|Fast Break: Brandon Bass, Celtics hold off Cavaliers’ charge||12.28.13 at 3:25 pm ET|
Still without Rajon Rondo to execute the offense down the stretch, the Celtics nearly blew another double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, but a balanced scoring attack helped stave off the Andrew Bynum-less Cavaliers, 103-100.
Jeff Green (19 points, 8 rebounds), Jordan Crawford (19 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists), Avery Bradley (18 points, 8 rebounds), Brandon Bass (15 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists), Courtney Lee (11 points) and Kris Humphries (10 points) all reached double figures to help the Celtics snap a three-game losing skid and improve to 13-17 — half a game behind the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
JG’s hot start: As always seems to be the case against Cleveland, it was evident early that this was a game in which Green was invested. In the first quarter, he scored 12 points on six shots, sinking both of his 3-point attempts, to stake the Celtics to a 24-22 lead in the first 12 minutes. Green scored a season-high 31 points against the Cavaliers a month ago.
Balance beaming: Through three quarters, seven Celtics scored between eight and 17 points (led by Green and Crawford), six C’s had between three and six rebounds (led by Green and Kelly Olynyk) and five C’s had between two and five assists (led by Crawford). This was Brad Stevens basketball at its best, resulting in an 85-66 lead on 52 percent shooting through three.
Big Bass: After struggling since the recent Omer Asik trade rumors, including a scoreless effort against the Timberwolves two weeks ago and a 2-of-9 shooting performance against the Pacers last weekend, Bass bounced back to the form we’ve grown accustomed to from him this season. Or better. He scored 15 points on eight shots, including his second career 3-pointer, grabbed six boards and matched a career-high with four assists. He also made the game-saving block on Dion Waiters in the final seconds.
|Rajon Rondo might not return to Celtics next month||12.23.13 at 11:30 am ET|
As a five-day Christmas break between games offers Celtics fans time to reflect on a somewhat surprising 12-17 start while looking ahead to a brutal start to the January schedule, the question remains: When will Rajon Rondo return?
While Celtics coach Brad Stevens believed Rondo was on schedule to play his first NBA game within a year of tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament on Jan. 27, the C’s point guard backed off that timeline, suggesting instead to The Boston Globe he may not make his comeback until February.
“I have confidence in my knee,” Rondo told the Globe’s Gary Washburn after the C’s third straight defeat, a 106-79 loss to the Pacers. “I’m excited to be playing the game of basketball again, so it’s just a matter of me getting a lot of repetition, 5-on-5 basketball and just playing the game. It might be mid-January, late February; I’m going to come back when the time is right and I get my stamina.
‘”I don’t think I have to pass any more tests. I have to pass tests for myself. I know what I felt like before I hurt my knee. When I get back to feeling that type of feeling the way I play the game, then I’ll be back.”
Rondo participated in a five-on-five scrimmage Friday, but the Celtics don’t have another scheduled practice until Thursday. Meanwhile, the beginning of the new year offers little respite for practice. The C’s play a road-home back-to-back against the Bulls and Pelicans on Jan. 2-3 before heading on a brutal week-long West Coast road trip against the Thunder, Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors and Blazers from Jan. 5-11.
The Celtics have dropped out of the Atlantic Division lead and into the No. 8 playoff seed. Only a handful of games separate them from the league’s worst record.
|Irish Coffee: Ranking Danny Ainge’s Celtics assets||12.20.13 at 1:59 pm ET|
The recent trade rumors surrounding the Celtics aren’t going away any time soon, so for the purposes of any trade discussion between now and the Feb. 20 deadline — real or imaginary — let’s rank all the assets available to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge in order of value (highest to lowest). Here goes.
RAJON RONDO: Albeit completely unfounded, the mere fact people debated whether a Kings package of Ben McLemore (2013 No. 7 overall pick), Isaiah Thomas (18.9 ppg, 5.5 apg, 59.5 TS%, 22.8 PER, 730 minutes), Jason Thompson (10.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg over six NBA seasons), Marcus Thornton (18.7 ppg in 2011-12) and two first-round picks was enough for Rondo should tell you all you need to know about the Celtics point guard’s value.
2014 CELTICS FIRST-ROUND PICK: Whether this was the stumbling block in an Omer Asik deal or not, Ainge should rightfully think thrice before dealing either first-rounder in this coming June’s loaded draft. While the Celtics still own a one-game lead atop the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference’s No. 4 seed, they’re only 1.5 games out of the lottery, and most GMs would be willing to gamble against the C’s making the playoffs.
