|Courtney Lee: ‘We’re playing hard for Rajon Rondo’||02.03.13 at 5:36 pm ET|
“I wouldn’t say that all,” said Courtney Lee, who replaced Rondo in the C’s starting lineup. “Rondo’s an All-Star. Any time you can add an All-Star to your team, your team is going to be better, so we definitely miss Rondo. We don’t look at it as we’re better off without Rondo, I think we came together and we’re playing hard for Rondo.”
That those remarks come from Lee might come as a surprise to those who listened to Grantland writer Zach Lowe‘s assertion that “Lee has been really unhappy in Boston because he feels like the whole offense is Rondo pounding the ball, and he doesn’t get to do anything.” Lee has since denied the report.
|Fast Break: Paul Pierce, Celtics sink Clippers ship||02.03.13 at 3:44 pm ET|
The Celtics nearly blew a 19-point halftime lead, as the Clippers closed to within a single possession with three minutes to play, but a long Jason Terry jumper with 1:09 remaining and Paul Pierce‘s 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds on the clock helped put the game away, 106-104. Matt Barnes and 37 combined turnovers made for an ugly basketball game, but the C’s improved to 4-0 since All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo‘s season-ending ACL injury.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Bench production: Facing what many consider the NBA’s best bench — save for Eric Bledsoe‘s insertion into the Clippers starting lineup in place of the injured Chris Paul (knee) — the C’s reserves made a statement in the first half. The Celtics bench outscored their counterparts 32-5 in the opening 24 minutes, reaching that total on just 15 shots. Terry and Jeff Green led the way with nine points apiece by the break.
Jamal ball: Conversely, the Celtics kept Jamal Crawford and his explosive offense under control until he heated up late. C’s coach Doc Rivers stuck Avery Bradley on the perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate, and when Bradley picked up three first-half fouls, Courtney Lee picked up where his backcourt mate left off. Crawford, who broke his nose against the Raptors on Friday, grew so frustrated that he abandoned his protective facemask.
Balancing act: Once again, just about everybody stepped up in Rondo’s absence. Green, Terry and Leandro Barbosa all reached double digits off the bench. Pierce owned the third quarter. Brandon Bass tied his career high in assists (4). And Jason Collins set a new season high for scoring (5). Rivers needed to capture his team’s attention after a 20-23 start; it’s too bad it took Rondo’s season-ending injury to do it.
|Danny Ainge ‘would like to see Paul Pierce retire as a Celtic’||01.31.13 at 5:22 pm ET|
As always, in his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Big Show, Celtics president Danny Ainge spoke openly about the state of his team. He made two things clear following Rajon Rondo‘s season-ending ACL injury: 1) “It’s silly” to think they’ll be better without him and 2) Paul Pierce trades haven’t been discussed.
“He single-handedly carried us many nights, and I don’t see how people don’t see that,” said Ainge. “When people say we’re going to be better without Rondo or the team’s going to do better without him, it’s silly. He’s a great, great player, and he’s proven that time and time again. The guy’s been MVP of probably four or five series over the last five years — not just individual games here and there or triple-doubles on national TV. He’s been the best player in a series against LeBron James. He’s been the best player in a series against Derrick Rose. He’s been the best player in three games of an NBA Finals.”
Even before Rondo’s injury, Pierce’s name has been thrown around in trade rumors. His contract, which has just $5 million guaranteed for next season, seemingly makes him an attractive target around the league.
“Nothing has been talked about with Paul,” said Ainge. “Nothing is close to being done. I too would like to see Paul retire as a Celtic. That would be great. We’re all attached to Paul. He’s been great for the city, the franchise, and he’s been a true pro. Having said that, if something came up, I would talk to Paul. My job is to do what’s in the best interest of our team, regardless of my personal ties or my personal feelings with the players.”
The Celtics president claimed few teams have come calling for any Celtics outside of Ray Allen the last few years — citing the fact “nothing got close” in the recent Rudy Gay sweepstakes — and explained that none of his players have asked that they be kept in the loop about trades (again, except for Allen last season).
“We are open [to making deals] and listening, but we don’t feel pressure to do anything,” said Ainge. “Whether we win every game or whether we struggle, I think it all depends on what opportunities are presented. We want to make some change to help improve our team.”
Meanwhile, Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger left Wednesday’s win in the first quarter with back spasms. He missed practice Thursday, is undergoing tests and remains day-to-day. The issues are apparently the same ones that led to Sullinger falling to the C’s in the draft. Ainge admitted, “I’m a little surprised that it’s taken this long.”
To listen to the entire interview, visit the Big Show’s audio page.
|You don’t want DeMarcus Cousins on the Celtics||01.31.13 at 1:17 am ET|
After all the trade rumors earlier this month that had the Kings shipping DeMarcus Cousins across the country in exchange for some package of Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and/or Fab Melo, the third-year center’s Wednesday night in Boston proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that you don’t want him on the Celtics.
Of all the reasons not to package a deal for Cousins, and there are many, the fact he played dumb when asked about the rumored trade isn’t one of them. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I didn’t know that.”
In the span of two minutes during his postgame press conference, Cousins openly questioned his coach and threw the Kings organization under the bus. Do Keith Smart and the Maloof brothers deserve criticism? Absolutely. But after submitting, to put it kindly, a disinterested performance probably isn’t the best time to do so.
Asked about what went wrong in Sacramento’s 99-81 loss to the C’s, Cousins explained: “We made changes that we didn’t really need. That affected the flow of the game. We have a tendency to do that. Sometimes, you’ve got to just keep letting it ride. Sometimes, you’ve got to stick with the original game plan and just let it play through.”
First of all, I don’t even know what that means. Second of all, here’s what went wrong: The Kings allowed 37 points in the second quarter. The Celtics made their first 14 shots and finished 16-of-20 from the field in the frame.
|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.