|Marcus Smart talks about his much-improved jump shot||01.13.15 at 5:36 pm ET|
Marcus Smart has spent much of his rookie season battling through injuries. Lately, however, Smart has been quietly improving upon one of his biggest weaknesses — his jump shot.
It’s no secret that Smart needs to improve his 3-point shooting. I wrote about it — and why his lack of a shot means he should drive to the hoop more — earlier this season. Even Smart is aware of the criticism of himself, but that doesn’t mean he can’t fix it.
“That was the biggest knock on my game coming into the league was I couldn’t shoot,” Smart said following Monday’s win over the Pelicans. “Over the last 12 or 13 games I think I’ve been shooting the ball well and I’ve been in the gym every day.”
In Smart’s first seven games (five before his ankle injury and two while battling back and playing short minutes), he shot 6-of-28 from downtown for 21.4 percent. In his last 16 games, though, Smart has been much improved. The Oklahoma State product has shot 22-for-52 on 3-pointers, which is good for an impressive 42.3 percent over that span. To put that in perspective, that number would place Smart 11th in the league in 3-point percentage on the season, ahead of Stephen Curry (39.1 percent).
So what’s the cause for his improvement?
“Just trying to stay consistent with jumping straight up and down,” said Smart. “Not floating to the sides, left and right, just try to shoot the same shot. I’ve always known, ever since high school, what my problem was. It was just a matter of getting into the gym and working on it.”
Seems as though the work has paid off for the rookie recently, something his coach has taken notice of.
“He would probably say that he’s worked more deliberately and consistently than he’s ever done before,” Brad Stevens said at Tuesday’s practice. “That’s obviously an emphasis. We talked about it at the beginning of the year. We thought, coming in, that his shot was better than his percentages [Smart shot just 29.9 percent from deep in his final season in college], and we continue to think he’ll make shots.”
If Smart’s development wasn’t clear before Monday’s game, it is now. Up just one with under a minute left, Avery Bradley found Smart in the corner for a potential dagger. Smart knocked the 3-pointer down to clinch the Celtics‘ win without hesitation, something he likely wouldn’t have done just a couple of months ago.
Smart still could benefit from attacking the rim more. At his size — a 6-foot-4, 220 pound point guard — it certainly should be a bigger part of his game, especially since we saw him do it in college. But while he learns to find his way into the paint in the NBA, his new found jump shot is a great sign for Smart’s development going forward. If he can improve upon such a big weakness this early in his career, it makes you think that Marcus Smart has a whole lot of promise ahead of him.
|10 trades worth the Celtics’ while: Part 4||01.13.15 at 9:00 am ET|
A major theme of the rebuilding Celtics has been that no player is safe from being traded for the betterment of the team — something Danny Ainge has shown the willingness to do throughout his career (and now once again by trading Rajon Rondo). Here are some trades that make sense for the mess that is the Boston Celtics. Again, these specific trades are not rumors, simply ideas. This is part four.
Well, Danny Ainge is certainly doing a good job of trying to put this series out of ideas. Part one was built on a Rondo trade and parts two and three both featured Jeff Green, who is now a member of the Grizzlies. In the meantime, Ainge also found time to flip Brandan Wright to the Suns, and now begin talks with the Clippers about acquiring Austin Rivers — who was part of the return in the Green deal from the Pelicans. Needless to say, it was a pretty busy weekend for the C’s front office.
One obvious piece remains on this Celtics‘ squad that just doesn’t fit: Brandon Bass. There are limited options out there — the Cavs just added Timofey Mozgov and most of the buyers out West have found deals — but one destination stuck out to me.
BLAZERS GET: Brandon Bass
As great of a teammate as Bass is, he just clearly is no longer of value to the Celtics. The Blazers on the other hand, could definitely use a boost off the bench of Bass’ caliber in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. In return, they give Boston two players that are hardly playing, but from Ainge’s point of view, he gets a free look at a former top-five pick on the last year of his rookie deal in Robinson.
Both Robinson and Wright come as expiring contracts (Wright wouldn’t figure into the rotation at all), so at worst Ainge lets both walk in free agency as he would with Bass. But if Robinson were able to flourish in his last chance to prove himself, Ainge may be able to find a hidden gem if he were to re-sign Robinson on a cheap deal. If the move paid off, Ainge would be adding another youthful asset that he likely otherwise would not have had access to (or a good enough evaluation on to go and sign).