JARED SULLINGER: If the 2012 NBA draft took place tomorrow, how many players would be selected over Sullinger? Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond are likely the only four you’d definitely take over the Celtics sophomore since he’s returned from back surgery. Under control at least through 2015-16 for a grand total of $5.1 million, Sully has arguably been the C’s most important player this season.
|Report: Rockets end Omer Asik trade talks with Celtics||12.19.13 at 1:19 pm ET|
The Rockets plan to keep Omer Asik after all, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowksi.
Houston has ended talks on an Omer Asik trade and plan to keep him for now, league source tells Yahoo Sports.
‘ Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 19, 2013
The Celtics appeared to be the leading contenders for Asik’s services, and Houston reportedly would have received Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee and a first-round pick in return, but the two teams haggled over which of the C’s nine first-round picks over the next five years would be included. Surely, Celtics president Danny Ainge balked at the inclusion of either of his 2014 first-rounders or any future pick that may end up in the lottery.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey set a self-imposed deadline of Thursday to deal Asik, although the league alerted Morey that he had until Friday to make a trade and still deal the newly acquired players by the deadline.
And as we’ve learned in recent years, so-called dead trade talks have been resurrected, and the two teams could still strike a deal before the NBA’s trade deadline of Feb. 20.
|Kevin Love on loss to Celtics: ‘[Expletive] happens’||12.17.13 at 2:43 pm ET|
“We beat that team the large majority of the times we play,” said Love, who recorded 27 points and 14 assists against a soft interior Boston defense, “but, like they say, [expletive] happens.”
Asked if he felt his T-Wolves gifted the Celtics a victory, Love added, “Big time. Big time.”
The Timberwolves (12-13) did hand the Celtics a beating in their first meeting, a 106-88 decision in Minnesota last month. Prior to this season, however, the two-time NBA All-Star owned a 1-10 record in his career against the C’s, but this is a different Celtics team under a different Celtics coach — a younger roster that plays equally as hard, even if Love isn’t prepared to give them a whole lot of credit just yet.
“We thought we could’ve beat that team,” said Love. “They executed down the stretch, but more than anything we beat ourselves.”
|Ricky Rubio on Rajon Rondo’s return: ‘It’s hard’||12.17.13 at 12:58 am ET|
Rajon Rondo has returned to practice, and, according to his coach, the Celtics point guard’s return is entirely up to him, but Ricky Rubio knows recovery from ACL surgery isn’t over when you step back on the court.
“It’s hard,” said Rubio, who scored just six points on 2-of-12 shooting in a 101-97 loss to the Celtics. “It depends on how he feels and how he tries his knee. It’s something I’ve been through, and I can tell you from what I’ve been through that it wasn’t easy. It took a tong time, and even when I was playing, it took a couple months for me to be myself again. Everybody’s different, so I wish and I hope the best for him, but from what I felt, it’s hard.”
Rubio tore his left anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments when his left knee buckled while trying to defend Kobe Bryant in the final moments of a loss to the Lakers on March 9, 2012, just under a year before Rondo tore his right ACL in the final minutes of a double-overtime loss to the Hawks on Jan. 25 of this year.
|How Danny Ainge’s Celtics can acquire Omer Asik||12.16.13 at 1:25 pm ET|
As we’ve discussed in great detail, the Celtics have the picks and assets to enter just about every NBA trade conversation, so it comes as no surprise that they have reportedly entered the Omer Asik sweepstakes.
The advice offered to us on Sunday was stern: Keep an eye on Boston. The Celtics possess two players in different salary ranges that would presumably fit in useful ways next to Dwight Howard: Jeff Green and Brandon Bass. The Celts also have a spare first-round draft pick or two to plug into any trade equation to sweeten the deal for Houston, amid rising suspicions around the league that Morey’s Rockets are going to find a way to come out of the Asik saga with at least one future first. – Marc Stein, ESPN.com
The Rockets set a self-imposed deadline of Thursday to deal Asik, who requested a trade last month and even sat out a game due to concerns that resulted from the Dwight Howard signing this summer. The 7-footer hasn’t played since Dec. 2 after suffering a bruised right thigh and getting his swollen right knee drained.
This season and next, Asik is owed $20.1 million of his uniquely structured three-year, $25.1 million deal, including $14.9 million next year, although he would count $8.4 million against the salary cap. Make no mistake, though, Asik is a catch. The 27-year-old Turk played every game of his first three NBA seasons, culminating in career averages (10.1 points, 11.7 rebounds) during his first winter in Houston. He’s widely considered an elite rebounding center with an improving offensive game whose impact is measured best by advanced analytics.
But how much would the Celtics be willing to give up for Asik? First, Rockets GM Daryl Morey‘s asking price.
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