32-18 in the fourth quarter to improve to 19-34 on the season. While the Bucks remained atop the tank rankings at 9-42, the C’s now own the league’s eighth-worst record — four games out of a playoff spot.
While Sullinger (13 points, 10 rebounds) logged his sixth straight double-double, Olynyk (14, 11) had the first of his NBA career.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Bass kicking: If not for Bass, the Celtics would have been in serious trouble early against the Bucks. While the rest of his teammates shot a combined 6-of-17 from the floor (35 percent) in the opening 12 minutes, Bass finished 5-of-8 for 12 points to go along with four rebounds, and the Celtics led 26-24 after one.
Crash course: Perhaps motivated by the few Milwaukee fans in attendance who constantly chanted his first name, Gerald Wallace filled the stat sheet in the opening half. Starting in place of the injured Avery Bradley, he compiled eight points on three shots, three boards, three steals and two assists by halftime, helping the C’s take a 49-46 lead into the locker room. His production halted after the break, but …
Green thumbs up: After scoring just two points on four shots in the first quarter, Green progressively improved throughout the night, saving his best for the last quarter. He scored eight points on five shots in both the second and third quarters, and then erupted for another 11 on eight attempts in the fourth to close out the win.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Tank top: The Bucks sat Larry Sanders (eye), Ersan Ilyasova (back), O.J. Mayo (illness) and Caron Butler (ankle), and the Celtics countered with Rajon Rondo (knee), Bradley (ankle) and Vitor Faverani (knee) on the bench. If a February game against the NBA’s worst team in Milwaukee could get any uglier, it just did.
Oh, shoot: Midway through the third quarter, the Bucks were shooting exactly 50 percent from the floor (22-44 FG), taking a 61-59 lead after consecutive buckets by Khris Middleton (a 3) and Zaza Pachulia (a bunny). Milwaukee entered the game shooting a league-worst 42.1 percent from the field.
Zaza’s elbows: Pretty much everybody felt the wrath of Zaza Pachulia‘s errant elbows, but Bass got the worst of it, reportedly suffering a corneal abrasion to his left eye that kept him out of the fourth quarter.
Phantom Phil? This late Phil Pressey foul call had Jackie Mac doing her best Tommy impression, but alas it appears Rondo’s replacement may have tripped up Gary Neal well before the whistle.
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