Odds are that the former No. 5 overall pick would move on at season’s end, especially considering Boston seems to like Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller. But again, if that were the case no harm to Ainge, he simply would clear the cap space he would have anyways when Bass finished up his time in Boston. Nothing fancy here, just a simple trade that seems to make sense for both parties involved.
|Brad Stevens praises Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart after C’s beat Pelicans||01.13.15 at 8:38 am ET|
After a tough road trip filled with trades, the Celtics returned home Monday to collect an impressive victory over Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. Jared Sullinger was a huge reason why. Sullinger finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds, stepping his game up against one of the top young talents in the league.
“I thought today’s a good example of his versatility,” coach Brad Stevens said of Sullinger’s big game. “When we had [Brandon] Bass in the game they usually matched up [Ryan] Anderson on [Sullinger], when we had Kelly [Olynyk] in the game they had to match up [Omer] Asik on [Sullinger]. And so when Asik’s on him he stretched it a little bit, and when Anderson was on him he posted. That’s why, in my opinion, a guy like Jared has to be able to do both if he’s going to be really good. I thought he did a lot of really good things tonight.”
While Sullinger really stood out in the box score, rookie Marcus Smart’s name would not pop if you only looked at the numbers. Smart’s contributions go beyond what’s on the stat sheet. He hit a 3-pointer out of the corner while falling down that clinched the game for the C’s — the most clutch shot of Smart’s career to date.
“He had nothing but zeros at halftime except for two assists and one turnover, and we talked as a staff, we thought he was terrific,” Stevens said of the No. 6 overall pick. “All that other stuff on a stat line isn’t where his impact can be the greatest, and he really made a huge impact, being his hands on balls, being active. I didn’t know coming into the game if he could guard [Tyreke] Evans and I thought he did a decent job on him — he’s a hard guy to guard, too. So he did a lot of great things. And obviously hit a big 3.”
Check out Sullinger’s postgame press conference below, but on a night when his Ohio State Buckeyes won the NCAA football national championship, Sully wanted to be brief so he could rush home for the second half.
|Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens explain Jeff Green trade, uncertain future||01.13.15 at 1:37 am ET|
When Rajon Rondo was shipped out of town just over three weeks ago, Danny Ainge used a key word to describe why — uncertainty. It also seemed to remain the reason Ainge felt the need to ship Jeff Green to Memphis as well.
“I just felt like [it was] a timeline thing,” Ainge said prior to Monday’s home win over the Pelicans. “The players that we had, the uncertainty of the future and free agency, and [I] felt like we were getting good value in return based on this contract situation.”
The trade doesn’t make this current season any easier on coach Brad Stevens, but the coach understands it’s a process geared towards the future.
“Losing [Green] three weeks after losing your multiple-time All-Star point guard, there’s going to be challenges that come with that,” Stevens said. “That’s why you prepare everyone to play and that’s why everybody’s got this talk about next man up.”
Last year everything was very new to Stevens, especially the trade deadline. Now in his second season in the NBA, Stevens is learning to adapt to what to expect during the rebuild.
“This is about the time last year where we had some – at the time for that team we had some pretty significant moves — with Jordan [Crawford] being traded and Courtney [Lee] being traded,” Stevens reflected. “So there’s a little bit of being able to look back and learn from that. I think I learned a lot from the Rondo trade, just as far as not only losing a really good player, but also trying to bring new guys in and get them up to speed as quickly as possible, but also recognizing that you don’t have to rebuild Rome in a day.”
|Report: Brandan Wright has been told he will be traded||01.09.15 at 12:05 pm ET|
On Dec 18 Brandan Wright was acquired by the Celtics as part of the deal that shipped Rajon Rondo to Dallas. That date was no accident — it leaves enough time for Boston to trade the players it received in the deal after 60 days, just before the Feb 19 deadline.
CSN Washington is reporting that Brandan Wright has already been told by Danny Ainge “that he’s on the block and should expect to be on another team.” Obviously, Wright is a very attractive piece to other teams, so the idea of him being traded again this season isn’t far-fetched. It is, however, odd that Ainge would already tell Wright that he should expect to be gone.
Wright has taken on a much lesser role since arriving in Boston, somewhat odd considering how big of a role he played for the Mavericks — a much better team than the Celtics. But with so many players of similar talent levels in Boston, as well as young projects to develop, Wright has seen a dip in his minutes, including a DNP Wednesday in Brooklyn.
Wright is shooting 72.4 percent from the field so far this season, and his 24.27 PER ranks 10th in the league as of Friday morning. Ainge won’t be able to command two first-rounders like the desperate Cavs gave up to Denver for Timofey Mozgov, but Wright certainly has some value on the trade market. If this report it true, we will find out exactly what Wright’s value is on the day of the trade deadline.
|10 trades worth the Celtics’ while: Part 3||01.08.15 at 3:53 pm ET|
A major theme of the rebuilding Celtics has been that no player is safe from being traded for the betterment of the team — something Danny Ainge has shown the willingness to do throughout his career (and now once again by trading Rajon Rondo). Here are some trades that make sense for the mess that is the Boston Celtics. Again, these specific trades are not rumors, simply ideas. This is part three.
In part two we looked at the idea of re-swapping Jeff Green and Kendrick Perkins, the idea being that Boston could add a young player like Jeremy Lamb while not having to possibly pay Green next season (since Perkins is an expiring contract). A deal like this makes sense, but in all likelihood would never actually happen. Green remains the subject of part three, but this time there’s some actual traction to the idea. Here’s the proposal:
Marc Stein of ESPN.com is reporting this deal is being discussed, and Zach Lowe of Grantland.com tweeted that there had been three-way trade discussions that would have landed Green in Memphis in a deal that also involved the Cavs. Now that Cleveland landed Timofey Mozgov from Denver, they likely have no incentive for the trade talks anymore, meaning Boston and Memphis would have to work a deal straight up (or find another trade partner to create a three-way deal with).
It’s safe to assume that the reason this deal has only been talked about, but has not yet happened, is that Ainge is asking for too much in return. Ainge likely is set on getting either a first-rounder or Kosta Koufos (the young center that would have gone to the Cavs in the three-way) in exchange for his best player now that Rondo’s gone. That’s not going to happen.
Either this deal is going to fall apart, or Ainge is going to lower his standards. It should be the latter. Rondo only commanded one first-round pick on the market — and a late one at that — so there’s no way Green is worth that high of a pick to any team. Ainge should shift his focus to trying to gain a couple of second-rounders before he has so settle for just one. He would be able to acquire the Grizzlies second-round pick in this upcoming draft if he acts quickly, and then barter for another one a couple of years down the line to be included. That’s a fair asking price.
Prince simply plays the role of Perkins in the Oklahoma City trade from part two. His expiring contract means there is no way he can count against the salary cap next season, whereas Green has the option to opt in for $9.2 million. In addition, Prince makes only $7.7 million this season. The $1.5 million difference would save Boston just under $1 million this season — hey, every little bit counts when you’re in a rebuild. But more importantly, Ainge has to stop overvaluing what has once again become a very inconsistent Green and get a deal like this done to continue moving in the direction he has already committed to.
|10 trades worth the Celtics’ while: Part 2||01.07.15 at 8:40 pm ET|
A major theme of the rebuilding Celtics has been that no player is safe from being traded for the betterment of the team — something Danny Ainge has shown the willingness to do throughout his career (and now once again by trading Rajon Rondo). Here are some trades that make sense for the mess that is the Boston Celtics. Again, these specific trades are not rumors, simply ideas. This is part two.
Part 1 of this series involved sending Rondo to the Kings, that obviously didn’t happen. But in the time since, Rondo has been shipped out West and the Celtics have begun to fall apart. No more “build around Rondo” arguments exist, which means the direction of the team is clear: Any trade Ainge makes will either create cap space or add assets.
Here’s a proposal that helps that direction:
THUNDER GET: Jeff Green and a future second-round pick
Yes, Perkins and Green were swapped for each other in 2011, and obviously that has not worked out as planned for either side. It would be humbling to see Ainge and Sam Presti (the general manager in Oklahoma City) admit their wrongs and swap these players back, and it makes sense now in 2015.
The Thunder just added Dion Waiters from the Cavs, which tells us a couple of things about them:
1. They are buyers
This is good in the sense that Presti could be interested in Green. With the emergence of Steven Adams and the small-ball philosophy of the league, Perkins is almost valueless in Oklahoma City. Adding Green would not only provide the Thunder with another starter/sixth-man to go along with Waiters, but with Kevin Durant hobbled this season, Green could provide spot starts for Durant throughout the regular season to help the team into the playoffs.
2. Lamb is no longer needed there
The UConn product has barely been playing of late, but with Waiters in town, Lamb’s role is pretty much diminished. Using him as a piece to help acquire Green makes total sense for Presti given Lamb’s demotion. Lamb is a nice prospect too — really, he’s the reason the Celtics do this deal. Boston is a place Lamb could have some value. The former lottery pick would be another asset in Ainge’s pile that is so often referred to.
Boston may need to use a second-round pick to sweeten the deal for the Thunder, but it would be worth it to shed Green’s contract for Perkins’ contract — one which we know will expire at the end of this season, whereas Green has a player option — as well add Lamb to the mix. The players’ familiarity with the organizations, including Lamb going to school in the New England area, only helps this whole deal fall into place.
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